The federal government and private industry should take stock of the ways in which working women are changing American society, says Alan Pifer, president of the Carnegie Corp. of New York.

Prifer, in the foundation's just-released 1976 annual report, said increasing participation of women in the paid labor force is bringing about largely unnoticed changes in the work place in the home.

He urged a study by the government and the private sector of the "entire structure of work and family life as it affects women, men and children." Pifer said the study should lead to the development of policies that would "encourage . . . greater occupational equality and freedom of choice for men and women" at work and home, and a better integration of work, family life and education.

Also needed Pifer said, are policies that would help create "flexibility in life patterns so that men and women can alternate periods of study, employment, work in the home, and leisure throughout their life span."

The foundation executive also made the familiar call for national day care and after-school care arrangements for families in which both spouses hold jobs.

Pifer noted that nearly half of all American women are working or looking for work, that women now make up about 41 per cent of the paid work force, and that the trend is expected to continue.

The trend has produced strains on familial and marital relationships. But it has also provided the nation with an opportunity to rethink - and improve - its attitudes toward work and family life, said Pifer.

Progress toward a "new society" can be achieved "if we have the will to press for it," Pifer said. "The alternative," he said, "is to incur the immeasurable cost of doing nothing.