The number of women employed in "highly-skilled or non-traditional jobs" in the Washington area has not increased significantly since 1970, despite recent laws and policies designed to improve their status, according to a new study of area employment patterns.

The 135-page study was sponsored by a group of community leaders called VOICE (the Voice of Informed Community Expression) in cooperation with other community organizations, such as the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.

It documents "moderate advances" by minorities and to a lesser extent by women, but concludes that both government and private employers should take steps to comply more effectively with the spirit as well as the letter of equal employment regulations in order to overcome past inequities.

Although the proportion of women in the Washington area work force traditionally has been relatively high, the study says, their numbers remain concentrated in the lower-paying clerical, service and sales positions. The most recent figures available (from 1974) show that women held 77.8 per cent of the clerical positions, 50.4 per cent of the service positions and 35.6 per cent of the professional and technical jobs - about the same levels as in 1970, or slightly worse. (Women make up just over half the metropolitan area population.)

The VOICE study, released today, found among other things that:

In government, minorities are moving slowly into the professional categories. They constitute over half of the area's public employees primarily because of the high percentage of minorities in the District government work force (over 70 per cent).

In private sector, minority employment in service and unskilled occupations has decreased, indicating a general movement out of the lower paying jobs into higher salaried and higher status positions. However, black women continue to be the most under-utilized of all population groups in the better paying jobs.

For persons of Hispanic origin, because of language and educational handicaps, the primary job opportunities exist in their own communities where Spanish is the major language spoken. Statistic indicate that most Spanish-speaking Americans are employed in the service industry in jobs such as waitresses, domestic and hospital attendants. (The study notes that complete and reliable data in this category, specific to this region, are not available.

Wide variations within the various metropolitan government jurisdictions in the empolyment of women and minorities can be explained by the statistics of "employment by department." In the District and the county governments, which have substantial health and welfare departments in which women employees dominate, the ratios of women (both black and white) to men are quite high (the District government is 44 per cent women).

In the various cities that have no health and welfare departments but which have police, fire and public works, the work force is overwhelmingly male and white. In Fairfax City, for example, the ratio is four men to one woman.

In the construction trades, a number of unions have increased the participation of minorities (and in some cases women) in apprenticeship and training programs. Unemployment, however, is "preventing more rapid and needed progress."

The study notes that the job areas traditionally held by women are not expanding except for clerical and health occupations, and suggests that in order to make substantial gains, "it will be necessary for women to concentrate more in these job areas which in the past have been dominated by men."

According to employment projections for the Washington area, the study says, the high demand occupations will be in the field of business management, medicine, sales and the skilled crafts.

The eighth in a series of such reports by VOICE and its predecessors, the study is called "Unfinished Agenda: Equal Employment Opportunity in Metropolitan Washington."

It was prepared by Kramer Association with financial and other assistance from COG, the Greater Washington Central Labor Council, the D.C. Commission on the Status of Women, the Committee for the Aid and Development of Latin-Americans in the National Capital Area, the Metropolitan Washington Board of Trade, the United Planning Organization, the Coalition of Commissions for Women in the Metropolitan Area, and Wider Opportunities for Women.