Women today are still far more likely than white men to be overqualified and overeducated for their jobs, to be unemployed, to have jobs with little prestige, to be segregated into jobs regarded as "women's work," and to spend too much of their incomes for housing.
In a report released yesterday, the U.S. Civil Rights Commission has painted what its staff director called yesterday a "bleak" portrait of women's failure to make any significant strides toward economic and social equlaity with white men since 1960.
"There's very little sign of improvement," said staff director Deborah Snow. "Things are pretty stagnant for women over this time period." She expressed particular concern over the growing number of women who head households and the study's finding that such women are at least 50 percent more likely to be spending more than 25 percent of their income on housing than their white male counterparts.
"With more and more female headed households, you have the seeds of a large social problem," Snow said. "These are people who have less money for other things when they pay more than 25 percent of their income for housing - and this is rental housing. This means less for medicine, food, clothing. Housing is one of the least flexible things we have."
Women still earn only half as much as white males, according to the report, and women with college degrees earn less than men with high school degrees. The report notes that college educated women have improved their situations slightly between 1960 and 1975, but no college-educated "female group earned as much as 70 percent of the majority male average in 1975 . . ."
The commission study found that there is "virtually no financial ladder" for women since there has been little or no improvement in the earnings of full-time working women between the ages of 20 and 44. "The pattern has changed little during the past 16 years," the commission noted.
With only two exceptions, women of all races and ethnic origins who head households were likely to be below the poverty line in 1975 than in 1969. Only the Chinese-American and Filipino-American women heading households improved their poverty-line status.
"I think when you look at the big picture, the lack of mobility for women as a group comes through very sharply," said Kathleen Newland, a senior researcher specializing in women's issues for Worldwatch, a research insitute sponsored by foundations and the United Nations.
"Some of the confusion about women getting ahead or not comes from looking at women as a group on the one hand and what individual women are able to do on the other. In the past decade it had become easier for women who have managed to get training, education and in some cases connections - those women probably have an easier time getting responsible jobs, higher incomes than they did previously."
But, she said, occupational segregation "continues to be a very important factor in the labor market. It's not just that women are paid less than men to do the same job, but they just do different jobs. You can walk into any office and see that women are still doing the typing and men are sitting in the offices, all the typing is still being done by women."
Joan Goodin, executive director of the National Commission on Working Women, an agency funded by government, foundations and corporations to study needs of American working women, said the report's findings on working women, particularly women heading households, show "that women aren't working for fun. They're working because they have to.
"We're really not taking this phenomenon into account in our policies and planning. There's a certain stubborness about accepting that reality that women don't just work for pin money. It's clear that in view of our present economic situation that's not going to go away, yet women are being channeled into lower-paying jobs. It does terrible things to their economic needs."
"I think it's going to stay the same until we have the equal rights amendment," said Arlie Scott, a vice president of the National Organization for Women. "Until we have the equal rights amendment women are still going to be relegated to lower economic dependence in the country.
"Business is against ERA not because it's some symbol, but because it means they're going to have to pay women the same as men," she said.