An unofficial study by women employes of the Agency for International Development has charged that AID continues to hire far more men than women for professional career jobs and promotes them into the Senior Foreign Service at more than six times the rate of women.
The 30-page study, entitled "A Profile of Women in AID: The Challenge Continues," was compiled by the Women's Action Organization (WAO), which seeks to improve career opportunities for women in the State Department, U.S. Information Agency and AID.
Recruitment and promotion of women long has been a contentious issue at all three agencies. In 1979, the WAO issued a study of women in AID that has been regarded as a rough gauge of the problems facing women seeking careers in foreign policy. The thrust of its new report is that things haven't improved very much since then.
Marilyn Zak, the WAO vice president for AID, said that has been the case even though AID Administrator M. Peter McPherson and Deputy Administrator Jay F. Morris "generally have been very supportive and sympathetic" to women's aspirations.
In fact, Zak, who is AID's human rights coordinator, said that latest report indicates that as the number of women in AID has grown, the problems of fitting them into AID's organization also have grown.
Specifically, the report contends that there has been a tendency to shunt women into such specialized areas as health and nutrition, rather than what Zak calls "the fast track fields leading to senior administrative posts." The report also notes that a big increase in female political appointees has inflated the number of women at AID without significantly improving the advancement opportunities for women who want to climb the agency's career ladder through the Foreign Service or civil service.
The report also expressed concern that the Reagan administration's proposed personnel cuts will hit hardest at women employes, who often have less seniority than men.
And, echoing what also is an increasing problem for the State Department and USIA, the report focuses on "the new Foreign Service phenomenon" of married couples, and the difficulties of finding assignments for both spouses either overseas or in Washington.
In a gingerly worded reply, AID said it "continues to look for constructive approaches to remove any remaining barriers and will continue to encourage the input of groups like WAO." The statement maintained that any personnel reductions will be achieved through attrition so that women "will not be disproportionately affected."
The statement also took exception to the WAO report's statistics. It argued that an "analysis of our AID work force should be based on total representation and not on selected sub-categories as presented in the WAO report."
According to AID's reckoning, 36 percent of the agency's employes are female, with women averaging 34 percent of the "entry-level professional career candidates" and 50 percent of the interns. In terms of advancement, AID said, "since 1978 the representation of women at the GS-15 and FS-1 level has more than doubled," even though the number of AID employes dropped by 15 percent.
In response, Zak said, "The AID management gets those figures by lumping together women who are political appointees with Foreign Service and civil service members because it makes the numbers look better. But taking such a lump sum is misleading, particularly in the way that political appointees skew the percentages in the top ranks.
"Those women who have come into AID as political appointees have been very supportive of the career women employes," she said, "but they should be looked on as a separate category and not be used to carry the figures for all the women in the agency when you're trying to get an accurate picture of whether women making a career in AID can aspire to top positions."
According to the report, 11 of the 263 members of the Senior Foreign Service at AID are women, as are 36 of the 602 with the rank of FS-1 and 92 of the 651 with FS-2 rank. Of those in the civil service, 31 of the 133 AID employes with the rank of GS-15 are women. Only three of AID's overseas missions have a woman director.
"We are using the figures provided by AID management, even though different parts of the bureaucracy disagree on what is an accurate data base," Zak said. "But we feel that no matter how you look at the figures, they point in one direction: the gap has not narrowed in five years, and if things don't change, it will only get worse as more and more younger women seek to make careers in the foreign aid field, as more and more of them marry Foreign Service officers or other officials and question why they should have to choose between their own and their husbands' careers."