Mythical Lands ~ Massey University
"Women, Education, and Economic Participation"
Professor Hilary M. Lips, Ph.D.
1999 Fulbright NZ-U.S. Award Recipient
at the

Northern Regional Seminar, National Council of Women of New Zealand:
Theme: "Women and Economic Development"
Mid-Term Council Meeting:
The New Zealand Federation of University Women
Copyright © 1999 H. Lips. All rights reserved
Auckland-March, 1999

Hilary M. Lips, Ph.D.
Department of Psychology ~ Radford University
Radford, Virginia 24142
     One of the things that I noted with pleasure about New Zealand is that both your prime minister and opposition leader are women. There are not many countries that can boast a head of state who is female, and that indeed is one of the concerns underlying my talk today. We are still, after all these years, thrilled to encounter women in positions of high achievement, influence and power. We are thrilled because it continues to be unusual to find women in such positions. Despite the fact that, as an often-cited statistic holds, women do two-thirds of the world's work, their achievements are very often invisible. Women work hard, but they often receive little credit for their accomplishments. Still rarely (relative to men) do they reach high-visibility positions of achievement and leadership.
     In my research, one of the things I have done many times is to ask people to list the powerful people they can think of. Fifteen years ago, when I asked a large group of Canadian university students to list the most powerful person they knew, men listed other men more than 10 times as often as they listed women, and women listed men more than twice as often as they listed women (Lips, 1985). More recently, when I asked a group of students in Virginia to give me the names of powerful people, they responded with men's names five and one-half times as often as women's names. Clearly, students currently in university still do not easily bring women to mind when they think of high achievement and leadership. The public world continues to be a place where men are most obviously in charge, holding most of the visible positions of eminence and high status. Despite many years of challenges and resistance to this pattern of male dominance, stubborn interlocking patterns of our social and economic lives continue to conspire to reinforce it and keep it in place.
     Our challenge today is to examine these interlocking patterns, with the ultimate goal of interfering with them even dismantling them. For they do not just affect a few women who would otherwise be prime ministers, presidents, or top corporate leaders. Their impact reaches into the lives of all women as we make decisions about what to aim for, what to study, how to support ourselves and our families economically, and what we might contribute to our communities at the local, national, and global levels.
     If we are to grapple successfully with the problem of women and economic development, of preparing women to take their place in the employment market, there are a number of patterns to which we must attend. I will address five of these today: Pay equity, the "glass ceiling," work and family balance, the feminization of poverty, and women in a learning society.

Pay Equity
     According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics women make up two-thirds of all minimum wage-earners, and during 1998, women in the United States earned 76 cents for every dollar earned by men. At the managerial level, the wage gap is greater and most noticeable for women of color. At this level, white women earned 74 cents for every dollar earned by men, Asian-American women earned 67 cents, African-American women earned 58 cents, and Hispanic women earned 48 cents (Catalyst, 1997). According to the 1998 report on the Status of Women in New Zealand, women here earn 76.8 cents for every dollar earned by men, and within each occupation, male fulltime employees receive higher incomes than female fulltime employees.
     Why is it so difficult to overcome this wage gap? One of the reasons is our long habits of thinking of women and the work they do as less important and impressive than that of men. Years generations of stereotypes have laid down habits of thinking that allow us so automatically that we do not even know we are doing it to expect less from women, to underestimate their abilities and their work, to categorize each successful woman as an exception.
     More than 30 years ago, Philip Goldberg provided us with some of the clearest evidence of this when he gave undergraduate college women articles to evaluate that were supposedly written by a woman or a man. The young women who thought the article was written by a man rated it more favorably than those who thought it was written by a woman (although both groups of women read the identical article and the only thing that differed was the name of the author) leading Goldberg to suggest that women were prejudiced against other women.
     Subsequent research has shown that both men and women are prejudiced against women. The tendency to evaluate men's work more favorably than women's is not found in every study. However, in studies that do find gender-based differences in the evaluation of work that difference is almost always in favor of men. And the studies where such a pattern shows up most often are those carried out in the "real world," where respondents are evaluating a job application or resum‚, and where they believe their ratings have real consequences.
     So powerful is the tendency to undervalue women and what they can do that an influx of women into an occupation or profession is enough to lower its status in the eyes of observers. In a laboratory demonstration of this phenomenon, a researcher (Touhey, 1974) gave respondents descriptions of 5 high-status professions: architect, college professor, lawyer, physician, and scientist. On the information sheet describing each profession, half of the respondents were told that the percentage of women in the profession was expected to remain stable and low for the next 25 to 30 years, while the other half were told that the percentage of women would increase dramatically over the same time period. When they were told to expect an increasing proportion of women in the professions, respondents consistently rated them lower in prestige.
     In line with this pattern are more recent findings by Peter Glick and his colleagues that 1) when raters believe that "masculine" traits are required for a job they assign high prestige and salary to that job; and 2) the greater the percentage of women that raters perceive to be in an occupation, the lower the salary they assign as appropriate for that occupation.
     These findings, and a host of others, demonstrate just how insidious and pervasive is the tendency to undervalue work that is done by women to assume that, if a woman can do it, it can't be that difficult. Moreover, they suggest that all of us women and men are so steeped in this pattern of stereotypical expectations that, unless we are paying careful attention, we often unconsciously discount and devalue the achievements of women.
     In some countries, the attempt to reimburse women and men equally for their work has led to a refinement of the concept of pay equity to mean, not just equal pay for equal work, but equal pay for work of equal value (also referred to as comparable worth). This notion is a response to the persistent gender segregation of the work force, in which women and men tend to be clustered in different jobs (with women in the jobs that are lowest paid). The idea behind the principle of equal pay for work of equal value is that, even though women and men may not be working in the same jobs, the work traditionally done by women and that traditionally done by men can be compared in terms of its value. If the work is equally valuable, it should be equally reimbursed.
     Sound simple? It isn't. Implementation of this idea requires that the value the composite of skill, effort, responsibility, and working conditions of jobs normally filled by women and jobs normally filled by men within the same organization be compared. And such comparisons are fraught with the tendency to undervalue women's work that I have just been discussing.
     For example, how does the work of a company mail clerk (usually male) compare with that of a secretary (usually female)? How does the work of a grocery store shelving clerk (usually male) compare in value to the work of a cashier (usually female) in the same store? To make such comparisons, organizations may ask supervisors and employees to fill out questionnaires evaluating jobs according to criteria such as amount of education required, deadline pressures, amount of responsibility, and other aspects of working conditions. Then, points are assigned to each job category, based on the results of the questionnaire and job categories with the same number of total points are entitled to the same pay.
     One publishing company in Ontario, Canada, for example, asked all employees to fill out multiple-choice questionnaires about the nature of their jobs (Kilpatrick, 1990). Each answer had a numerical value (not known to the employees). All the answers were grouped under 4 categories representing dimensions associated with the job: skill required, effort required, amount of responsibility, and working conditions. Then, the total points under each of the 4 categories were added up. [OVERHEAD: Results of one formula to determine comparable worth]

As you can see in this chart, one result of the evaluation was that the female-dominated job of newspaper librarian was rated as equivalent in value to the male-dominated job of truck loader. The librarians, who were making about three thousand dollars a year less than the truck loaders, received a raise to make the two categories equally paid. Interestingly, according to one management consultant, both the librarians and the truck loaders were insulted at being compared with the other category.
     Why is there a need for such complicated formulas? Partly because the value (and the pay) conventionally assigned to jobs dominated by women or men enshrines, to some extent, the implicit evaluation of women and men that is part of the way we have learned to think about gender. If women are stereotyped as less competent than men, for example, then jobs that are seen as "women's jobs" will be stereotyped as easier, requiring less competence, than those seen as "men's jobs" and valued lower. In other words, because women and men are perceived and valued differently, work that is gender-labeled "feminine" has a different connotation than work that has been labeled "masculine." It is difficult, if not impossible, for people in a society that constructs gender in a certain way to evaluate the worth of an occupation independent of the gender-labeling of that occupation.
     And the evidence suggests, as I have said, that our evaluations of work continue to be colored by the gender of the person performing it.

The Glass Ceiling
     What is a "glass ceiling"? A barrier that keeps people from rising past a certain point but a barrier that is transparent, and therefore virtually invisible until the person crashe into it. Glass ceiling is an apt label for the phenomenon faced by women who aspire to positions of leadership. Because increasing numbers of women are entering fields that often lead to leadership positions: law, business, politics, education, science, many assume that getting to top positions is a matter of time and energy. Yet the proportion of women who have made it into high leadership positions remains stunningly small.
     The final report of the U.S. government's Glass Ceiling Commission in 1995 noted that the nations's boardrooms remain overwhelmingly white and male: 95 percent of the senior-level managers in the Fortune 1000 industries and Fortune 500 companies are men and 97 percent are white (Swoboda, 1995).

A subsequent report by the Catalyst research group shows that minority women are underrepresented at the top, even in comparison to European-American women. Asian, Hispanic, and African American women make up 10 percent of the U.S. work force, but hold only 5.6 percent of management jobs in private companies; and 60% of women of color managers are clustered in three of the lowest-paying industries: retail trade, professional-related services; and finance, insurance and real estate (Catalyst, 1998a).
     In 1997, women comprised just 2.5% of the top earners in Fortune 500 companies and held only 5.3% of the line corporate officer positions (positions with profit/loss responsibilities that traditionally lead to the top executive positions). They held 10.6% of the total board seats in Fortune 500 companies and two of the CEO positions (Catalyst, 1998a). In Canada, women hold 12 of the CEO positions in the Financial Post 500 companies (Women in Management,1999).
     The United States and Canada have two of the highest ratios of women to men in administrative and managerial positions (67 and 68 women for every 100 men, respectively), but these numbers include low-level as well as high-level managers. In New Zealand there are 48 women for every 100 men in managerial positions. In many other countries, the numbers are far lower. For example, in Japan there are 9 women managers for every 100 men; in Poland there are 18; in Cuba there are 23; in India there are 2 (Neft & Levine, 1997).
     Even women who do make it past the glass ceiling into top executive positions apparently do not reach a place where gender equity is the norm. A recent study of executives in one multi-national corporation showed that the women who had reached this level faced a second glass ceiling (Lyness & Thompson, 1997). These women made the same pay and received the same bonuses as their male counterparts. However, they managed fewer people, were given fewer stock options, and obtained fewer overseas assignments than the men did. They had reached the same level as the men; however, being in the same position does not necessarily imply having the same level of status and clout in the organization. When surveyed, the women reported more obstacles and less satisfaction than the men did with their future career opportunities. Clearly, they had gotten the message that they had moved up as far as they could in their company whereas the men were more likely to see new opportunities ahead. The differences in the ways the two groups were rewarded were subtle, but they apparently signaled to men that they were valued for the long term and to women that they were not.
     These researchers attribute their findings in large part to the persistent gender stereotypes that color the evaluations of and expectations for women. Management literature has shown for years that women are not thought to have the characteristics necessary for a successful manager, and that these stereotypes are especially likely to come into play when evaluators are attempting to judge future performance (as opposed to evaluating past performance). Thus, despite excellent track records, executive women may be subject to the expectation that they will not do as well in the future as male executives will.

Work and Family Balance      Studies of the way that women and men use their time show that, in most of the world, women spend more hours per week working than men do. However, for women, a larger proportion of time spent working is devoted to unpaid work: housework, childcare and other domestic activities that are not counted when economists try to quantify work (United Nations, 1995). In most countries, women spend about twice the amount of time doing unpaid work as men do in Japan, nine times.
     In developed regions of the world, two-thirds to three-quarters of the domestic work is performed by women. Women tend to do the cooking, laundry, housecleaning, and ironing; men tend to do household repair and maintenance. In nearly all developed countries, women do between 75 and 90 percent of meal preparation and clean-up.

They also do most of the childcare, especially when children are young. Even women who are employed full time do most of the domestic work in their households; one Canadian study showed that only 10 percent of wives who were employed full time had spouses who shared responsibility equally for household work (United Nations, 1995).
     Women in developing countries do a great deal of unpaid subsistence work, such as gardening, and carrying water and wood, as well as unpaid housework. According to the United Nations (1995), women's total work time per week is 53 hours in Bangladesh, 69 in India and 77 in Nepal, as compared to men's work time in these countries of 46, 56, and 57 hours respectively. There is one remarkable similarity among countries, whether developed or developing, in the role played by fathers in child care: they do it for, on average, less than one hour per day! a ten-country study of the parents of four-year-olds found that fathers in the United States and Nigeria averaged 0.7 hours per day in solo child care (i.e., looking after the child without anyone else's help). Chinese fathers spent the most time in daily child care (0.9 hours per day), while fathers in Hong Kong spent the least (0.1 hours per day). Meanwhile, the mothers in these countries spend from 5.2 to 10.7 hours per day in solo child care; the highest average belongs to women in the United States, the lowest to women in Belgium (Owens, 1995).
     It is clear that women everywhere bear the brunt of household labor, regardless of whether and how it is combined with income-producing work. Studies of the division of labor within U.S. households have shown that the movement of wives in to the paid labor force has not been accompanied by a complementary shift of husbands into greater participation in household work. Married women who are employed do less housework than their unemployed counterparts, but their husbands do little to take up the slack. In fact, women do more housework than men do in every type of family living situation; married, cohabiting, divorced, living with parents, single (Baxter, 1992; South & Spitze, 1994). The "double duty" imposed on employed women has costs in terms of stress and exhaustion (Wiersma, 1990). However, women also reap psychological rewards from employment: employed women in the U.S. report being happier and healthier than homemakers, except when they have small infants to care for (Walker & Best, 1991) and that employed women have lower risk of heart disease than either homemakers or women unable to find steady work (Wingard, Kritz-Silverstein, & Barrett-Connor, 1992).
     A Catalyst (1998b) study of dual-career couples in the United States finds that the majority say that they chief benefit of having two earners is higher income. However, they also cited personal fulfillment, intellectual equality, and emotional support as important advantages, and most said they would continue working even if the financial need to do so was not there. Both members of such dual-career couples said that their top choice for benefits they would look for if they were switching companies was flexibility: the freedom to arrange their own day-to-day schedules. They also said they would like the option to customize the pace of their career advancement being able to slow down when family responsibilities were very pressing, without hurting their chances for eventual success.
     Indeed, it is clear that he stress of balancing job and family can be reduced, and the rewards increased, by the availability of high-quality day care and certain kinds of flexibility in the workplace but these items are often in rather short supply. For many women, the reality is a great lack of flexibility and a continuous struggle to make and maintain adequate arrangements for childcare. Moreover, a large chunk of their already smaller (than men's) income, often goes to pay for this childcare. And the responsibility for solving these problems falls disproportionately on women, even in couples where both member have equally demanding professional careers. IN the Catalyst study I just cited, fully one-third of the men in these dual-career couples viewed their careers as primary in the household, while only 6 percent of the women said their own careers were primary. And then there are the many women who head single-parent families, who must juggle the responsibilities of home and job with no spousal support at all. So, women in general face lower pay, a glass ceiling that impedes their career advancement, and the necessity to balance home and childcare responsibilities with employment and a significant number of women head households in which there is no other adult earner. It is little wonder that women as a group hold fewer economic resources than men. These are some of the factors underlying the next topic: the feminization of poverty.

The Feminization of Poverty According to some estimates, some 70% of the world's poor are women. In the United States, women make up about three-fifths of all adults living in poverty (The Washington Center, 1998). In New Zealand, census dat from 1996 shows that , of those who had an income below $10,000, 62.3% were women, while of those who had an income above $40,000, only 22.9% were women (Statistics New Zealand, 1998).
     This gendered distribution of poverty shows up in findings from around the world that there are more poor households that are headed by women than by men, that there are more women than men in the poorest households. It is helped along by the fact that women outlive men and often face an old age that is made more difficult by the fact that they do not have enough resources to live comfortably.
     We can put a face to the feminization of poverty by looking at the lives of particular women. Consider, for example, Elizabeth Jones, a twenty-seven-year-old Washington DC woman with three young children, whose story was followed by a reporter as she struggled to leave welfare (Boo, 1996). After a government training program and a brief internship, Jones landed a job as a receptionist at a non-profit agency. Unable to afford a car, every day she took six buses and walked two miles to get her children to and from day care and school and herself to and from work. With bills for rent, day care and food eating up most of her income, Jones had only $207 a month left to cover utilities, emergencies, and clothing for herself and her children. Every "staff development day" at the school meant that she had to pay for a full day of child care for her children -- at $15 per child. She found it all but impossible to save the money necessary to keep her children in winter clothing. Constrained by the time demands of her job, Jones was unable to continue volunteering at her nine-year-old son's school, as she had when she was on public assistance. Her son's difficulties at school were apparently unnoticed by his teachers; she found it difficult to stay on top of the situation when she could not ever be at the school during the day. Moving him to a different school would mean adding another stop -- and probably another bus trip -- to her already complicated daily routine. To make ends meet more easily, Jones searched for a second job that she could work on the weekends, a move that would necessitate finding weekend day care for her children as well. Jones' determination to build a good life for her children was implacable, yet the environment in which she struggled -- the absence of adequate transportation, the inflexibility of the school system, the low safety level in her neighborhood -- would have caused a less courageous woman to give up. Yet single mothers often are forced to develop their courage.
     In developed countries, studies reported by the United Nations (United Nations, 1995) suggest that there are three factors that are very relevant to the feminization of poverty: strong family ties, employment opportunities for women, and a strong system of social welfare. These three factors are present in varying combinations in the countries where there are nearly equal rates of poverty among women and men (Italy, Sweden, the Netherlands) and all three were found in much lesser degrees in countries where the ratio of poor women to poor men was very high (greater than 130 poor women to every 100 poor men; Australia, the United States). Countries that had strong employment opportunities for women but relatively weaker levels of social assistance and family ties had ratios of women to men among the poor of between 120 and 130 (Canada, the UK).
     Clearly, then, one thing (although certainly not the only thing) that can be done to reduce the threat of poverty for women is to position them so that they can earn a decent income. That means providing social and cultural support for women who are trying to juggle jobs and family responsibilities. It means eliminating the discrimination that often keeps women out of jobs that pay well. And it means educating women in ways that allow them to enter the employment market at levels that allow for reasonable income and perhaps more importantly advancement. Women have to be well-integrated into a society in which education is ever more critical and ever more continuous: a learning society.

Women in a Learning Society      Years ago, the barring of women from higher education was considered quite reasonable in many countries; indeed, it was the women who insisted on access to higher education that were considered unreasonable. French educational philosopher F‚nelon declared in the seventeenth century that science education for girls was inappropriate and that girls should be taught that their sex should have "a prudishness about science almost as fastidious as that which inspires a horror of vice" (Peiffer, 1991). American educator Edward Clarke argued in the second half of the 19nth century that women's brains were relatively undeveloped and unsuited to the intellectual rigors of higher education and that if women used too much of their energy to think, it might rob energy from their vital reproductive organs and render them infertile. When Canadian Martha Lewis breached the barriers to women in 1849 by enrolling in the Teacher Training School in Saint John, New Brunswick, she was ordered to enter the lecture room ten minutes before the male students and leave five minutes before the end of class, sit alone at the back of the class, and wear a black veil at all times (Herstory, 1995). Early American psychologists such Mary Calkins, Christine Ladd-Franklin, and Margaret Washburn were denied official status in graduate programs near the turn of the century simply because they were women (Furumoto & Scarborough, 1986). The first women who aspired to study medicine were often driven from the classroom by irate male students (Walsh, 1977).
     We may sometimes feel we can look back on these events with amused tolerance now that women have gained access to university-level education in large numbers. After all, in many countries of the world, female participation in higher education has approached or exceeded 50% of enrolments. In the United States, women are expected to earn just over 57% of all undergraduate degrees this year, as compared with 43% in 1970 and 24% in 1950 (Koerner, 1999). However, there is still cause for concern. In many countries, women make up no more than 20% to 30% of undergraduate students, and in still others their participation is extremely low. [OVERHEAD: SOME EXAMPLES OF FEMALE PARTICIPATION RATES IN HIGHER EDUCATION - UNESCO STATS, 1995]

     There is also a noticeable shortage of women among the academic staff and senior management of institutions of higher education. For example, a study of female university faculty in the United States aptly titled Women Faculty: Frozen in Time shows that their share of the highest level faculty positions has changed little over the years. In 1975, 46 percent of women full time faculty members had tenure; in 1992, the percentage was still 46 percent. In 1982, women who were at the rank of full professor earned 89 percent of what male full professors earned; in 1995 women full professors earned 88.5 percent of the what their male colleagues earned. Finally, in 1982, 27 percent of all faculty were women, although women obtained 35 percent of PhDs; in 1994, 31 percent of all faculty were women although by that time women were earning 47 percent of all PhDs (West, 1995). The most recent data, released by the American Association of University Professors last month, shows that the percentage of women faculty has increased to 33.8%. However, more than one-half of these women are in the lowest faculty ranks, and just 18.7% of full professors are women (More women are professors, 1999).
     The greatest problem may be, however, that female students (and faculty too) are still heavily concentrated, within the universities, in disciplines that are traditionally feminine. We need to look carefully not only at whether women are learning, but what they are learning, and what they are avoiding or being discouraged from pursuing. In the United States, women in the age range of 25 to 29 have actually pulled ahead of men in terms of educational attainment: more women in this age range have earned high school diplomas (88.9% vs. 85.8%) and undergraduate college degrees (29.3% vs. 26.3%) (Manning, 1998). Yet women still lag behind men in terms of income and advancement. In the U.S., whereas men who earn college degrees make an average of $23,000 more per year than male high school graduates, women who earn college degrees earn only about $4,700 more per year than these same male high school graduates (Koerner, 1999).
     Around the world, young women are disproportionately absent from science and engineering disciplines in higher education [OVERHEAD: GLOBAL PARTICIPATION, COLLEGE EDUCATION]

And, while there are some signs that the gender gap is narrowing somewhat in some of the sciences and mathematics, it appears that it may be widening in technology and computer science education. A study released last fall by the American Assocation of University Women asserts that technology remains a "club by and for boys." This study of high school students found that relatively few girls enroll in advanced programming and computer graphics course: only 17% of advanced placement computer science students are female (Fording, 1998). A study in my home state of Virginia shows a similarly alarming pattern. This study pointed out that white males, who made up 32.8% of the high school population being studied, made up 47.9% of computer science students and 57% of advanced placement computer science students. Meanwhile, white females, who make up just over 30% of the high school population, account for only 13.3% of advanced placement computer science students, and the numbers are even more dismal for Black and Hispanic females (Benning, 1998). The picture continues to look bleak in college: In 1996, women earned fewer than 28% of all undergraduate degrees in computer and information science (O'Hanlon, 1998). Moreover, in a sobering trend, computer firms are siphoning off a significant number promising students at the high school level, enticing them into highly-paid technology careers. For examples, Cisco Systems offers a 2-year course in high schools that certify graduates to become network administrators and most of the students who sign up for these courses are male (Koerner, 1999). In response to the emergence of these corporate-sponsored education programs, which train mostly men for high-paying jobs in technology fields, a recent article in US News and World Report quotes Judith Sturnick, the director of the American Council on Higher Education's Office of Women in Higher Education as wondering "Will we set up a separate track for education which will primarily benefit men, which will allow them to enter the job market with higher pay at a higher salary, while women continue on the baccalaureate track, end up debt lade, and then wind up three or four years behind in a profession?" (Koerner,1999, p. 54). She worries that, now that women are entering it in large numbers, university education will lose status in just the same way that professions lose status when they become dominated by women as I noted earlier in this talk.
     Computing and technology are high-income fields that will be crucial to the world economies in the next century, yet women currently make up only 25% of the high technology workforce in the U.S. In New Zealand, according to one recent report, women make up only 20 % of all research scientists and engineers, and, across the board, women have a more negative attitude than men do toward science and technology ("Scully factor" not evident, 1998). Forecasters predict that as we enter the 21st century, 65% of all jobs will require computer-related skills and women must be positioned to pursue these skills, and to keep updating them, if they are to be able to compete effectively in the job market.
     Computing and technology are not the only areas of concern. Women students have increased their presence in colleges of business over the years, but they are still underrepresented among graduates. In my own university, where women make up about 60% of undergraduate students, they make up about 23 % of the graduates of certain departments of the business college the departments, such as accounting and marketing that lead to high-profile, highly-paid careers. Once again, this is a field that is potentially high-income, high-status, and crucial to the economy.
     Women are still moving into fields that are at the bottom in terms of pay, status, and influence. In my research into the academic self-views of university students, I have found repeatedly that students view their academic strengths and weaknesses along gender-stereotypic lines. Young women indicate that they do not see their abilities in mathematics, computer science, the physical sciences as positively as young men do. Moreover, when they are asked to indicate what is possible for them in terms of future study or future career, they adhere even more closely to gender stereotypic lines, saying that there is relatively little possibility of pursuing further study in computing, the physical sciences, agricultural sciences, engineering, business, or law and of achieving careers as successful scientists, businesspersons, or political leaders.
     Where do students get the message in these days of legislated non-discrimination, bans upon sexist language, and even the advent of corporate policies such as flex-time and parental leave, that their options are so restricted? They get it in unspoken ways from their world which continues to produce mixed messages on the topic of gender and achievement. If they are studying the physical sciences, engineering or computing technology, they see that virtually all of their professors are men. Similarly, if they are taking courses in business, almost all of the people teaching them are male. On a wider scale, the names and faces of experts who are interviewed in the media tend to be male, as do the names and faces of those whose achievements are trumpeted through awards and other forms of recognition. All of these things make it less likely that young women will form the vivid images of possibility for themselves that they need to pull them along the arduous track of hard work and risk that accompanies the commitment to any challenging pursuit. Young women are bombarded, for instance, with images of motherhood.
The motivation to take up this particular challenging and rewarding role is reinforced and strengthened by the many concrete and positive images of mothers with children that young women see around them. For most young women, then, it is not that difficult to form a vivid image of themselves a possible self as a mother. Yet concrete examples of women in other roles, that are also challenging and rewarding and better paid are usually in short supply. And without those images, it is hard to find the motivation to go on. A young woman who was dropping out of her undergraduate engineering program said to me "I like my courses, and I am getting good grades. I think I am good at this ... but I just can't see myself as an engineer."
     We have to find ways to help young women envision themselves as engineers, as computer scientists, as political leaders, as business executives, as biotechnologists, as university presidents and also as electricians, precision metalworkers, and other skilled, high-paying jobs in the trades sector. That means not simply acquainting young women with role models in these fields, although this is tremendously important, but also paying attention to what we say (and do not say) to them about gender and various fields. If we make disparaging comments about successful women based on their gender ("She's not much of a woman"); if we surround girls with opinions that women are incapable in certain areas ("Don't bother asking your mother for help; she can't do math"), we are telling girls and young women in countless ways that only certain paths are appropriate for women. The real reason that a young woman has difficulty "seeing herself" as an engineer, a lawyer, a business executive, or anything else is that society has trouble seeing her in those roles.
     As technological and social change move at an ever-increasing pace, as we increasingly learn to think of ourselves as a "learning society," as the notion of lifelong learning becomes ever more integrated into our expectations as a world community, women must not be left behind. But history suggests that women will be left behind doing the data entry, the clerical data-retrieval, the non-technical service jobs and facing a lifetime of lower earnings, lower retirement benefits, and greater risk of poverty if we do not act positively to ensure that women are included in these changes. Today's seminar is clearly a step in this direction, and I wish you inspiration and perseverance as you wrestle with these issues.
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Closing Scenes

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 Last updated January 9th, 2016