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in the
Federal Service

Women's Bureau
Pamphlet Four

James P. Mitchell, Secretary


Mrs. Alice K . Leopold. Director

Washington : 1956




Employment trends


Job locations


Employment standards


Grades and salaries


Variety of occupational opportunity


Clerical occupations


Semiprofessional occupations


Professional occupations


Administrative positions


In conclusion






W A S H I N G T O N : 1957

For sale by the Superintendent of Documents, U. S. Government Printing Office
Washington 25, D. C. - Price 15 cents


Women's employment opportunities in the Federal service have
increased considerably since the 1930's—both in terms of numbers
of opportunities and variety of jobs offered. At the same time that
Government services have increased to meet the needs of an expanding
economy and greater defense responsibilities, many more women are
considering Government service as a full-time career. With improved job qualifications—in terms of education, training, and job
experience—women are securing many of the new jobs which have
become available.
More than a half million women—out of a total of more than 2
million persons—are now working for the Federal Government, the
largest single employer in the Nation. They comprise about 1 out of
every 50 women in the total of 22 million women workers. Interest
in their employment conditions and opportunities is found not only
among Government employees and those considering entering the
Federal service, but also among those seeking information about the
Government's operations.
Since its formation, the Women's Bureau has had a continuing interest in the status of Government women and has made four previous studies relating to their employment—for the years 1919, 1925,
1938-39, and 1947. The present study covers the types of positions
they hold, their salaries, and their opportunities for advancement.
The 1954 data are comparable with some portions of the 1938-39
This pamphlet is based on material collected by the United States
Civil Service Commission, which issued a report for all persons employed by the Federal Government in white-collar positions and
located in continental United States in August 1954. It includes
more detailed information concerning women than is available in
the Commission's report.



Director, Women's Bureau.

The Women's Bureau of the United States Department of Labor wishes
to acknowledge with appreciation the generous cooperation of the Civil
Service Commission in making available the data, mostly unpublished,
on which this study is based.
This pamphlet was written by Jean A. Wells of the Division of Program
Planning, Analysis, and Reports under the general direction of Winifred G.
Helmes, Assistant Director of the Women's Bureau.
Women White-Collar Employees of the Federal Government: A Study of
Their Salaries and Positions in 1954, a detailed report of this study, can
be obtained by writing to:

Women's Btjbeau
U. S. Department of Labor
Washington 25, D. C.

522,000 women worked full time for the Federal Government
in 1954; over four-fifths (440,000) were employed in whitecollar positions.
Women's employment increased 200 percent between 1939 and
1954; men's increased 120 percent.
Ratio of employees was 1 woman to 3 men among all Federal
workers and 1 woman to 2 men among the white-collar workers.
All Federal agencies employed women. Over half the women
were working for military establishments.
One out of five women worked in the Washington area; the
other four worked elsewhere in the country.
Women were employed in three-fourths of the 502 major whitecollar occupations listed by the United States Civil Service Commission.
Among every 100 women, there were estimated to be:

clerical or related workers
semiprofessional workers
professional workers
administrators (less than 1 percent)
miscellaneous workers (technicians, specialists, etc.)

Since 1938-39, employment opportunities for women have improved in all types of jobs in the Federal service. However^


women in nonclerical jobs have made their greatest gains (in
terms of numbers and percentage of total workers) in these

Editorial or information specialist
Legal documents examiner

Medical technician

Women's status changed least in these occupations:




With Federal salaries and job grades for white-collar positions
determined in 1954 by the Classification Act of 1949, as amended:
The range was from a minimum of $2,500 a year for grade
1 to $14,800 for grade 18.
Some women were found in all grades, including the supergrades 16 through 18.
Women's average salary was $3,562 a year; men's $4,618.
Median job grades were—
For all white-collar workers—
Women, grade 4; men, grade 6
Excluding postal employees (not covered by the Classification Act of 1949)—
Women, grade 4; men, grade 7.




i i I i I t i I i i


» '






I I M i l l




The great increase in the number of women employed by the Federal
Government is probably the most spectacular part of the story concerning women in the Federal service. Their numerical gain is related largely to the Government's need for more employees to carry
out its increased responsibilities and defense requirements, as well
as to the Nation's expanding economy. The more than 500,000 women
working for the Government in 1954 compare with about 80,000
women employees in 1923, when official employment reports were first
issued. The employee ratio is now 1 woman to 3 men; then it was 1
woman to 5 men.
The rise in women's employment has been fairly steady, although
marked fluctuations have occurred during and after periods of national emergency. By 1939 the number of women in Federal service
was more than double that of 1923. During World War II, it exceeded a million and the employee ratio became 2 women for every 3
men. Staff cuts after the war and the return of veterans caused the
number of women to drop to less than half a million in 1947 to 1950.


Hostilities in Korea brought another moderate increase, as the following figures show:
Number of

1944 (WorfdTwar II)ZIHI
1947 (Return of war veterans)
1951 (Korean hostilities)
1954 (Total)
(White-collar, full-time)

81, 500
172, 700
444, 200
577, 500

Ratio of
to men




The upward trend in women's employment is indicated most clearly
in a comparison of 1954figureswith those of 1939, just before World
War II. The number of women workers increased 200 percent during this period while men's employment increased only 120 percent.
This greater percentage gain for women than for men in the Federal
service is similar to the trend among workers outside of Government.


The size and scope of Federal activities provide a wide choice of
job locations for Federal employees. Regardless of where they live,
women citizens have numerous opportunities for jobs in the Federal
service. In recent years, these opportunities have been increasing
more rapidly outside the Washington, D. C., area than within it.
Over 85 percent of the increase in women's employment between 1939
and 1954 took place outside the National Capital. While the number
of women in the Washington area doubled, elsewhere it more than
tripled. Of all women white-collar workers in the Federal service
(440,282) in 1954, those in Washington (82,772) were less than onefifth of the total. This fact reflects the continual effort to decentralize Federal operations, with regional and area offices handling as
many local operations as possible.
The widespread locations and variety of Federal operations enable
employees to transfer from one location or agency to another without
loss of seniority or other employee benefits. All Federal agencies
employ women, although some have more women workers than others.
For example, in 1954 women comprised only 10 percent of all Post
Office employees but more than 85 percent of the employees in the
Selective Service System.
Both men and women white-collar workers employed by the Federal
Government are very heavily concentrated in a few large agencies.
Over half of the women were working for the military establishments
in 1954 and another fourth for three agencies: Veterans Administration, Post Office, and Treasury. About 10 percent were in the Departments of Health, Education, and Welfare; Agriculture; and Justice.
The remainder were distributed among 59 other agencies.


Standards governing the employment conditions and earnings of
women employed in the Federal Government are based on acts of
Congress or Executive orders of the President. Earnings are determined by the Classification Act of 1949, as amended, which provides
for a uniform system of job grades and salaries. In the executive
departments and in most independent agencies, most standards are
implemented through programs administered by the Civil Service
Commission—the Government's central personnel agency.
Basic to all other Federal policies is the principle of merit and fitness, by which all citizens are guaranteed equal opportunity to seek
employment through open competitive examination and for appointment to the service without regard to race, creed, sex, politics, or
marital status. Of the Federal jobs in continental United States
(2,156,929 in August 1954) about 90 percent are under the Civil Service system. Many of the remaining jobs are in special agencies which
have their own merit systems. A small percentage of positions in
the Federal Government are exempt from the merit system because
they are policy-making or confidential in nature.
Women have had equal opportunity with men in seeking Federal
employment since 1919, when almost all entrance examinations were
opened to both men and women. Those successful in passing the
examinations are "certified" to Federal agencies wishing to fill vacancies. Priority is given in order of examination grades, except as
modified by veterans' preference points, which may be allowed for
the applicant's own military service, or, under certain conditions, to
the widows, wives, and mothers of veterans. To enable them to hire
either women or men as they prefer, agencies have been given the
option of specifying sex in their certification requests.

The principle of equal pay for equal work in the Federal service
was first introduced into law in 1870, but was not fully implemented
until the Classification Act of 1923 established a uniform salary
schedule for every type and grade of w^ork performed by white-collar
employees. As women wTere the ones who benefited primarily from
the provisions which set job standards and salaries, the 1923 act has
been called the emancipation act for women in the Federal service.
Other policies covering Federal employment have special interest
for two particular groups of women: (1) Women on maternity leave
have their employment rights maintained during their absence; and
(2) older women are assured that it is the official policy of the Government to judge all applicants for examination and hiring on the
basis of qualifications and ability rather than age.
Important to all women is the fact that the Federal Government
provides good working conditions for its employees—generally a 5day workweek, good pay, liberal vacation and sick-leave provisions,
compensation for work injuries, and retirement benefits. Recently,
Federal employees have also been covered by contributory life insurance and unemployment insurance.

Grades and

An average salary of $3,562 a year was earned by women whitecollar workers employed by the Federal Government in 1954. The
average for men was $4,618 a year. Earnings of Federal workers
paid under the Classification Act of 1949, as amended, are related to
job grades, which range from 1 through 18, according to the difficulty,
complexity, and responsibility of the work. In 1954, grade 1 had an
entrance salary of $2,500 and grade 18 a salary of $14,800.1
The average (median) grade of Government women in 1954 was
grade 4 ($3,l75-$3,655). For men the median was grade 6 ($3,795$4,545). These medians refer to all white-collar workers including
postal employees, who are not covered, however, by the Classification
Act of 1949, as amended, and for whom job grades were estimated from
average yearly earnings. (In 1954, the salaries and positions of postal
employees were covered by the Postal Pay Act. More recent legislation is the Postal Field Service Compensation Act of 1955.) If
job grade distributions exclude the estimated data for postal employees, the median grade is 4 for women and 7 for men.
The job grade information collected by the Civil Service Commission for August 1954 shows that most women are in the lower grades,
as the following summary shows:

12 and over

Salary range1

$7,040-$14,800 and over

Percent distribution
Excluding postal
Total employees
Women Men

19. 6

65. 8
9. 0

14. 8

48. 1
15. 1

i Excludes longevity increases, which are received after 10 years' seivice within a specific grade. Salary
ranges in effect the end of 1956 were: grades 1-5, $2,690-$4,480; grades 6-11, $4,080-$7,465; and grades 12 and
over, $7,570-$16,000.

On the basis of women's representation among total employees,
women made up over three-fifths of all employees in grades 1 through
5, although they were only a third of all white-collar workers. As the
1 In March 1955, salary rates generally were increased 7.5 percent, raising the entrance
salary to $2,690.
Grade 18, however, remained the same until August 1956, when it was
raised to $16,000.


job grade increased, the percentage of women decreased. Women were
13 percent of all workers in grades 6 to 11 and less than 3 percent of
those in grades 12 and above. In supergrades 16, 17, and 18 they
were 1 percent of the total.
The differences between men's and women's grades and salaries are
related largely to differences in types of job held and extent of education and training, as well as to preference for men or for women in
certain types of work and length of service. For example, a special
study of employment records revealed that in 1953 the average length
of time in Federal service was 11.3 years for men and 7.6 years for
women. Employees with less than 5 years of service included 41 percent of the women but only 16 percent of the men. About half of
the men and one-third of the women had at least 10 years of service.
Under the Government policy of "promotion from within," various
programs have been set up to help employees increase their skills and
competence on the job. Numerous women who have shown potentiality for advancement have been selected to participate in these training programs.


Variety of

Equally significant with the numerical rise in women's employment
in the Federal service is the increased variety of jobs women are performing. In 1954 women were employed in three-fourths (381) of
the 502 major occupational groups listed by the Civil Service Commission. Ranging from accounting to zoology, women's activities
included research in library and laboratory; examining the validity
of various claims and legal documents; giving advice and assistance
to farmers, businessmen, and consumers; analyzing military information ; keeping account of the vast number of transactions connected
with Government operations; and studying weather conditions.
Despite this wide range of activity, women in the Federal service,
like those outside it, are concentrated in a few occupational fields.
In 1954, three-fourths of the women white-collar workers were employed in only 12 major occupations. This means, of course, that
there were many other types of work with small numbers of women.
Such work covered primarily specialized jobs in engineering, inspection and investigation, biological sciences, and mechanics. Generally, women are not attracted to some of these fields and do not
secure the necessary training. In others, particularly investigatory
and inspection jobs, the work is considered too arduous, hazardous, or
unsuitable for women and the qualifying examinations have not been
opened to them.
Four broad groups of occupations in the Federal service offer
diversified types of opportunities for women :
(1) Clerical—From the viewpoint of number of job opportunities
available, clerical jobs comprise the most important employment area for women.
(2) Semi-professional—Requiring longer training periods and
more responsibility than most clerical work, these jobs also
offer more advancement opportunities.

(3) Professional—To women with the required education and
experience, these fields are very attractive in terms of variety
of work, salary, and chances of advancement.
(4) Administrative—Measured by level of responsibility, remuneration, and prestige, these include some of the most
desirable positions, but their number is small and the competition for them is correspondingly keen.
The employment and salary information collected by the Civil
Service Commission indicates important distinctions in the characteristics of these broad occupational groups.

Clerical Occupations

More than four-fifths (about 375,000) of the women in Federal
service were doing clerical and related work in 1954. Fifteen years
ago their comparable number approximated 107,000, which was also
about four-fifths of the women in white-collar positions. Their
larger number is directly related to the greater defense responsibilities
and other increased functions of the Federal Government.
Within the large group of clerical workers, there is further concentration of women in a few occupations:

Typists, stenographers, and secretaries:
Property and stock control clerks
Mail and file clerks
Accounting and fiscal clerks



women (1954)
77,368 $3,115
3, 555
3, 605

Average salary of women in clerical and related jobs in Federal
service was $3,389 a year in 1954—slightly less than the $3,562 averaged by all women covered in the survey. The majority of women
clerical workers were employed in grades 2 through 4, which had a
salary range of $2,750 to $3,655 in 1954.
Opportunities for advancement are somewhat limited in the clerical field. Typists can obtain further training and become stenoggraphers, who in turn can advance to secretarial positions. Directly
above many clerical jobs are supervisory, management, or staffassistant positions, which are relatively limited in number. There are,.


however, fairly numerous examples of women who have started at
clerical jobs and have advanced to the middle grades in administrative,
supervisory, or technical positions.

About 16,000 jobs filled by women in the Federal service may be
described as semiprofessional, semiscientific, or semitechnical. Some
of these jobs werefirstoccupied by women during war and emergency
periods when the young men who previously filled them entered military service.
Of the occupations covered by this group, those with large numbers
of women follow:

Claims examiners
Medical technicians
Legal instruments examiners
Library assistants
Cartographic aides
Engineering draftsmen
Physical science aides

of women

4, 364
1, 147

Percent of
total employees salary (1954)




These jobs generally require shorter periods of specialized formal
training and experience than professional jobs. However, their employment qualifications and responsibilities are usually higher than
those of clerical jobs. Greater opportunities for advancement are also
found in this area. Further job experience becomes progressively
more valuable, and those willing to add to their educational qualifications will find better positions open to them.
Salaries received for these jobs were generally higher than for
clerical work. Most women in semiprofessional occupations in 1954
were in grades 4 through 6, where salaries ranged between $3,175 and
$4,545 a year.

The 32,613 women performing professional work for the Federal
Government in 1954 made up 20 percent of all the professional personnel—a notable gain over 1938-39 when 6,165 women comprised

only 8 percent of the group. Much of the 400-percent numerical increase resulted from reclassification of registered nurses from subprofessional to professional status in 1946. If nurses were excluded
from the 1954 count, the increase in women's professional employment would amount to 119 percent. During this same period, the
number of professional men increased only 90 percent.
As professional positions require either a college degree or equivalent job experience and usually cover assignments with greater responsibility, the women employed in them have higher job grades
than semiprofessional workers. Fewer than one-fifth of the professional women in 1954 were in grade 5 (salary range of $3,410$4,160), the entrance grade for most professional occupations. Almost one-half were in grades 6 and 7 and one-fourth in grades 8 and 9.
About one-tenth had reached grade 11 or higher: Over 5 percent
were in grade 11, almost 3 percent in grade 12, and almost 2 percent in
grade 13 or higher. The median of professional women was grade 7
and their average salary $4,754 a year.
Differences in advancement opportunities for women within each
of the professions can best be described by considering the types of
changes that have taken place during the past 15 years. These
changes indicate that professions employing women in the Federal
service fall into three broad categories: Those in which women have
traditionally been employed, those usually filled by men, and expanding professions in which women are making significant progress.
(1) Traditional professions for women.—More than three-fourths
of the 32,613 women in Federal positions requiring professional training are performing work in which women have long been accepted.
These professional positions have relatively large numbers of women
workers and also, in most cases, high ratios of women to men. The
five professions with the largest numbers of women follow:

Teachers and training instructors.
Social workers




The percentage of women is low because the group is composed mainly of training instructors in the
military establishments, most of whom are men.

In each of these occupations, the majority of women were in grades
< through 8 (salary range $3,410-$5,370). About 3 percent were in
grade 12 or higher. Average salaries of women in these professions,
where women customarily predominate, were generally exceeded by
the salaries of women in other professions.
Apart from the professional standing attained by nurses, few significant changes took place in women's status in these professions
during the last decade and a half. Women continue to fill most of


the staff positions but not the administrative ones. For example, although most librarians are women, men hold most of the library administration positions.
(2) Professions with few women.—Professions in the Federal
service in which men greatly outnumber women include those of doctor,
lawyer, and engineer. Over the past 15 years, the percentage of
women in these Government positions "has changed very little. In
1938-39 women comprised 3 percent of the doctors and 5 percent of
the lawyers in the Federal service. Their representation in 1954 rose
to 4 percent among doctors; and to 7 percent among lawyers, primarily
because adjudicators achieved professional status. The Federal Government employed no women engineers in 1938-39, and the 161 employed in 1954 were less than 1 percent of the total.
Women's employment and representation in these professions are
shown below:

Lawyers. _
Doctors. .

Percent of
of women total employees salary (1954)



$6, 142
8, 144

* Less than 1 percent.

The salaries of women in these professions were exceptionally good,
exceeding the salaries averaged by most other professional women in
the Federal service. Four-fifths of the women doctors and about
one-fourth of the women lawyers and women engineers were in grade
12 or above. Grades 9 through 11 included about one-eighth of the
women doctors, two-thirds of the women lawyers, and one-half of
the women engineers.
Women's representation in these professions is influenced by the
relatively small numbers of women who secure the necessary training.
However, those who have prepared for these professions include many
Government women who have made outstanding records of achievement. Their job experience indicates that women with the needed
training and suitable aptitudes for these professions will find good
employment opportunities in the Federal service.
(3) Professions with expanding employment opportunities.—There
are several professions in the Federal service in which women have
made remarkable progress since 1938-39. All are growing professions in which there has been a long-term demand for more employees.
This has coincided with an increase in the numbers of women interested in and preparing for professional employment. As a result,
many women are finding it possible to take advantage of the new
opportunities opening in these fields.
The following professions, in which the data for 1954 are fairly
comparable with 1938-39, show increased employment representation
of women:

Number of women

Accountants and auditors
Mathematicians and statisticians
Physical scientists
Biological scientists



Percent of total







i To provide comparability with 1938-39, the data for 1954 cover the following occupational groups: Accountants and auditors—accounting, tax accounting,fiscalauditing (QAO), and transportation rate auditing.
Physical scientists—astronomy, geology, meteorology, and physics. Biological scientists—agronomy, horticulture, botany, and bacteriology.

This group of professions offers opportunities for women that are
midway between those of the two previously listed groups. Though
the numbers of women are not exceptionally large, women's representation is fairly significant. Salaries are somewhat below those
paid doctors and lawyers but higher than those of nurses and librarians. In 1954, the majority of women in these expanding professions
were earning above the $4,754 a year averaged by all professional
women in Government service—evidence that they were filling responsible assignments.
The largest number of new professional opportunities opened by
the Federal Government to women in the past 15 years became available for persons skilled in accounting, auditing, mathematics, and
statistics. The Federal Government's demand for such personnel has
increased with the need for accurate and comprehensive information
about both governmental and nongovernmental activities. It is especially noteworthy that the number of women doing professional
work in mathematics and statistics expanded more than tenfold between 1938-39 and 1954 and raised women's representation from 10
to 26 percent of the professional staff. Average salaries earned by
these women in 1954 were: Statisticians—$5,693; mathematicians—
$4,937; and accountants—$4,869.
Among Government economists, the largest group of social scientists
in Federal service, women's representation increased from 5 to 16 percent in 15 years. In the three largest branches of economics, covering
about two-thirds of the women economists, average salaries for
women were: Business economists—$5,908; labor economists—$6,619;
and international trade and development economists—$7,024. In
other social science positions with relatively large numbers of professional women, average salaries were: Foreign affairs analysts—
$5,571; military intelligence research workers—$5,350; psychologists
—$6,224; and historians—$5,593.
While women's advance within the natural science fields has not
been uniform, their net gain since 1938-39 has been from 4 to 9 percent
of Government scientists. The progress of women chemists has been
particularly impressive: Their number has increased elevenfold and


their percentage from 3 to 12 percent of all Federal chemists.
Women's representation among professional scientists in 1954 ranged
from 4 percent of the physicists to 27 percent of the bacteriologists.
Their average salaries in 1954 were: Physicists—$5,541; bacteriologists—$5,348 ; and chemists—$5,067.
As employment opportunities in these professions will increase with
an expanding economy, women's future accomplishments will depend
largely on women themselves. With appropriate training and experience, they can be expected to gain in numbers and status.

The area of Government administration includes positions which
carry the highest level of responsibility and confer great prestige on
the women who achieve them. Minimum classification for most administrative or executive positions is grade 12, for which the entrance
salary was $7,040 in 1954. Among the 2,290 women reported at grade
12 or above in that year, 1,437 women were primarily professional
employees although some of their work may have included administrative duties. In the remaining group, many women exercised great
authority and influence in determining high-level policy or in administering major programs of the Federal Government. Sixteen of
the women, in grades 16 and above, were top administrators or experts
in highly specialized fields.
Highest-ranking woman in the Federal Government in the continental United States at the time of the 1954 study was the Secretary
of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. At the same
time other women were holding responsible positions as members of
commissions and boards, helping to determine Government policy.
Some women served as advisers to executives, while others were directors or deputy directors of agencies or divisions within an agency
and were responsible for carrying out major Government programs.
Areas in which women were serving as administrators covered many
fields of Government operation, including public health, social welfare, training and education, economic and statistical studies, consumer services, personnel, and budgeting.
The three administrative fields with more than one hundred women
in grade 12 or over in 1954 were general administration, personnel
administration, and social administration (of such programs as social security, child welfare, public assistance, and vocational rehabilitation) . The best opportunities for women were in social administration, where women were almost half of the administrative personnel.

Other areas in which women were from one-fifth to one-tenth of the
high-level administrators were public health administration, personnel administration, records management, and patent administration.
The future may offer women greater opportunities in Federal administrative positions. As Government operations become increasingly complex, there is need for high-caliber persons to shoulder the
heavy responsibilities. Women who are able to satisfy training and
experience requirements shouldfindtheir services in demand.

Women who have gained recognition in Government offer some
words of advice for women workers who want to advance their careers:
"Once a woman has found where her interests and abilities lie, she should
get the best training and experience possible," declared one woman executive and continued, "After that she should see to it that she is able to
utilize her work skills properly."
"Take advantage of the shortage fields," recommended a woman personnel
officer. "The physical sciences and engineering are crying for trained
personnel. Here are the places women can advance most quickly if they
are qualified."
"Consider engineering among your possible choices for a career," added a
woman engineer. "Few women realize how interesting and satisfying
a career in professional engineering can be."
"Many women who do not have confidence in their ability to get another job
fail to obtain varied employment experience and thereby thwart their
chances for advancement," warned a woman administrator who in the
past had seen many women workers drift into a blind alley. "Even though
a woman finds a specialization of great value, she should not forget that
breadth of experience and training can enhance her employability

To young women seeking employment, strong encouragement to
enter Federal service is offered by many women Government officials
who have developed successful careers. Most of all, they emphasize
the satisfaction of using their training and talents in the interests of
their fellow citizens.




Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, One Federal Reserve Bank Plaza, St. Louis, MO 63102