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careers for WOMEN
as TECHNICIANS

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF LABOR
Arthur J. Goldberg, Secretary
WOMEN'S BUREAU
Mrs. Esther Peterson, Director
WB BULLETIN 282

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WOMEN
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TECHNICIANS

WOMEN'S BUREAU BULLETIN 282

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF LABOR
Arthur J. Goldberg, Secretary
WOMEN’S BUREAU
Mrs. Esther Peterson, Director

1961

U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington : 1962
For sale by the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office
Washington 25, D.G. - Price 20 cents.

Foreword
As modern society relies more and more on the achievements of
science and technology, the need for well-trained technical workers is
growing and is spreading throughout the world. Forecasts indicate
that the current trend will continue—with technological changes
creating a diversity of employment opportunities for those with the
pertinent skills and qualifications.
Concern as to whether women and girls are sharing in the expand­
ing opportunities for training and employment in the technical fields
prompted the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women to
make a study of this subject among its member Nations. In prepar­
ing the United States reply to the Commission, the Women’s Bureau
gathered material which, although not constituting a comprehensive
survey, revealed many significant facts, opinions, and suggestions. These
findings, and additional related material, are reported here with the
hope that they may suggest aspects for others to explore more fully.
Probably the most important result of this study of technical occupa­
tions is the indication of an abundance of employment opportunities
for women and girls who have the interest and resolve to prepare for
them. Counselors, teachers, parents, and young women need to be
aware of this situation and to know that women have been successfully
trained for technical work and have demonstrated their ability to handle
a variety of technical jobs satisfactorily.
We hope that the information presented in this bulletin will en­
courage many more girls and women to give serious consideration to
obtaining suitable preparation which would enable them to take
advantage of the many favorable job opportunities becoming available
in the technical fields.
Esther Peterson

Director, Women’s Bureau

Acknowledgments
The W omen s Bureau wishes to acknowledge with sincere apprecia­
tion the contributions made by the many organizations and individuals
who supplied information on which this report is based. Special ap­
preciation is extended to Mrs. Mary Resh and other staff members of
the Division of Vocational Education, Office of Education, U.S. Depart­
ment of Health, Education, and Welfare.
For the photographs included in the bulletin, we wish to thank the
following:
Washington Post and Times-Herald (pp. 7, 11).
International Business Machines Corporation (pp. vi, 14).
This report was prepared in the Division of Program Planning,
Analysis, and Reports, of which Stella P. Manor is Chief. Caryl
Holiber and Mary B. Meyer were responsible for gathering the infor­
mation for the report. It was written by Mary B. Meyer, under the
supervision of Jean A. Wells.

IV

Contents
Page

An Emerging Occupational Field.......................................................
Specializations of technicians...........................................................

1
3

Characteristics

Technicians...........................................................

4

Employment Opportunities for Technicians...................................
Predominant fields for women.......................................................
Obstacles to women’s employment...............................................
Part-time work...................................................................................

6
6
8
9

Principal Employers of Technicians.................................................
Private industry................................................................................
The Federal Government...............................................................
Other employers of technicians.....................................................

10
10
11
12

Training.....................................................................................................
Training requirements......................................................................
Types of training facilities...............................................................
Formal training courses...................................................................
In-plant training................................................................................
Tuition plans of employers..............................................................

13
13
15
15
16
18

Earnings......................................................................................................
Industry rates.....................................................................................
Government rates.........................................................................

19
19

Possibilities

of

20

Advancement.............................................................

21

Outlook.....................................................................................................

23

Conclusions...............................................................................................

24

Appendix A.

Tabulations....................................................................

26

Appendix B.

References......................................................................

28

for

v

nnm

The construction of computer circuitry, where the trend is toward miniaturization,
involves precise workmanship.

vi

An Emerging Occupational Field
Technicians comprise a relatively new group of workers in the world
of work. Only a few decades ago, few people had heard of them. By
the start of the sixties, they had become—both numerically and stra­
tegically—among the most important workers in our economy. Because
the numbers of technical positions are increasing at a rapid rate, they
offer women and girls many new employment opportunities.
To obtain information about women’s opportunities for employment
as technicians, including training requirements and facilities, earnings,
working conditions, and chances for advancement, the Women’s Bureau
conducted interviews with a selected number of major firms employing
women technicians. Information was obtained also from staff and
from publications of the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Bureau of
Employment Security (U.S. Department of Labor), the Office of
Education (U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare), and
the National Science Foundation. In addition, unpublished data on
women Federal workers in selected technical occupations were made
available by the U.S. Civil Service Commission. This bulletin sum­
marizes the information from all of these sources. It covers primarily
technicians working in support of physical scientists and engineers, in­
cluding those engaged in data-processing operations. It excludes the
separately defined occupation of draftsman. Medical and dental
technicians and biological science technicians are also outside the scope
of this report.
Most of the employer respondents in the Women’s Bureau study
were favorably inclined toward the employment of women as tech­
nicians. Available evidence indicates, however, that few women are
working in the types of technical jobs included in this study, and, some
employers still have a “show me” attitude toward women. As one
employer commented, “We don’t know how women technicians would
get along in a factory. We haven’t seen them at work, so we wonder.”
There is a tremendous variety of job possibilities open to those
interested in technical work. Whether their particular aptitudes are
in physics, chemistry, mathematics, geology, electronics, or some other
branch of science or engineering, the broad scope of the technical
field can be expected to include their preference. Whether they want
to do laboratory testing, product experimentation, drawing-board work,
1

some phase of computer work, or any of the many other specialized
types of jobs in a number of settings, they can almost certainly find
employment suited to their interest and talents.
Technicians are a heterogeneous group of workers. They include
persons doing widely different kinds of work, with differing degrees of
skill and responsibility. Some perform routine and relatively unskilled
tasks, such as taking instrument readings on the performance, dura­
bility, or uniformity of a product, making minor adjustments as needed,
and keeping records of readings and adjustments. At the other end
of the scale are technicians with assignments akin to those of scientists
and engineers. Some chemical technicians, for example, analyze and
characterize chemical contents of materials, share in the planning of
some aspects of research, and supervise other less skilled workers. The
duties of some factory technicians are hardly distinguishable from those
of production workers. Still other technicians are largely office workers
and, particularly in the case of some data-processing workers, perform
tasks which resemble those of statistical clerks.
With regard to training, there are technicians whose only prepara­
tion for their work has been “experience in lieu of training,” while others
have college degrees, usually in mathematics or science. For many of
the technician jobs, however, 2 years of training beyond high school is
generally preferred.
Employers reported women technicians in many technical occupations,
including the following:
electrical inspector
electronic technician
electronic wireman
engineering technician; engineering aid
glass blowing technician
industrial chemical laboratory technician
instrumentation technician
metallurgical technician
standards aid
technical aid
technical illustrator; technical artist
technician in microscopy
technician in X-ray diffraction and electronic diffraction of solids

These represent only a few occupations selected to illustrate the
variety of technician jobs in which women are already employed and
to suggest some avenues for further exploration.1

1 Information on the nature or content of these and other technician jobs may be
found in Technicians Who Work With Engineers and Physical Scientists (Bureau of
Labor Statistics Bull. 1300) and Technical Occupations in Research, Design, and De­
velopment (Bureau of Employment Security, BES No. E-194), U.S. Department of
Labor, 1961.

2

Specializations of Technicians
The range of specializations which are considered to be covered by
the term “technical work” is in large measure responsible for the
diversity of employment opportunity. Some of the specializations are
automotive and Diesel technology, chemical technology, civil and con­
struction technology, electric power technology, electronics, industrial
technology, tool design, metallurgy, mathematics, cartography, gas
turbine technology, optical technology, petroleum technology, photog­
raphy, steam technology, textile technology, and welding technology.2
Even within a given specialization, technicians’ duties vary consid­
erably from employer to employer. For example, in the electronics
field, firms producing large electronic units often require their tech­
nicians to lift and move heavy equipment; they may, therefore, refuse
to hire a woman for such work if they think it is beyond her strength.
On the other hand, firms manufacturing small delicate electronic units
emphasize the importance of finger dexterity and patience in making
precise measurements with small instruments and usually consider
women better qualified than men for such jobs.
In this respect, it is noteworthy that more small electronic and other
units are being developed to operate as effectively as their larger
counterparts. This trend toward “miniaturization” is expected to
lessen the need for physical strength on some jobs and will thus open
to women many positions now barred to them because of physical
demands.
2 See also Technical Occupations in Research, Design, and Development. BES No.
E-194. February 1961. U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Employment Security.

624374 0-62-

■2

3

Characteristics of Technicians
Technicians, despite the many variations in their backgrounds and
duties, are likely to have certain common characteristics. They are
typically skilled workers with training beyond the high school level,
but not usually with a college degree. Also, most work with profes­
sional scientists and engineers.
Most technicians have some theoretical knowledge of their speciali­
zation, together with an understanding of the practical applications of
the theory. Because they work closely with scientists and engineers, as
a team frequently, those particularly in research and development
work must be able to communicate mathematically, linguistically, and
scientifically. Usually, they must refer to handbooks, records, and draw­
ings. They use various instruments, equipment, and measuring and
testing devices. A report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that:
“Frequently technician jobs require use of complex electronic and me­
chanical instruments, experimental laboratory apparatus, drafting instru­
ments, and an understanding of tools and machinery. Almost all . . .
technicians . . . must be able to use engineering handbooks and comput­
ing devices, such as the slide rule or calculating machines.”3 Tech­
nicians often keep records and make reports, and sometimes supervise
and instruct others.
A basic requirement for technicians is a liking for thoroughness and
precision. As technology and the tools of technology increase in com­
plexity, the costs of mistakes become increasingly high. This applies
not only to the higher level jobs but also to many of the more routine
jobs, in which an error in measurement or computation, or failure to
make a necessary adjustment on a piece of equipment, may result in
a large loss of material or equipment or even cause danger to human
life.
Thus, accuracy and maturity of judgment are essential qualities
of all good technicians.
The ability to understand and follow instructions exactly, to work
well with others, to be able to report clearly and accurately, and to
combine a degree of manual dexterity with some theoretical knowl­
3 Technicians Who Work With Engineers and Physical Scientists. In Occupational
Outlook Handbook, pp. 158-168. BLS Bull. 1300. 1961. U.S. Department of Labor,
Bureau of Labor Statistics.

4

edge—all these are important qualities which most technicians must
possess.
Apart from these basic qualities, the range of desirable personal
characteristics varies with the great diversity of jobs done by tech­
nicians. Those who make certain tests and measurements in factories
must be willing to move around on the job, enjoy working with their
hands and be willing, as one employer expressed it, “to get their hands
dirty once in a while.”
Some lower level technical jobs require a high degree of manual
dexterity, patience, and ability to tolerate tedium. These include some
data-processing and routine testing jobs in various specializations.
Since women are usually credited by employers with these character­
istics, they are often preferred for such jobs.
The girl who seeks a career as a technician should possess these basic
qualities, and, if she is to advance in this field, she must be adequately
trained and be able to accept the challenge of a problem and have the
persistence to see it through to its ultimate solution.

5

Employment Opportunities
for Technicians
The number of women technicians is not known but is believed to be
very small. In 1952, a Bureau of Labor Statistics study reported that
less than six-tenths of one percent of electronic technicians were women.
The number of all types of technicians (including medical and biologi­
cal technicians) was estimated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics to
total 700,000 4 in 1959. Of these, about 340,000 were working with
physical and earth scientists and engineers. Even these figures, how­
ever, are only approximations because of the wide range of occupa­
tions, the many types of employers, and the fluid character of many
technical jobs, which are not yet fully standardized or defined.
Technicians are employed in all parts of the country. Their em­
ployers include many types of industrial establishments, private and
public organizations and agencies, and a variety of others. The
greatest opportunities, as might be expected, are in the highly industralized States. Technicians are concentrated in the large metropoli­
tan areas of such States as New York, California, Pennsylvania, Ohio,
Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, Texas, and Massachusetts.

Predominant Fields for Women
Some industrial chemical employers reportedly prefer women tor
many of their chemical laboratory technician jobs. In this field one
supervisor reported to the Women’s Bureau that women in general
are more satisfactory than men for such work as physical testing, and
spectograph and quantometer analysis. A chemical research labora­
tory representative has found women preferable “in micro-analytical
work where precise hand skills combined with technical interests are
important, and in research supporting fields involving instrumental
measurement and characterization of materials.”

This figure includes about 225,000 draftsmen, of whom 195,000 were employed
in private industry and 26,000-27,000 in government.

6

•

©

t

9

S

The emission spectrograph being used here provides quick chemical analyses of
solid materials.

In the various phases of data processing and computer work, women
have established their competence. Though still few in number, they
have been highly successful in programming for computers. In re­
search laboratories, especially those where precision and handling of
delicate instruments are important and where heavy work is infrequent,
women are usually readily accepted.
There are indications that many firms recruit women for the lower
level technician occupations. One manufacturer, however, observed that
women applicants for technician jobs at his firm tend to be better
qualified than male applicants. He speculated that women recognize
the fact that they need more formal training and higher qualifications
than men do for entrance into fields in which men predominate.
7

Obstacles to Women's Employment
Although women are not now employed in large numbers as tech­
nicians, there is considerable evidence that more could be so employed
if they were qualified. For example, the Minnesota Department of
Employment Security had reported in 1958 that all electronic tech­
nician jobs in the Twin Cities Metropolitan Area were held by men,
but that a number of employers had expressed willingness to hire
women if they were qualified. Just a year later—in January 1959—
a report by the same Department stated that one of every five chemi­
cal technicians in their area was a woman. On the other hand, a
1958 publication by the Michigan State Employment Security Com­
mission declared that many employers were unwilling to hire women
because so many of them left after only 3 or 4 years on the job.
The physical requirements of some technical jobs make them un­
suitable for a woman. Jobs in this category include those that require
heavy lifting, the wearing of protective equipment of unusually heavy
weight, or extraordinary physical exertion, like climbing to reach
equipment on roof-tops. As indicated previously, however, the num­
ber of jobs with heavy physical demand is likely to decrease as tech­
nological improvements shift heavy work from men to machines.
It is interesting to compare the experience of various firms included
in the Women’s Bureau study. One firm reported it does not hire
women as electronic technicians because the work involves lifting and
moving heavy units. On the other hand, another firm, in which the
electronic technicians work with very small units, declared that women
would be very readily hired if they were qualified—but no women
have ever applied for such a job.
The obstacle of traditional thinking appears to affect some employers
as well as some women. A representative of one State employment
office reported to the Women’s Bureau that employers in the local area
almost always specified men on their job orders for technicians. How­
ever, placement officers at that office noted that employers seemed to
be willing to hire women when they were referred. It had apparently
not occurred to some employers that women might be available for
such work.
In its study, the Women’s Bureau had no reports of women tech­
nicians having difficulty finding jobs when they had the necessary
training and qualifications. This absence of reports on discrimination
lends support to statements of employers that they are interested in
hiring the best qualified workers, regardless of sex. It leads to the
conclusion, therefore, that in this field, where a shortage of qualified
workers exists, when a woman is qualified for a technical job, she will
be given favorable consideration for employment.
8

Part-Time Work
For technicians, opportunities for part-time work are comparatively
unusual. Among the establishments included in the Women’s Bureau
study, only one research laboratory reported that it occasionally hired
women on a part-time or temporary basis. The mature women in
the group were both trained and experienced. However, the firm
also hired men and women university students, principally graduate
students, for part-time work. Women were not on the regular tech­
nician staff because the contract work handled by this laboratory at
times requires considerable physical strength on the part of the tech­
nicians.
Information gained from the above company and other sources con­
firms the belief that some part-time jobs are available for qualified
technicians. Women whose family responsibilities preclude full-time
employment but who want to work and retain their skills are advised
to seek out local employers who might have temporary or part-time
opportunities, and make known their availability for work. Some
research laboratories are experimenting with part-time schedules.

9

Principal Employers of Technicians
Private Industry
By January 1960, American industry employed about 594,000 tech­
nicians,5 an increase of approximately 8 percent over the January 1959
figure of slightly less than 550,000. Engineering and physical science
technicians showed a greater increase—almost 14 percent—than any
other group of technicians. There were 284,600 such workers in in­
dustry in January 1960, as compared with 250,300 in January 1959.
Of all the technicians included in the National Science Foundation’s
survey of January 1960 employment, 44 percent worked for firms with
5,000 or more employees, and 38 percent for firms with less than 500
employees. The remaining 18 percent were with firms in the 500—
4,999 employee group.
The 284,600 engineering and physical science technicians in private
industry were widely distributed industrially, but were most concen­
trated in the electrical equipment, telecommunications and broad­
casting, aircraft, and machinery industries. Industries undergoing
rapid technological change and those producing and using new types
of equipment—notably those making and using automated machinery—
were found to have need for large numbers of technicians.
The field of research and development has been of continuing and
growing importance in scientific fields, and the National Science
Foundation estimated that 160,600 technicians—27 percent of all
technicians employed in private industry—were engaged primarily in
such activity. Over three-fifths, 62 percent, of technicians employed by
aircraft and aircraft parts firms were assigned to research and develop­
ment. Other industries that used large proportions of their technicians
in research and development were paper and allied products—46 per­
cent, chemicals and allied products—45 percent, and electrical equip­
ment—41 percent. In contrast, only 20 percent of all technicians
employed in the machinery (excluding electrical) industry and 8 per­
cent of those in engineering and architectural services were in research
and development work. The proportion of technicians doing research
5 Scientific and Technical Personnel in Industry, 1960.
tion. 1961. NSF 61-75.

10

National Science Founda­

Some employers want their technicians to have some college train­
ing, especially employers who look to their technical staff as a poten­
tial source for professional scientists and engineers.
In areas where
training facilities are widely available, employers are often able to ob­
tain an adequate supply of technicians who have taken some college
courses.
As technical occupations become somewhat better established and
defined, and as the supply of trained workers increases, the standards
for employment are expected to rise and a longer amount of formal
training will be required. In some cases, college graduates with de­
grees in fields other than engineering are now being hired for techni­
cal work in support of that being done by engineers. There is little
doubt that many technicians in the future will find their promotional
opportunities much improved if they have a degree; this is especially
true in fields in which an advanced degree is a usual requisite for
professional advancement. Adequate training is especially important
for women entering what has traditionally been considered a man’s
field.

Types of Training Facilities
So varied are the jobs of technicians it is not surprising that their
training may be obtained in many different ways.
Formal training
is available in junior or community colleges, extension divisions of col­
leges and universities offering special technical programs, technical in­
stitutions, technical high schools, apprenticeship programs, and also
through courses offered by industry and by the Armed Forces. In
addition, some technicians take correspondence courses and others may
receive more or less informal instruction on their job.
Training, for the most part, is available to women on the same basis
as to men. Nonetheless, available information indicates that very few
women are being trained as technicians.

Formal Training Courses
Formal training programs which provide technical instruction nor­
mally last from 1 to 3 years in educational institutions—with 2 years
the usual length. An annual survey of graduations from organized
curriculums of at least 1 year but less than 4 years’ duration has been
conducted by the Office of Education since the academic year 1955­
56. During this period, the number of women graduates has fluctu­
ated somewhat but has been consistently very low. In the academic
year 1958-59, there were only 99 women among the 15,751 graduates
15

from engineering-related curriculums—only about one-half of one per­
cent. (Table 2.)
Federal funds to help finance programs of technical education have
been made available by the George-Barden Act of 1946 and the Na­
tional Defense Education Act of 1958. Section VIII of the NDEA
has as its express purpose the training of youth and adults at less
than the college level “. . . to fit them for useful employment as
highly skilled technicians in recognized occupations requiring scientific
knowledge ... in fields necessary for the national defense.”
In the academic year ending June 1960, over 7,000 girls and women
received technical training in courses made available under these two
acts. More than two-fifths of the women took courses in dataprocessing and computer programming and another one-fifth, in elec­
tronic and electrical technology, chiefly electronic. Other technologies
in which 100 or more women were enrolled were aircraft, chemical,
design, mechanical, instrumental, laboratory, and production tech­
nology. (Table 3.)
Courses receiving Federal funds are of two general types—prepara­
tory courses for those seeking to enter a field and extension courses for
those already working but taking further training for advancement.
Of the women students receiving technical instruction, about 87 per­
cent were enrolled in extension courses, with some variation by speciali­
zation. In both data-processing and electronics courses (the two with
the largest number of women) 99 percent and 87 percent, respectively,
of the women were enrolled in extension courses. On the other hand,
66 percent of the women students in chemical and metallurgical tech­
nology, 97 percent in design technology, and 69 percent in electrical
technology were enrolled in preparatory courses.
Only in three subject areas—data processing and computer pro­
gramming, laboratory technician work, and design technology—did
women comprise a substantial proportion of the total students. Their
proportions were 26 percent, 28 percent, and 20 percent, respectively.
In all other specializations, they were less than 5 percent of the total.
In the Armed Forces, women who have demonstrated aptitude
through the Armed Forces testing and placement programs are en­
rolled in coeducational training courses. Although both the number
and proportion of women in such courses are apparently very small,
the fact that some women are enrolled is of special significance.

In-Plant Training
Technical training offered by employers may be of various types,
ranging from formal courses given in a classroom to informal instruc­
tion relating to the specific job to be done. Even technicians who
16

have taken courses in a technical school or other formal training facil­
ity usually receive some additional on-the-job training. Many em­
ployers find it necessary to supplement broad basic skills and back­
ground knowledge with the particular skills required in their operation.
Some companies provide technical instruction through formal train­
ing programs. A few very large employers have an impressively long
and varied list of training courses, usually open to both men and
women. Smaller firms which do not maintain regular formal train­
ing programs sometimes organize such courses as needed. For instance,
when these employers are unable to obtain technical personnel from the
available labor supply, they sometimes hire untrained workers and es­
tablish training courses to teach them the needed skills.
The qualifications of those selected for in-plant training are set by
each employer, either independently or in consultation with labor
unions. In some companies, production workers who show interest
and aptitude are the preferred source of potential technical workers.
Other employers select their trainees from among high school gradu­
ates with an aptitude for technical work and a strong background in
science and mathematics.
Statements from employers included in the Women’s Bureau inquiry
ranged from those who were glad to offer in-plant technical training
to women who were capable and interested, to those who were reluc­
tant to invest in training time if a woman’s work life were to be termi­
nated early. A woman supervisor of a large laboratory stated that few
women in her organization had the required background for selection as
trainees in the company’s training program in drafting and design. But
in this same company, women with a bachelor’s degree in science or
mathematics are considered valuable as senior technical aids and fill
most of these positions.
A representative from the aircraft and missiles field said that he did
not consider that the labor turnover of women should militate against
their selection as trainees because there is, generally, high mobility
among all electronic technicians. His view is substantiated by a
Bureau of Labor Statistics study which revealed that the average elec­
tronic technician changed jobs every 4 years during the 12-year period
(1940-1952) covered by the survey.8
One or two employers indicated that in identifying production
workers for in-plant training, they are unlikely to select women, chiefly
because women are rarely in the kinds of jobs regarded as good back­
ground for technical work. Such comments were reinforced by sug­
gestions that women interested in technical careers should obtain as
much scientific and mathematical instruction as possible and should
work for a while at a production job—for instance, an assembly line
s The Mobility of Electronic Technicians, 1940-1952.
Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics.

BLS Bull. 1150.

1954.

U.S.

17

job. The background and experience gained in production work
might make them eligible for further in-plant training and for future
advancement.

Tuition Plans of Employers
Women are usually eligible along with men to participate in tuition
plans of employers. The courses for which some employers reimburse
their employees enable them either to prepare for technical work or
to advance in their technical jobs. The instruction may be obtained
at technical institutes, universities, colleges, or even, in some cases, from
correspondence schools.
Company policies vary with respect to the amount contributed by
employers. Some pay one-half or three-fourths of the total amount of
tuition for courses successfully completed by employees. The most
generous plan reported included not only the employees’ tuition but
also all book costs and incidental fees.

18

Earnings
Comprehensive earnings data are not available—either separately
for women or for all technicians. However, for most technician occu­
pations, wage rates are set by job and are not likely to have differen­
tials based on sex. Moreover, technicians are largely employed in
mass production industries, where wages are determined mainly by
collective bargaining.
Union representatives and employers inter­
viewed by the Women’s Bureau reported that contract rates of tech­
nicians apply to all employees, regardless of sex.
Scattered reports indicate that the earnings of qualified technicians
are relatively high. The exact rates depend upon such factors as the
technical specialization, the job level, the geographic area, and the
wage policies of the individual employer.

Industry Rates
For technical jobs in private industry, it is not possible to compare
wage rates on the basis of job title alone, since some titles have very
different meanings for different employers. For example, in one firm
visited by a Women’s Bureau representative, engineering aids were
essentially statistical clerks who assisted engineers. In another firm,
engineering aids must have a knowledge of the principles of engineer­
ing and must at times perform some of the less complex duties of a
graduate engineer.
The available information indicates that wage rates in the engineer­
ing and physics fields are somewhat higher than those in chemistry for
technicians with the same level of training. This has special signifi­
cance for women, who are employed in greater numbers in chemistry
than in engineering or physics.
Hourly rates were reported by several companies to range from
$1.35 an hour for entry occupations like technical aids and beginning
chemical laboratory technicians, to $3.00 and $3.50 an hour for the
more skilled jobs, including senior designers, engineering technicians,
technical artists and illustrators, and electronic research technicians.
There were some women among those being paid the higher rates.
19

One firm paid rates of $1.80 to $3.00 per hour to chemical and elec­
tronics technicians and even higher rates—up to $3.50 per hour—to
junior programmers. As in many other companies, the senior pro­
grammers must be college-trained and are classified as professional,
rather than technical, staff. Junior programmers are required to have
only a course or two of post high school training; they do subprofes­
sional work and are classified as technicians.
A firm employing about 20 women technicians hired those with at
least 2 years of training and no experience at $360 per month. Most
of the women had some college training and were assigned to chemi­
cal or electronics work. By merit review, they could earn up to $500
per month, although rates were higher for those with additional
education.

Government Rates
In the Federal Government, salaries are determined on the basis, of
job duties and responsibilities and of knowledge, skill, and experience
requirements. The salary schedule for women is exactly the same as
for men.
The majority of women technicians, when surveyed by the Civil
Service Commission on October 31, 1959, were classified in Grades 4
through 9, as established by the Classification Act of 1949, as amended.
For these grades, the entry salaries effective July 10, 1960, ranged from
$4,040 to $6,435 per annum. Median salaries of the two largest groups
covered by this study were: $4,956 a year for women cartographic aids
and $4,613 a year for women physical science technicians. (Table 4.)

20

Possibilities for Advancement
Advancement for technicians can lead to three types of positions:
another technician job at a higher level, a supervisory post in the
technician category, and a job in the professional ranks. Advance­
ment depends, as in most types of work, upon such factors as job per­
formance, capacity for higher level work, education, and seniority.
Many companies have formal promotion plans assuring consideration
of the capabilities, accomplishments, and potential of employees for
advancement.
Employers interviewed by the Women’s Bureau generally indicated
a willingness to promote qualified women, and there were a few reports
of women in some of the higher rated technician jobs. None of the
firms, however, employed women as supervisors in their technician
groups, although no employer expressed any prejudice against so doing
if a woman were qualified.
Often promotion depends not only upon ability but upon the acquisi­
tion of additional training. But reports from several employers indicate
that women—who frequently have home responsibilities in addition to
their jobs—are less likely than men to seek such additional training.
One personnel manager noted that at his plant it was not unusual for
men production workers to take training courses which enable them
to transfer to technicians jobs, and even for some men to continue their
studies and advance to professional work. Although the company en­
courages this practice by financing virtually all of the training costs,
only a few of the women employees take advantage of this opportunity
to improve their job status.
A woman personnel director of another company noted a reluctance
to staff any single technical occupation with a large proportion of
women. Since it was company policy to obtain top staff members from
within its own work force, men were preferred to women, who might
leave in a short time. Nonetheless, she said that women with satis­
factory ability and qualifications who were interested in progressing
would be given favorable consideration for higher classifications,
including supervisory posts.
Statements made to Women’s Bureau representatives indicate that
some firms attempt to determine the “career-mindedness” of the
women technicians they employ. Those with limited job goals are
21

given assignments with limited opportunities for promotion, while
those who think in terms of a work career and advancement are placed
in positions with development potential.
Even women with the appropriate training, ability, interest, and
seniority, however, may find the road to supervisory status blocked by
the limitations of their work experience. According to some personnel
officers, supervisory positions in many technical fields require a breadth
of experience that few women have. They repeated the often men­
tioned suggestion that women interested in a technical career should
acquire some experience in production work. For further advance­
ment to professional status, and sometimes even to the top supervisory
ranks, a college education is usually required.

22

Outlook
The employment outlook for technicians appears to be excellent.
Utilized by some of the fastest growing industries in our economy,
technical workers are expected to be needed in increasing numbers as
technology and science advance at a rapid pace.
According to the U.S. Office of Education: “It is anticipated that
more than 800,000 additional technicians capable of working with
engineers and scientists will be needed by 1975.” Any estimate of
anticipated demand for technicians, however, is only a rough approxi­
mation. Most of the estimating difficulties are inherent in the nature
of the field. Since technicians are a relatively new and still-evolving
occupational group, there is a lack of precedent upon which to base
estimates. Also, since technological developments are resulting in
sudden and speedy introduction of many new products and processes,
the effects upon the demand for technical workers are often widespread
but difficult to predict.
It is assumed, however, that future demand for technicians will con­
tinue strong in a variety of specializations and at many levels of skill
and responsibility. Particularly marked is the expansion expected in
the fields of data processing and computer programming and also in
electronics—all areas in which many women are currently employed.
Research and development activities, in which women are often ac­
cepted readily, are also expected to provide increasing numbers of job
opportunities.
As a group, technicians are relatively young. The Bureau of Labor
Statistics study of the mobility of electronic technicians revealed that
over two-thirds of the workers employed in this occupation in 1952
had entered it since 1940. Many had come directly from school or
military service. In view of the relative youth of technical workers,
therefore, job vacancies resulting from deaths or retirement may be
expected to be somewhat lower than usual. Some vacancies will be
created, however, as a result of job mobility.

23

Conclusions
There is no simple explanation for the low numbers of women
technicians at present. Undoubtedly, a major factor is the small
number of women who prepare for technical work, which can be
related to numerous circumstances.
Although information obtained by the Women’s Bureau indicated
that there are no significant formal restrictions on women’s access to
technical training, their desire to obtain training is frequently restrained
by the attitudes of parents, counselors, and educators—as well as by
women themselves. Many technical jobs are the kinds which have
traditionally been regarded as “men’s work.” In addition, many
women probably feel they do not have much chance for employment
and advancement in such jobs.
The very newness of technical jobs, however, is responsible to some
extent for the limited amount of information known about them—and
also for the small numbers of women now doing technical work. This
lack of knowledge about opportunities for women in technical work
extends to both young girls and those who advise them. Inquiries
received by the Women’s Bureau indicate that counselors are becoming
more aware of the need for such information, and it may be that, in
the future, more women will prepare for and be hired as technicians.
Most of the employers interviewed by the Women’s Bureau expressed
a willingness to hire qualified women. It has been their experience,
however, that they have received few applications for technical jobs
from women and some even reported that no women had ever ap­
plied for such jobs. When asked whether they would actually hire
any women applicants if given the opportunity, employer answers
ranged from a cautious, “Well—we don’t know whether they’d work
out, but we’d hire them if they were good,” to an enthusiastic, “I wish
we could get some women technicians. We need them!”
Suggestions offered by those who train and employ women were
many and varied but contained several similar basic points. A young
woman considering a technical career was advised, first of all, to learn
whether she has an aptitude and liking for technical work. If so, she
should plan her high school curriculum to include as much science
and mathematics as possible. Courses in typing and mechanical draw­
ing are also considered helpful. If possible, she should seek summer
24

employment as a production worker in the industry of her special
interest. The experience acquired should be very valuable for sub­
sequent technical work and advancement.
A formal course at a technical institute or college that offers tech­
nical training is a good investment for those considering a technical
career. Some employers expressed a preference for workers with two
years of college education, including courses in science and mathe­
matics. For women with this background, there are excellent oppor­
tunities for employment and advancement. With some additional
training, they may be able to advance to the professional level in
their specializations.
Efforts to encourage more women and girls to prepare for technical
work must take into consideration early hobbies and interests, which
help to mold vocational choices. A Bureau of Labor Statistics study
of electronic technicians revealed that many had had related hobbies
that led them to this vocational field. About 51 percent of those sur­
veyed had been interested in electronics long before they started mak­
ing their vocational plans. Hobby work was mentioned specifically by
36 percent. While boys are often given an early start toward tech­
nical careers with hobbies and toys of a technical nature, these are
unlikely to be a part of most girls’ experience.
In addition, some men who are technicians have come from the
ranks of those who started training for professional careers in such
fields as engineering, electronics, mathematics, physics, or chemistry.
Unable to fulfill their plans, many have taken subprofessional jobs in
the same or related fields of work. Since women are a relatively
small proportion of those studying these professional subjects, this
would not constitute a major source of women technicians.
There are many reasons for women to include technical work in their
career considerations. Job opportunities, already numerous, are ex­
pected to become even greater, and should appeal to people with a
wide diversity of interest because of the numerous and varied speciali­
zations. Both the financial returns and the job satisfactions can be
very good for the woman who is interested, well-trained, and compe­
tent, and the qualified worker can advance in her job. There is the
added satisfaction of contributing to the country’s scientific and
technological progress. The combined opportunity of doing needed,
useful work and having a job in an expanding field should encourage
many women to consider employment in a technical position.

25

Appendix A
Table

1.—Federal Employment in Selected1 Technical Classifications, Continental
United States, 1959 and 1954October 1959
Classification (CSC)

October 1954

Women

All em­
ployees

Number

Women

All em­
ployees
Percent
of total

Number

Percent
of total

Total....................................................... .

57,760

3,465

6

41,102

2,757

7

Agricultural aid.................................................
Agricultural technology..................................
Cartographic aid________ _________ _____
Digital computer programming
Digital computer systems administration.
Digital computer systems analysis..
Digital computer systems operation...........
Electronic technician_______________ ___
Engineering aid and technician....................
Equipment specialist____ ___ ___________
Fingerprint identification..................... .........
Fishery aid and technician.................... .
Forest and range fire control.......... ..............
Forestry aid......................... ............................
Herbarium aid________ ________ ________
Irrigation system operation...........................
Mathematics aid____ _____ ____________
Meteorology technician_________ _______
Ordnance equipment technician.............. .
Park ranger
Photo-optical equipment technician...........
Physical science technician ____________
Plant disease and insect control________ _
Range conservation...................................... .
Soil conservation aid............................ ...........

422
24
3,812
2,366
471
108
1,034
9, 369
16, 096
8, 014
883
145
2, 724
2, 367
6
476
436
2, 274
224
458
46
2,263
239
674
2,829

14
13
626
483
45
9
262
45
353
126
234
23
69
1
4
1
325
281

3
54
16
20
10
8
25

472
24
4,251
(2)
(2)
(2)
(2)
4,141
9,346
5, 327
1,069
93
4,141
1,556
6
482
510
1,092
144
863
(2)
2,350
164
470
4, 601

20
11
787

4
46
19

40
240
106
364
11
59
2
5

1
3
2
34
12
4

(!)

m
(3)

2
2
27
16
3
67
75
12

548
2
1

24
1

(3)

83

414
175

81
16
(?)

521
1

22
(3)

Source: U.S. Civil Service Commission, Employment Statistics Branch.
1 The selection, obtained from several major categories of the CSC classification series, covers occupations
considered to be within the scope of the Women’s Bureau study. It is possible that not all those included
in these classifications are performing technical work.
2 These classifications had not been established in 1954.
8 Less than 1 percent.

Table 2.—Graduates from

Engineering-Related Curriculums of at Least 1 Year
but Less than 4 Years, by Major Type, 1955-56 through 1958-59

Type of engineering-related
curriculum

1958-59

1957-58

1956-57

1955-56

Total Women
Total..............................................
Air conditioning, heating, refrigeration... ........ .................. ...................
Architectural, civil.......... ................. .
Chemical.............................. ...................
Electrical
General engineering technology..........
Industrial..................................................
Mechanical............. ...............................
Other..........................................................

Total Women Total Women

Total Women

15,751

99

12,985

1,875

1

1,310

303
1,322
273
6,720
616
518
3, 453
111
560

2
40
15
6
10
16

347
1,123
226
5, 433
507
479
2,972
65
523

9

73

1

170

11,742

1,139
8
30
6
1
3
24

13,315

3

1,092,

346
1,223
209
5,319
566
360
3,253
95
805

15
49
6
74
5
6
3
9

412
1.017
210
4,054
331
2,949
73
1.604

80

10
33
9
2
8
17

Source: U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, Office of Education: Organized Occupa­
tional Curriculums, 1955-56 through 1957-58, and unpublished data.

26

Table 3.—Women

Enrolled in Technical Education Programsby Type of
Technology, 1959-60
Students in all
courses

Technology

Total

Women

All courses................. ........................................ 142,734
Air conditioning...........................................................
Aircraft...........................................................................
Automotive............... ....................................................
Chemical and metallurgical
C ommunications_____ ____ ______ ______ ____ _
Construction and civil engineering
Cost estimating...................... ..................... ..............
Data processing and computer programming___
Design. _______ _______ ____ _____ ____________
Electrical...................................................................
Electronics.____ _______________ ____________
Engineering...................................................................
Highway engineering
Inspection, production, and manufacturing........
Instrumentation.......... ................. ..........................
Laboratory_____ ____________________________
Mechanical...................................................................
Oil and gas heating............................. .......................
Production................................... ............ ................. .
Testing...... ................ .................................... .............
Others...................................... ................................ .

7,017

852
3,172
181
5, 352
1,386
2,613
734
12,689
1,469
8,560
59, 381
3, 890
825
1,569
2, 710
1,580
24, 672
794
4, 474
548
5,277

131
1
175
43
10
13
3,281
294
154
1,446
33
2
58
101
450
329
4
202
15
275

Preparatory
courses
Total

Extension courses

Women

41,273

945

145
1,117
160
1,576
334
1,157

2
115
10
4

63
735
3,810
19, 460
758
32

32
285
107
185
1

1,061
58
9, 447
220
185

57
7
131

955

6

3

Total

Women

101, 461

6,072

707
2,055
21
3,776
1,052
1,456
734
12, 626
734
4,750
39,921
3,132
793
1,569
1,655
1,522
15, 225
574
4, 289
548
4, 322

129
1
60
33
6
13
3, 249
9
47
1,261
32
2
58
44
443
198
4
199
15
269

Source: U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, Office of Education, Division of Vocational
Education.
1 Covers programs reimbursed under Title I of the Vocational Education Act of 1946 and Title VIII of
the National Defense Education Act of 1958.

Table 4.—Average

Annual Salaries and Grades of Women Federal Employees 1 in
Selected Technical Classifications, 1959

Classification (CSC)

Number
of
women Un­
der
4

Grade distribution

4

5

6

7

8

9

Over
9

634

31

368

167

5

58

3

1

11
1
19

4

4,956

25
43

6
11

4,716

Total..................................... ...................

2 3,476

462

527

752

415

Agricultural aid_______ ______ __________
Agricultural technology
Cartographic aid...... ................................... .
Digital computer programming
Digital computer system administration. __
Digital computer systems analysis..............
Digital computer systems operation............

15
13
628
484
46
9
263
45
354
127
236
23
69
1
4
1
325
281
549
2
1

4
3
52

6
7
54
7

3
1
132
51
8

152

82
6
56
21
74
1

1

1
131
149
8
1
82

43

49

56

13

Engineering aid and technician.....................
Fingerprint identification
Fishery aid and technician..................... .......
Forest and range fire control...................... .
Forestry aid........................ ..............................
Herbarium aid.._______________________
Irrigation system operation...........................
Physical science technician...........................
Plant disease insect control............................
Range conservation.........................................

24
1
73
1
55
17
59
1
3
1
51
12
105

Average
annual
salary

15
14
68
18
36
5
10

3

4
7

4, 956

3,825

1
105
84
95
2

90
67
160

29
83

70

7

33
21

2

4’ 613
4,139
7,553

Source: U.S. Civil Service Commission, Employment Statistics Branch.
1 Includes women employed by the Federal Government both inside and outside the United States.
2 Includes some women whose grade was not specified.

27

Appendix B
Federal Government Publications
With Information Concerning Technicians

The publications for which prices are listed can be purchased from
the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office,
Washington 25, D.C.
U.S. Civil Service Commission. Occupations of Federal White-Collar
Workers, Oct. 31, 1959. 1961. (Pamphlet No. 56-3, price 50
cents.)
U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Employment Security. Tech­
nical Occupations in Research, Design, and Development. 1961. (BES
No. E-194, price 50 cents.)
U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. Occupational
Outlook Handbook, 1961 Edition. Pages 158-168. (Bull. No. 1300,
price $4.50.)
U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. Technicians
Who Work With Engineers and Physical Scientists. 1961. (Reprint
from Occupational Outlook Handbook.)
U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Mobility
of Electronic Technicians, 1940-1952. 1954. (BLS Bull. 1150, price
50 cents.)
U.S. Department of Labor, Women’s Bureau. Training Opportunities
For Women and Girls. 1960. (W.B. Bull. 274, price 30 cents.)
National Science Foundation. Employment of Scientific and Technical
Personnel in State Government Agencies. Report on a 1959 Survey.
Washington. G.P.O. 1961. 67 pp. (NSF 61-17, price 45 cents.)
National Science Foundation. Scientists and Engineers in the Federal
Government, Oct. 1958. 1961. (NSF 61-43, price 35 cents.)
National Science Foundation. Scientific and Technical Personnel in Ameri­
can Industry, 1960. 1961. (NSF 61-75, price 45 cents.)
National Science Foundation. The Long-Range Demand for Scientific and
Technical Personnel. 1961. (NSF 61-65, price 50 cents.)

U.S. GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE : 1962 OF—624374

28

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