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October 31, 1975

Women's Work
Militant women this week laid down
their tools on "Alice Doesn't!
Day" as a means of dramatizing
women's increasingly crucial
role in the nation's economy. But a
better demonstration of the femi­
nine role has been provided by
third-quarter employment figures,
which showed a new record high
of 30.6 million adult women
employed—slightly above the
pre-recession peak. In contrast,
47.6 million adult men were
employed in the same period—1.0
million less than at the pre-recession
peak. While joblessness re­
mained higher for women than for
men—7.7 percent vs. 6.9 percent
in the summer period—the differ­
ential between the two rates has
narrowed substantially over the
past year.
In an even more striking demon­
stration, women workers in the
past quarter-century have in­
creased their participation in the
labor force from 33.9 percent to
46.2 percent of the total adult female
population. Participation rates
have risen especially rapidly for
white women, although the
proportion of black women in the
labor market has remained signifi­
cantly higher than that of white
women at every age level except the
youngest. And despite relatively
high jobless rates, the number of
jobs held by adult women has
doubled since 1950, accounting for
56 percent of the total increase in
employment over that period.

1
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Rising participation rates
Women's participation rates have
risen so rapidly largely because
of the sharp rise in the percentage
of 25-to-34 year olds now in the
work force—many of whom have
sought jobs in spite of the presence
of children in the home. The
participation rate for this group is
now as high as the participation
rate of even the most active group
(young single women) a quartercentury ago. Marriage has become
less and less of a deterrent to keep
women out of the work force. In
addition, the increasing educa­
tional attainment of younger
women has encouraged them to
enter an ever-wider range of jobs
and to return to their jobs more
quickly after the birth of children.
Underlying these factors has been
a substantial decline in average
family size, along with a growing
trend to childless marriages. Oth­
er contributing elements have
been a rise in divorce and separation
rates, plus later marriages and the
expectancy of greater longevity in
mid-life. In addition, career
commitments and occupational
aspirations have risen among all
women, both young and old.
These attitudinal changes have been
reflected in pressures for (public
and private) policies to eliminate
the remaining vestiges of an old
order which prepared women
primarily as homemakers, with
only a secondary commitment to
the labor market.

(continued on page 2)

Opinions expressed in this newsletter do not
necessarily reflect the views of the management of the
Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, nor of the Board
of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.

In recent years, new labor-force
entrants have had somewhat
different characteristics from their
predecessors. In the 1954-64 peri­
od, women in the 45-64-year
bracket sharply increased their
labor-participation rates, but a
shift then developed in the follow­
ing decade, with participation
rates rising 14 percentage points for
20-34 year olds and 9 percentage
points for those aged 35 to 44. The
more recent labor-force entrants
are younger than their prede­
cessors were, and are also better
educated, with a much larger
percentage having a college educa­
tion. Still, a great majority remain
in traditional female occupations.
In the past decade, a slight increase
has occurred in the percentage of
women employed as professional
or technical workers, especially
in teaching and health occupations,
but the most noticeable shifts
have included a rising percentage
in clerical work and a decreasing
proportion in maid service.
Continued job problems
Almost 90 percent of all women
workers are employed in govern­
ment, retailing, manufacturing and
services, whereas less than 75 per­
cent of male workers are found in
those industries. About 25 percent
of women workers find jobs in
services. Within services, women
account for almost two-thirds of
all workers in education and threefourths of all workers in health and
personal services (including pri­
vate homes). Women's predomi­
nant role in services reflects the
similarity of this work to the activi2

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ties traditionally handled by wom­
en in the home. Also, the availabili­
ty of part-time and shift work in this
field makes it attractive to moth­
ers with young children.
Women are now finding more
openings in other fields, but this
trend must be accelerated if an
over-supply of women workers in
traditional feminine fields is to be
avoided. The number of women
college graduates is expected to
increase by two-thirds in this de­
cade, or about twice as fast as for
men. However, openings may be
scarce in one major traditional
field—high-school and elemen­
tary education, which accounts for
two out of every five
professional-type jobs held by
women. Job prospects are dismal
here not simply because of the
increasing supply of prospective
teachers, but also because of the
lessening demand caused by the
falling birth rate.
Unemployment has remained
higher among women than among
men workers, both in prosperity and
recession, although the differ­
ence recently has narrowed sub­
stantially. In earlier years, this
differential was due largely to
women's more intermittent laborforce participation, and hence
their more frequent status as laborforce re-entrants. This difference
will undoubtedly continue, even
though women have become
increasingly attached to the work
force. More and more women are
now trying to avoid the impact
which child-bearing always imposes

on career prospects, because of
the loss of opportunity to establish
careers—to gain experience and
seniority—due to extended periods
out of the labor force. The longer
their absence, the less meaningful
is their previous work in providing
credentials for re-entry into the
labor force. Yet with the drop in
the birth rate and in the average
size of family, fewer women now
suffer career losses of this type.
However, the intermittency prob­
lem stems not just from child­
bearing and child-rearing deci­
sions but also from women's
dependence on husbands' career
decisions. In every age category,
the percentage of wives working
tends to be much lower when job
relocation occurs.
Changing status?
Women's perception of their status
has changed increasingly over the
past quarter-century or so—from
homemaker to worker—and the set
of market reactions appropriate
to the old order has become less
and less appropriate to the new
order. Thus, pressures are growing
to change the second-class posi­
tion which many women still hold
in the work force.
Women today are still concentrat­
ed in lower-paying (frequently
non-union) industries, and in
lower-paying occupational
groups such as clerical and sales
work. Despite a substantial rise in
dollar earnings, only a minority
has yet moved into higher-earning
categories; in 1972 (the latest
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survey year), nearly two-thirds of all
full-time working women earned
less than $7,000, whereas less than
one-fourth of all men workers
earned below that level.
Thus, a sharp differential exists
between male and female earnings,
generally averaging about 40
percent. The difference is ex­
plained to some extent by women's
greater concentration in part­
time jobs, and also by differences
in job responsibility, education
and length of service. The pay
difference for similar job assign­
ments may eventually be over­
come by the increased enforcement
of equal-pay laws. A longerrange problem will remain, how­
ever, because of discrimination
in the making of initial job assign­
ments, which results from many
influences starting with role differ­
entiation in childhood.
The President's Manpower (sic)
Report comments, “ During the
last quarter of the 20th century,
woman's commitment to market
work, traditionally limited in dura­
tion and significance, is likely to
grow. Declining birth rates, along
with rising levels of education and
career aspirations of younger
women, suggest that the future
worklives of the two sexes will
come to resemble each other more
and more, both in terms of occupa­
tional distribution and time spent
in the labor force.'' Nonetheless,
there still may be a wide discre­
pancy between the career aspira­
tions of younger women and labor
market realities.
WILLIAM BURKE

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BANKING DATA—TWELFTH FEDERAL RESERVE DISTRICT
(Dollar amounts in millions)
Selected Assets and Liabilities
Large Commercial Banks

Amount
Outstanding
10/15/75

Loans (gross, adjusted) and investments*
Loans (gross, adjusted)—total
Security loans
Commercial and industrial
Real estate
Consumer instalment
U.S. Treasury securities
O ther securities
Deposits (less cash items)—total*
Demand deposits (adjusted)
U.S. Government deposits
Time deposits—total*
States and political subdivisions
Savings deposits
O ther time deposits^
Large negotiable CD's

86,969
65,213
1,821
22,995
19,578
10,048
8,840
12,916
87,241
24,590
344
60,471
5,762
21,123
29,911
15,882

Weekly Averages
of Daily Figures

W eek ended
10/15/75

Member Bank Reserve Position
Excess Reserves
Borrowings
Net free (+) / Net borrowed (-)
Federal Funds—Seven Large Banks
Interbank Federal fund transactions
Net purchases (+) / Net sales (-)
Transactions of U.S. security dealers
Net loans (+) / Net borrowings (-)

Change
from
10/08/75
-

+
-

+
+
+
+
-

+
-

-

606
451
432
49
30
4
325
170
209
280
116
248
36
64
126
316

Change from
year ago
Dollar
Percent
+ 2,882
2,326
66
1,196
377
+ 292
+ 4,730
+
478
+ 5,567
+ 1,020
17
+ 4,250
425
+ 3,131
+ 1,236
+
771

W eek ended
10/08/75

+
-

+
+
+
+
+
-

+
-

+
+
+

3.43
3.44
3.50
4.94
1.89
2.99
115.09
3.84
6.82
4.33
4.71
7.56
6.87
17.40
4.31
5.10

Comparable
year-ago period

3
8
5

+

102
257
155

+

40
2
38

-

+

848

+

1,383

+

1,175

+

665

+

661

+

1,585

-

♦Includes items not shown separately. {Individuals, partnerships and corporations.

Information on this and other publications can be obtained by calling or writing the Public
Information Section, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, P.O. Box 7702, San Francisco 94120.
Phone (415) 397-1137.
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