Men, women and work

Women occupy more than half of the 21 million professional jobs in the United States. However, they earn relatively less than the men, since their activities are concentrated in areas such as teaching in public schools and nursing where salaries are not high. They represent only 28% of the eight million who are professionally employed and considered to be well paid, with an annual income greater than US$ 40,000 according to Ruzena Bajcsy of the National Science Foundation. The proportion of women seems to have steadied in various professional areas, with the exceptions of law and medicine.

The percentage of women in activities linked to mathematics and computer science, professions with prestige and high pay, fell during the nineties. These areas, besides being heavily disputed by men, are characterized by an extensive workload which conflicts with the typically female family responsibilities, according to the research. In the academic areas (college and university faculties), the participation of women stabilized at the end of the nineties. However, they are underrepresented in some specialized and well paid medical areas such as cardiology and orthopedic surgery for example.

They tend to work fewer hours than men and to occupy positions which are financially less rewarding. Virgínia Valian, psychologist from Hunter College, attributes this relative disadvantage of women in the market to the perception that men are more adequately gifted for important work. Since infancy, she analyses, men and women develop “gender schemes”, a grouping of subconscious perspectives of the role of the sexes which includes from the functions of each one at home to professional competence. This “scheme” transposes into the jobs market placing women at a disadvantage, even when their performance and credentials are equal to men.