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Key issues facing women in their careers and how advice of executives and managers was turned into a practical career guide.
If it has taken women 20 years to go from 33 percent of the federal workforce in 1970 to 48 percent of the workforce in 1990, how long will it take them to reach the same relative percentage of top management positions? No, this is not a riddle. But concerns are being expressed in many quarters that while substantial progress has been made in equalizing female representation in the federal workforce, there are still significant problems involving advancement and development.
As the "glass ceiling" - the name given to represent the institutional barriers which are said to block the movement of women into top management echelons - is being studied and debated, there is widespread recognition of the need for locating successful role models for women in government and creating a forum for capturing the best advice available to those who want to better manage their careers. This was the premise behind a recent professional association initiative that sought to ask this key question, "What advice would a group of successful senior level women who have made it to the top in the public sector give to journey level women who are coming up behind them?"
Weight of the Numbers
There is of course considerable debate over the existence of a glass ceiling and its causes. Two decades ago, when men still dominated the paid labor force in the United States (62 to 38 percent) there were few questions about female representation in the managerial ranks. As these percentages have shifted to 58 vs 42 percent by 1980 and to 55 vs 45 percent in 1990, more questions have been raised. Current projections by the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics for the year 2000 now forecast a labor force division of 52 male to 48 percent female. The obvious question as the workforce closes in on a 50-50 split is what percentage of the top ranks will be held by women who now represent almost half the workforce.
In fact, it is this statistic that makes the most compelling case for the existence of a glass ceiling. The Department of Labor, in a study released in 1991, found that only 6.6 percent of managers at the executive level were women. Furthermore, based on an analysis of data on Fortune 1000-sized companies, this percentage represented only a marginal increase in representation of women in top executive positions since 1979.
One would expect things to be better for women in government. After all, government has always been a "preferred employer" for women. And, the statistics for women in management in government are better than their private sector counterparts; but not by much.
According to the central personnel data file maintained by the Office of Personnel Management (see chart), only 11 …