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Changes in the workforce have been studied from many perspectives, and employment of women in particular has captivated researchers since the end of World War II. Attention to the success of women has long been the subject of much study by academics (Somers, Poulton-Callahan and Bartlett 1981; Boeker, Blair, Van Loo and Roberts 1985; Yoder and Sinnett 1985; Gable and Reed 1987) and continues among industry observers (Fierman 1990; Fisher 1992; Gordon 1992). While the study of women's rise into higher levels of executive positions has been undertaken in various industries the expectations for increasing "success" and "achievement" varies among them. For instance, even today there are some who maintain stereotypes of "traditional" job opportunities for women in the business world, which include low-level positions in banking and entry-level and low-level management positions in department and specialty store retailing. In fact, retailing has been viewed as a good women's career, in spite of evidence suggesting that women are not readily welcomed into managerial ranks.
Historically, social conditioning, overt and subtle discrimination, old boy's networks and prevailing stereotypes and notions of male/female roles have all combined to keep women out of the top executive suites (Chain Store Age Executive Edition, 1980). As such, earlier studies examined the status and changing fortunes of women in department store retailing (Gerstenberg and Ellsworth 1949; Gillespie 1977-1978; Gable et al. 1984). These researchers determined that, by and large, women's ascent to middle- and upper-level positions had been slow. Essentially, females had not advanced as far or as rapidly as their male counterparts. However, women's progress into the executive suite in department stores, although slow, has been steadily increasing.
While some have claimed that women's progress up the executive ladder may have been constrained by differences in educational skills and training, their family-rearing responsibilities, and/or their willingness or inability to travel, there is increasing evidence that many women have avoided the "mommy-track" and pursued careers in business in the same manner as their male counterparts. For example, enrollment of women at business schools has been on the rise for some time, and 47 percent of those earning degrees in business today are women (Digest of Education Statistics, 1992). This reflects a dramatic change in the employable executive workforce as only thirteen percent of those earning degrees in business were women in 1976 (Grant and Eiden 1982).
Women have worked to change their opportunities and have eliminated some of the barriers, real or perceived, that may have restricted their access to the executive suite. In addition, others have observed a changed attitude toward women in the workplace, as Nassar (1990) remarked: "women have gotten more serious about working." Evidence of such changes that are likely to influence women's prospect for advancement include the fact that more women work full time and most take less time off to raise children.
Interest in the achievements of women in the workplace, the changing pattern of female employment, the elimination of stereotypes in "male" versus "female" careers and the increased concerns about diversity call for a reexamination and retrospective comparison of the status of women executives in department stores. More specifically, the purposes of this study are:
1. To identify the current status of women in executive positions in fairly large to very large department store organizations.
2. To contrast the current status …