In the late 1960s, women began entering the New York City labor force
in unprecedented numbers - just as the city began a steep economic
decline. Even as the number of jobs in the city began to drop, women
filled more of them. But more than 30 years later, major differences
persist between men and women in the city.
Women concentrate more in sales and office work, while men
predominate in construction and production jobs. In all fields, women
tend to the lower paid jobs, and a wage gap between men and women
remains. "Just being a woman has an important effect on your educational
attainment, what job you get and how much you make," Ester Fuchs, an
adviser to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, said at a panel discussion recently.
cosponsored by the Museum of the City of New York
and Barnard College, marked the 30th anniversary of the
NYC Commission on Women's Issues. Panelists discussed
the overall state of women workers in the city and focused on three
disparate fields: poorly paid - and overwhelmingly female - home health
aides; traditionally male - and well paid - construction jobs; and Wall
Street, where many women still find obstacles to the top jobs.
WHO ARE THE WORKING WOMEN?
Just being a woman has an important effect on your educational
attainment, the jobs you seek, and even how much money you make at the
end of the day, the end of the year, or the end of your lifetime.
Females in New York City comprise almost 53 percent of the over 8
million people that live in the city. Overall, the population of New
York City increased about 9 percent across all races from 1990 to 2000.
- Asian, non-Hispanic women have increased 60 percent, even though they
only comprise 9.2 percent of the population. They are the fastest
- Hispanic women have increased 23 percent. They are
currently 27 percent of the population.
- Black women have remained
constant; they remain about 26 percent of the population.
- White women as a proportion of women in New York have declined by 12 percent. They are
still the largest group with 35 percent of the population.
Your race, your ethnicity, and your age have an impact on your
earnings and your capacity for finding an occupation. All of these
demographic factors -- these gripping characteristics of who we are --
have an impact on who we become. Is it etched in stone? Does it have to
happen this way? No! But if we don't create interventions, whether
public or private, we can be sure that the patterns of the past will
become the patterns of the future.
As a group, Hispanic women in the city are the youngest; 40 percent
are under the age of 25. And white women are the oldest. Almost half are
45 and older.
In some groups, a higher ratio of immigrant men come here alone, and
in other groups, a higher ratio of women come alone. So among Pakistani
and Mexican immigrants you find 150 males to every 100 females, and
among immigrants from Jamaica, Trinidad, Tobago, and the Philippines,
there are fewer than 75 males for every 100 females. This has
implications for who will become, over the long term, part of the
Another interesting piece of data along those lines: Fifty-seven
percent of births in New York City are to foreign-born mothers. That
means the growth of our population is largely dependent upon the new
immigrant women who come in here. These are the kids who are in families
where there is low income, low educational attainment. If we are not
focusing on these families, we are not focusing on the future of the
City of New York.
Educational attainment for those over 25 years old varies greatly by
- Forty-six percent of Hispanic women have no high school diploma,
while only 11 percent have a bachelor's degree or higher.
- Among white women 16 percent have no high school diploma, while over 40 percent have
a bachelor's degree or higher.
- Among black females about 28 percent have no high school diploma, 28 percent are high school graduates, 27 percent
have some college, and 17 percent have a bachelor's degree or higher.
For Asian women we see a very skewed population. A large group with
no high school, 33 percent, and a large group with bachelor's or higher,
35 percent. There is really misinformation that all Asians have high
educational achievement. In fact, many are new immigrants, and the
parents do not have higher education achievement. It's interesting to
see the children in these communities achieving at a better level than
other communities made up of people who were born here.
On the whole, women are slightly more likely than men to have no high
school diploma, 28 versus 27 percent, and women are slightly less likely
to have bachelor's degree. The exception is that educational attainment
is higher among black women than black men.
In all race groups, men participate in the labor market at higher
rates than women. The difference is most pronounced among Asians, only
53 percent of Asian women are in the labor force compared with 69
percent of Asian men. And labor force participation rates are most
evenly distributed between black men and women, with 56 percent of women
in the labor force and 60 percent of men.
Women are more likely than men to be employed in sales occupations.
Women are also more likely than men to be employed in management
occupations, and men are more likely to be employed in production and
Women still earn about 80 cents on the dollar compared to men. In
management jobs, men earn on average $76,000 a year, while women earn
about $55,000 a year. The greatest differential between men and women
is in production jobs, essentially manufacturing jobs, where women earn
about 54 cents on the dollar. Women in construction, however, earn more
on average than men. Women earn $1.04 for ever dollar for men.
The earnings ratio between male and female is lowest among whites,
that is to say that white women earn on average, 74 cents on the dollar
to white men. Black women are bringing it up for the rest. Black women
earn 94 cents on the dollar to black men. I don't know if this is a
story about black women or a story about racism against black men, but
black women have less gender inequality on wages than white women, Asian
women, or Hispanic women.
These data are not simply about why patterns have emerged, but what
we as a society and we as a city can do to address such patterns and
ensure that women truly live in a city of equal opportunity.
--Ester Fuchs, Mayor Michael Bloomberg's special advisor
to for governance and strategic planning, and a political science
professor at Columbia University
HARD HATS FOR HIGH PAY
When you read murder mysteries or you watch police shows and try to
figure out what happens and who did what, the answer always is "follow
the money." Women in general across the country are skewed to the lowest
paid industries in the economy, and within any given industry, women are
skewed to the lowest paid jobs. That is why our wages are less. So how
can we get out of that? One of the things we can do is go where the
There is a tremendous opportunity in construction jobs. These are
good jobs. They are union jobs with good pay, good benefits and
pensions. Many people enjoy doing them, they get a lot of satisfaction
out of doing this kind of work. After 9/11, when they interviewed men
helping to do the cleanup, they talked about how they remember their
fathers working on building those towers and how proud they were to be
part of building this magnificent city.
In the coming years, the construction industry is going to provide a
great number of opportunities. That is partly because of the
construction expansion in this city - the rebuilding downtown, a higher
rate of new housing starts. And many of the men in the industry are
aging out. They want to retire and their sons, who have traditionally
taken those jobs, may be doing something else.
So, we are looking at potentially 30,000 new jobs in the next five to
10 years. The question becomes how do we get women to know about these
jobs, how do you get them into the jobs, and then how do you get them to
keep those jobs.
One of the problems in getting women into these jobs and into many
non-traditional jobs is that women don't know about them. They don't see
themselves in those jobs. We did some research on what would happen to
women who were thrown off welfare. The social workers would say to the
women, "What do you want to do?" and they would say "what do I know how
to do? I know cosmetology."
When you change the sets of questions and start giving out
information about the differences in pay -- $6, $7, $8 an hour versus
$20 or $30 an hour -- suddenly the number of women interested in
construction jobs soared - just soared. It's information that
Clearly, for women across the board -- and for non-traditional jobs
and jobs with a difficult schedule -- childcare is an important piece
that has to be filled in. That really has to be a social responsibility.
This business that each individual woman is the only one responsible for
this kids and maybe, if she's lucky, she gets some help from the father
or her husband is something that clearly has to change.
One day I thought I had the most brilliant idea in the world about
childcare. I said, "The answer is that we don't just have maternity
leave for mothers but that we require fathers to take paternity leave,
we force them." And you know what? Norway does it. So it's not so
Why can't it be that way? Part of the problem is changing the
stereotypes about men as much as it is about changing the stereotypes
Discrimination against women still runs deep - very deep - in these
non-traditional jobs. The unions have gotten good wages, good benefits,
and good pensions for their members. The other side of the coin though,
is: are women going to be allowed to get those jobs and keep those jobs?
We are going to have to get women to take jobs that pay more and then we
have to change the conditions on those jobs.
--Kathy Rodgers, president, Legal Momentum
HOME HEALTH CARE WORKERS
Homecare workers in New York City and throughout the nation are among
the most undervalued workers. Many of us would not be able to function,
go to work and have our lives if we didn't have a person coming to take
care of a loved one, neighbor, or relative in such a caring and loving
way. At least 80 percent of home health aides are women.
The structure under which home health care is delivered here is
unique to New York City. There are two completely different streams of
services -- one through the New York City Human Resources Administration
and the other mostly through private companies that are licensed to
provide home-care services. The payments are different also. The HRA
system was organized by the 1199 union in the early 1980s. Home-care
workers working under that system average $9 to $10 an hour with family
health care coverage, pension plans, access to educational programs.
The home health aide side is mostly private. The jobs are largely
minimum wage and without access to education programs or health
benefits. So, the benefits of unionization in this case are extreme.
One topic that has not been discussed very widely is that the pool of
workers who are between 25 and 44 is shrinking, because of the smaller
post baby-boom generation entering the workforce. Fewer women and
workers will want to go into low-wage and undervalued jobs as more
choices come up for young women, even those who don't have high school
--Faith Wiggins, Director, Local 1199 Bill Michelson Home
Care Industry Education Fund
OBSTACLES ON WALL STREET
I started off at Goldman Sachs in 1980 after business school. To tell
you the truth, I had no idea how difficult the environment would be on
Wall Street for women at that time. There were very few women when I
started. There were more women when I left, but women had not achieved
the higher ranks.
We all like to think that women have made significant gains in the
last five to 10 years. But Catalyst, a
research and advisory group that supports women in business, recently
conducted a survey of women on Wall Street to get the opinions of women
and to get the opinions of men and to see if there were any differences.
Only 18 percent of the women report that women's opportunities to
advance to leadership positions in their firms have increased greatly in
the last five years compared to 50 percent of the men. So, there's still
a perception on the part of these women that they can't advance to the
highest levels of their firms. I think that says a lot.
There are significant barriers to women rising in their firms. Most
women believe that one of their biggest challenges is their outside
demands with their families.
The challenge in the business world is your competition. If you're a
female and you take time off every day or if you go on a part-time basis
for a period of time, your competition - males -- are not doing that.
There is job sharing, part-time work, but employers are not generally
sympathetic to that in part because the companies are run by men and
they have plenty of workers who don't need those special considerations.
If you look at statistics for law school graduates and business
school graduates, the majority of women have taken some time off during
the last 15 years. It is hard to get back, but it's not impossible. The
biggest barrier is that, when the woman goes back, she is generally
dealing with an unsympathetic work environment.
I also spent some founding a women-owned investment-banking firm. I
did that in part because I wanted to have more flexibility and more
opportunity for advancement, which I couldn't see in the big firm. An
entrepreneurial situation is not right for all people but it's a viable
option for women today. If you have the mindset and the skills to break
out on your own or break out with a small organization I think women
actually have greater opportunities.
Women need to think about their careers as a long-term project. There
will be different opportunities at different points. It is very
important for the next generation of women and for all of us today to
think through what the educational institutions, the society and the
city can do to help women be more aware not only of the options they
have today but also the consequences and plan for the long term.
Every woman who is out in the workforce has to take responsibility
for her life, and for that of her corporation, her union, her
organization, whatever. That's the only way improvement is going to
happen. It's not up to Catalyst. It's not up to the city. Everyone has
to take that responsibility.
--Deborah Buresh Jackson, private equity investor
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