Only $0.99/month

Ch #15 Women in the Workforce

Key Concepts:

Terms in this set (16)

Over the past century, women have gone from being a
workplace rarity to an essential part of the workforce. In
1900, women made up roughly one—fifth (18 of the labor
force. By 1950, these numbers had risen to 30%, and today
women make up just under half of the labor force (47%
in 2011). Today, women become doctors, accountants,
astronauts, politicians, or members of any other occupation
with greater ease than any previous generation. It is difficult
to overstate the importance of these changes. Throughout
the 19th century and through a good deal of the 20th century, women were banned, either explicitly or in practice,
from entering a number of vocations. Women who did
have jobs systematically received less pay than men working those same positions and were more likely to be working in low-paid, low-status positions. Discrimination also
existed in universities and colleges that offered the necessary training for many jobs. Major universities like Princeton and Yale did not admit women until the 1960s, and
a few public military colleges did not admit women until
the 1990s. Women's participation in the workforce and
enrollment in colleges and universities grew throughout
the 20th century. In addition, the amount of money they
earned steadily increased (Figure 15.1).
Despite this progress, sexism and discrimination against
many forms. On average, women only make
less money than men working in comparable
jobs. The average gender gap has remained at
about 81% over the past decade, with wider
income gaps in many industries. In addition,
women are still not reaching the highest echelons of the work world in great numbers. In
2010, just 18 of Fortune magazine's top 500
companies had female CEOs (roughly 4;
only 14% had women holding at least one—
fourth of their officer positions.

The greater presence of women in the
workforce has highlighted many new issues,
including pay differentials between genders,
the balancing of work and family, health and
safety in the workplace, and the struggle for
many women between choosing a career and
choosing to stay home. Women typically
shoulder more of the burden of family and
household responsibilities than men, often
working at their paying jobs and then taking
on a "second shift" of responsibilities when
they return home. Some women who choose to stay home
feel conflicted by their choice, as do some women who
choose to pursue a career and leave their child with a surrogate provider.

Health and safety issues also affect women in the work—
place. Workstations, tools, and protective equipment have
traditionally been designed for men and therefore may
compromise the health and safety of women. Health hazards from biological, chemical, and disease-causing agents
exist in many predominantly female occupations, including
they return home. Some women who choose to stay home
feel conflicted by their choice, as do some women who
choose to pursue a career and leave their child with a surrogate provider.

Health and safety issues also affect women in the work—
place. Workstations, tools, and protective equipment have
traditionally been designed for men and therefore may
compromise the health and safety of women. Health hazards from biological, chemical, and disease-causing agents
exist in many predominantly female occupations, including

the textile, laundry, and meat industries;
health care; and food preparation. Additionally, physically intense activities or
exposure to certain substances while on
the job can harm working women who
are pregnant.

In addition, women currently in their
205 and late teens face the toughest job
market in decades. Today, there are millions more qualified people looking for
work than there are positions. Most women
graduating college 10 or 20 years ago could
count on their degrees and hard work to
provide them with full—time employment,
but today's college graduates have no such
guarantees. National and global economic
crises, followed by slow economic growth,
have caused millions of people to lose their
jobs and many companies and organizations to delay or stop creating new positions. Although employment levels have
started to recover, today the average unemployment rate is more than 50% more than what it was before the recession of 2008-2009. For men and women

the textile, laundry, and meat industries;
health care; and food preparation. Additionally, physically intense activities or
exposure to certain substances while on
the job can harm working women who
are pregnant.

In addition, women currently in their
205 and late teens face the toughest job
market in decades. Today, there are millions more qualified people looking for
work than there are positions. Most women
graduating college 10 or 20 years ago could
count on their degrees and hard work to
provide them with full—time employment,
but today's college graduates have no such
guarantees. National and global economic
crises, followed by slow economic growth,
have caused millions of people to lose their
jobs and many companies and organizations to delay or stop creating new positions. Although employment levels have
started to recover, today the average unemployment rate is more than 50% more than what it was before the recession of 2008-2009. For men and women

25 and under, the unemployment rate has more than doubled (Figure 15.2).

This chapter discusses gender differences in the workplace, the balancing of work and family, and occupational
safety issues. In addition, the chapter presents strategies for
reducing job stress and increasing workplace satisfaction.
In colonial times, all members of the family worked
together as an economic unit. Most of women's jobs outside the home appeared to be extensions of their house hold duties—making clothing, cleaning house, teaching,
or cooking—but some women worked as blacksmiths, silversmiths, and shopkeepers. When their husbands were off
at sea or at war, some women operated family businesses;
other women accompanied troops to war and served as
nurses and cooks.

The Industrial Revolution brought women into the
factories, providing many with new skills, educational
opportunities, and social outlets. Many European women
immigrated to the United States to work as indentured
servants, with hopes of a more promising future. Work place violence, sexual harassment, and unfair pay were a
fact of life, and many women were physically and sexually
abused on the job, or deprived of personal freedom and
financial compensation. Because many women's positions
were viewed as temporary, many working women earned
enough wages to help make ends meet, but not enough to
make a comfortable living.

In the mid—1800s, women's rights advocates like Charlotte Woodward campaigned to allow women rights to
their earnings (under existing laws, husbands had full ownership of their wives' money). The New York Married
Women's Property Act, which was passed in 1848, represented a major step for women's rights; by 1860, other
states had passed similar laws. It was not until 1974, however, that Congress passed the Equal Credit Opportunity
Act, which barred creditors from discriminating against
women on the basis of sex or marital status.

Throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, many
women found opportunities to earn wages, often working
as nurses, governesses, cooks, domestic servants, and teachers. In 1869, Wyoming became the first state to provide
equal pay for female teachers; California followed soon
thereafter. Although exceptions did arise, most women
continued to work in positions where men defined their

authority and control.

When the United States entered World War II in 1941,
jobs available to women increased dramatically. "Rosie the Riveter," the factory
worker appearing on posters underneath
the slogan 'We can do it!" became the
symbol for women workers in the U.S.
defense industries. More than 6 million
women, from all backgrounds and from
all over the country, worked at industrial
jobs that challenged traditional notions
ofwomen's capabilities and ensured U.S.
productivity that helped win the war.
During the war years, women became
streetcar conductors, taxicab drivers,
machine operators, business managers,
and railroad workers. They unloaded
freight, worked in lumber mills and steel
mills, and made munitions. This trend led
to a rise in salaries and an overall commitment by women to their jobs; however,
most of these women lost their positions
when the war ended in 1945.

Women became more likely to enter
the workforce grew throughout the 20th
gmturv. As women became more likely to work and began earning more money,

their contributions to family incomes increased. In 1970,
women contributed 27% of the average family income; by
2009 that number had risen to 37%. Women also started
becoming more educated. Today, women are more likely
than men to attend college, a major change from 30 years
ago. The desegregation of college majors has led more
women into fields such as architecture, business, and the
sciences. Many women are postponing childbearing and
marriage, having smaller families, or focusing on their
careers and personal development before taking on the roles
of wife and mother. Women have opened up numerous
opportunities for themselves by attending college, fighting for equal rights in the workplace, and breaking barriers in many occupations traditionally associated with men.
Despite all of the advances, however, gender discrimination in jobs persists.
Of the 120 million women in the United States, 59% are
either working or looking for work. Women between the
ages 35 to 44 are more likely to be working than women in
Other age groups (Figure 15-3). This may be partly due to
the fact that mothers are more likely to participate in the
workforce as their children get older. The stronger an education a woman has, the more likely she is to be working,
and the more money she is likely to make (Table 15.1).
More than three-fourths of women age 25 years or older
Who are employed are college graduates.

Although women work in all industries and contribute in multiple ways to the economy, their participation
is often concentrated in certain sectors. Women make up
a strong majority of many positions in health care, education, communications, for example, but continue to be
underrepresented in the fields of engineering, computer
science, and construction work (Table 15.2) Nearly one of
every five employed women works as a teacher (excluding
postsecondary positions), secretary, manager or adminis-
trator, or cashier.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, women own just
under one—third (29 of all nonfarm businesses, totaling
nearly 6.5 million businesses. More than half of such firms
are in the services industry, particularly business services
and personal services. Women cite a variety of reasons for
starting their own businesses:

I Flexibility

I Independence

I Outlet for creativity

- Relief from sexual harassment in the workplace

I An exit from poverty
Over the past generation, the number of women in the workforce who have young children has increased. Today, 64% of mothers with children under the age of 6, and 77% of mothers with children ages 6 to 17, are in
the workforce. The number of dual-earner families also
has increased. Before World War 11, less than 10% of the
workforce was from a dual—earner family. Today, more
than 57% are dual—earner families. In nearly 75% of dual—
earner families, both partners work full time. Despite this
change, many two—parent families with young children are
having difficulty making ends meet. Fifty percent of young
children are members of families with incomes less than
$40,000; 25% are in families making less than $20,000.
Just over 14 million women with disabilities live in the
United States; one in five of these women are either working or looking for work. Women with disabilities confront
many barriers in the workplace:

I Lack of job opportunities or appropriate jobs

I Inaccessible work environments

I Discouragement by family and friends

I Fear of losing health insurance or Medicaid

I Little or no accessible parking or public transportation nearby
Just over 14 million women with disabilities live in the
United States; one in five of these women are either working or looking for work. Women with disabilities confront
many barriers in the workplace:

I Lack of job opportunities or appropriate jobs

I Inaccessible work environments

I Discouragement by family and friends

I Fear of losing health insurance or Medicaid

I Little or no accessible parking or public transportation nearby

Women who are able to get a job may still need to spend
time and energy obtaining functional assistance, flexible
work arrangements or hours, handrails or ramps, or other
equipment. The severity of a woman's disability has the
greatest influence on her employment status. Women with
mild disabilities are about four—fifths as likely as women

Women who are able to get a job may still need to spend
time and energy obtaining functional assistance, flexible
work arrangements or hours, handrails or ramps, or other
equipment. The severity of a woman's disability has the
greatest influence on her employment status. Women with
mild disabilities are about four—fifths as likely as women
without disabilities to have jobs, but women
with severe disabilities are only one-third as
likely. Women with disabilities also earn, on
average, less than women with no disabilities.
Women with disabilities that directly affect
their work are more likely to live below the
poverty level than those people without work
disabilities. Approximately 40% of women with
a severe work disability are living in poverty.
Low—income women—particularly those living in poverty—face many challenges when trying to find and keep
a job. For these women, the consequences of not finding
employment or the inability to maintain a job can have
devastating consequences. Low—wage workers are disproportionately women and minorities with family respon—
sibilities. Women heads of household represent a high
percentage of this group. Welfare—to—work programs have
helped some of these women move from welfare into paid
employment. Most of these individuals work in service
industries characterized by low hourly wages (averaging
about 38—10 per hour), however, and are at significant risk
for layoffs or workhour reduction in a weakened economy.
Work opportunities for low—income women or women
on welfare are often limited because many persons in this
situation lack education, training, transportation, or child
care. Many jobs that are available either cover odd hours or
have changing schedules. Both situations make transportation and finding childcare difficult. Low—income women
who live in rural areas with little or no public transportation often have trouble getting to and from job training
centers orjobs. Other women are caught between taking
a job to put food on the table and leaving young children
at home alone because of lack of child care. Even when
women are able to find transportation and child care, the
costs for these services may consume most of their incomes.

Low-wage jobs often provide few or no benefits, such
as healthcare coverage, paid sick leave, or paid family
leave. Furthermore, because the positions do not require
advanced skills, employers are typically quick to replace a
woman who may have to miss work because her child is
sick. Women who find work after receiving welfare are
less likely than other working women to have jobs offering paid sick days, family leave, or flexible job schedules,
even though they were more likely to have children with
chronic health problems.
A great challenge for working women has been the battle of receiving equal pay for performing equal work. In
almost every field, men in the same jobs earn more than
women with the same education and years of experience.
In 2010, women who worked full time, regardless of age,
race, or educational attainment, earned an average weekly
Salary of $657 compared with $821 for men, or just over
four—fifths (81 ofwhat men make (Table 15.3). Earning differences between genders varied by demographic features, with the greatest contrast arising between men and
women aged 45 to 54, with women earning 74% as much
as men in this age range. The narrowest gap between earnings was among workers 16 to 24 years old; in this demographic group, women earned 93% of what men earned
(Figure 15.4). Wage gaps also exist by race, ethnicity, and
other factors. There is less gender disparity among black
and Hispanic/ Latino workers than there is among workers
who are white or of Asian descent. The wage gap narrows
to 95% for women who have never been married, but rises
to 73% among women who are currently married (Table
15.3). As a result of these differences, the average 25 -year-
old woman who works full time, year—round, until retiring
at age 65 will earn more than half a million dollars less over
her lifetime than the average working man.

The pay gap is closing in some fields, but not in others and not quickly enough. In some professions, pay discrepancies are quite small, but in others they remain much
larger (Figure 154). For example, in comparison to men

in the same occupation, on a weekly average:

I Women lawyers make almost $500 less

I Women bartenders make about $70 less

I Women engineers make about $150 less

I Women doctors make nearly $500 less

I Women registered nurses make about $100 less

I Women professors make nearly $300 less

Not only do women make less money than men in

virtually every profession, but women are clustered in

low-paying professions. Many women are worried about

the "sticky floor"——employment practices that keep full time, working women right at the poverty threshold level,

One—fourth of women who work full time do not earn

enough to move their families above the federal poverty
fi threshold. Women also fight against the "glass ceiling"
phenomenon—employment practices that effectively keep
working women out of top—ranking positions. Women
remain strongly underrepresented in leadership positions
in industry, politics, and other areas.

Besides lower wages, a grim reality for working women
is the lack of paid sick or family leave; childcare benefits;
flexibility of schedule associated with employment; and
employer-provided health insurance, pension plans, or
retirement benefits. According to an AFL-CIO survey:

I 97% of women are worried about healthcare costs
I 88% do not have retirement benefits

I 78% are concerned about a lack of job benefits

I 57% do not have equal pay for equal work

I 39% do not have affordable health insurance

I 29% do not have paid sick leave

I 24% do not have paid vacation time
Pay gaps in women's earnings affect families as well as
women. With more women in the workforce, more families depend on dual incomes. In addition, women are the
head of households with no spouse present of one in eight
(12 of households. Women maintain 14% of White
families, 47% of Black families, and 24% of Hispanic—origin families. Nearly one—third of all families maintained
by women live below the poverty level. Women occupy a
greater proportion of low—paying jobs than men and generally receive fewer benefits and less flexibility in their working conditions. Minorities, especially minority women, are
even more likely to be in these less desirable positions. The
average weekly earnings for White women are 17% higher
than Black women's and 32% higher than those of Hispanic women. While women overall are more likely than
men to be among the working poor, African American
and Hispanic women are two to three times more likely
than White women to be members of the working poor.
Working Mother magazine rates the 100 best companies
for working mothers every year, based on various measures of flexibility within the workplace, such as flextime,
telecommuting, and job sharing. The magazine also rates
companies based on their propensity to listen to employees by surveying them on work—life topics and, in response
to the survey results, adding features such as lactation
rooms. However, when these benefits are present, they
do not always extend to those in greatest need. In many
organizations, workers in low—wage jobs are half as likely
as managers and professionals to have flextime; low-wage
workers are also more likely to lose a day's pay When they
must stay home to care for a sick child.
Within many companies, only 20% of employees have
access to childcare information and referral services; 25%
have access to eldercare information and referral services.
Only 12% of employees with children younger than age 6
have childcare services on or near their work site that are
operated or sponsored by their employers, and these facilities are usually located at headquarters, where managers and
executives work. Even those lower-paid employees who
have access to nearby childcare facilities usually find the fees
too high for their earnings. Many of the company—operated daycare centers are open only during regular business
hours, such as 8 am. to 6 p.m.; however, close to one-third
of employees with young children have unpredictable or
erratic work schedules, and these are the employees who
are most likely to earn less than $25,000 per year.
Work—related stress may come from unsupportive workplace policies, unfair pay, concerns for quality child care,
inflexible scheduling, or lack of support and help at home.
With the economy still recovering from national and economic recessions, concerns over downsizing and layoffs
create added pressures. Other stressors revolve around lack
of control at work, such as high workload demands, unreasonable deadlines, role ambiguity and conflict, repetitive
and boring work, and strained relationships with coworkers or supervisors. This kind of stress often produces little
job satisfaction and a poor sense of well—being. The following jobs are associated with high stress because of the need to respond to others' demands and timetables with
little control over events:

' Secretaries

I Waitresses

' Middle managers

' Police officers

' Editors

I Medical interns

Long—term exposure to job stress can lead to higher levels of depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses. As
jobs become more demanding and less rewarding, employees often feel more stressed by the end of the workday and
have less time and energy for their families. Twenty—five
percent of employees reported feeling stressed often or very
often over the past 3 months, and 25% described feeling
emotionally drained often or very often. More than one-
fourth of employees are not in as good a mood as they
Would like for their families; 28% of people feel they have
no energy for their families or other important people upon
returning from work. This in turn creates a negative sense
of well-being and results in negativity that affects a person's work performance.
A person's work setting can create physical stress as well,
because of noise, lack of privacy, poor lighting or ventilation, poor temperature control, or inadequate sanitary facilities. Physical stress on the body is a consequence of many
different occupations. Jobs that require being on one's feet
for long hours cause leg pain, swelling, and varicose veins;
secretarial and desk-based jobs may cause neck and back
aches and eye strain; and repetitive motions can cause musculoskeletal injuries to women on production lines. These
difficulties are not restricted to gender, yet certain factors
make women more susceptible to these types of injury.
Equipment and workstations are often designed with men's
larger body sizes in mind. Workstations and chairs that
cannot be adjusted to the correct height for women promote poor posture; excessive reach; and strain on the neck,
back, shoulders, and arms. Hand tools designed for larger
hands may create unnecessary pain, stressed muscles, and
calluses. Protective equipment and clothes that are too large
are more likely to slip off, get caught in equipment, or create gaps for harmful chemicals to seep through.

Men are still more likely to be injured at work than
women, in part because somejobs with high rates of injury
are still predominately held by men. Almost two—thirds
of injured workers are men, even though they work less
than 60% of the total hours worked in the United States.
However, in the fields of management, business, financial
occupations, professional and related occupations, service
occupations, and office and administrative support, women
are more likely to be injured than men.

Musculoskeletal injuries, also referred to as ergonomic
injuries, disproportionately affect female workers. Although
women account for only 33% of the people injured at work
in the United States, they constitute 64% of repetitive
motion injuries, which include the following conditions:

I Carpal tunnel syndrome—a condition that occurs
when tendons in the wrist become inflamed after being
aggravated

I Tendonitis—inflammation caused by friction from
overuse of tendons

I Muscle strains from overexertion

Repetitive motions can injure the nerves, often those in
the neck and hands. Self-Assessment 15.1 discusses some
of the common symptoms that nerve injuries can cause.
Repetitive motion injuries account for more than half of all

work time lost due to injuries and illness among women.

Many women in low—wage occupations, or in occupations such as nursing aides, cashiers, maids, nurses, and
assemblers that employ large numbers of women, are at
significant risk of musculoskeletal disorders. Many of these
jobs employ a large number of minorities, such as women
who are Black, Hispanic, or of Southeast Asian descent.
Back injuries are common among employees who need to
lift large items or people. Correct lifting technique and
using trolleys 0r coworkers to lift heavy objects greatly
reduces the likelihood of injury.

Computer-related injuries have also become a significant concern in the workplace (Self-Assessment 15.2).
Prolonged use ofa keyboard or mouse, as well as sitting at
a computer for long periods without stretching, can lead to
jobs employ a large number of minorities, such as women
who are Black, Hispanic, or of Southeast Asian descent.
Back injuries are common among employees who need to
lift large items or people. Correct lifting technique and
using trolleys 0r coworkers to lift heavy objects greatly
reduces the likelihood of injury.

Computer-related injuries have also become a significant concern in the workplace (Self-Assessment 15.2).
Prolonged use ofa keyboard or mouse, as well as sitting at
a computer for long periods without stretching, can lead to

frequent muscle aches and nerve pain in the hands, arms,
shoulders, neck, and back. Another common complaint of
computer workers is visual discomfort, which is accompanied by eyestrain and headaches. Being aware of these risks
and correcting improper posture and techniques can help
prevent discomfort and injury.

Exposure to suspected carcinogens, allergens, or agents
that cause respiratory illness are also serious concerns for
many working women. Occupational exposures occur in
many industries that employ large numbers of women and
minorities:

' Meat industry: exposure to suspected carcinogenic flames

' Laundry/dry—cleaning industry: exposure to solvents
that increase risk of kidney, cervical, bladder, skin, and
liver cancer

frequent muscle aches and nerve pain in the hands, arms,
shoulders, neck, and back. Another common complaint of
computer workers is visual discomfort, which is accompanied by eyestrain and headaches. Being aware of these risks
and correcting improper posture and techniques can help
prevent discomfort and injury.

Exposure to suspected carcinogens, allergens, or agents
that cause respiratory illness are also serious concerns for
many working women. Occupational exposures occur in
many industries that employ large numbers of women and
minorities:

' Meat industry: exposure to suspected carcinogenic flames

' Laundry/dry—cleaning industry: exposure to solvents
that increase risk of kidney, cervical, bladder, skin, and
liver cancer
I Textile industry: exposure to dust that causes a variety
of lung diseases
I Metal-working industry: exposure to various chemicals
that increase the risk of lung cancer
I Agriculture: exposure to pesticides and herbicides that
may increase risk of non—Hodgkin's lymphoma and
lung cancer
I Service industry: exposure to excessive cigarette smoke
in bars or restaurants
Healthcare workers face additional hazards, including
needlestick injuries, radiation, infectious diseases, and latex
allergies.
Approximately 600,000 to 800,000 needlestick injuries occur annually in healthcare settings, mostly involving nurses (more than 90% of whom are women). Needlestick injuries can cause serious infections from blood-borne
Approximately 600,000 to 800,000 needlestick injuries occur annually in healthcare settings, mostly involving nurses (more than 90% of whom are women). Needlestick injuries can cause serious infections from blood-borne
Today 11:30 AM
pathogens, such as hepatitis C and HIV, creating both
physical and emotional threats to workers.

In addition, 8% to 12% ofhealthcare workers who have
frequent latex exposure develop sensitivity to this material.
Symptoms can be as mild as contact dermatitis or as severe
as anaphylactic shock (a severe and possibly fatal allergic
response to a foreign substance, characterized by difficulty
breathing and low blood pressure). The hazard from latex
use is recognized in many different industries, including
people in the latex-manufacturing industry, police, food
handlers, and sanitation engineers. Pregnant women also
appear to have a higher sensitivity to latex than the general population.

The causes of most reproductive health problems are
still unknown, but certain harmful substances can affect
the health of pregnant women. Approximately 75% of all
women of reproductive age are in the workforce, and more
than half of all children born in the United States are born

pathogens, such as hepatitis C and HIV, creating both
physical and emotional threats to workers.

In addition, 8% to 12% ofhealthcare workers who have
frequent latex exposure develop sensitivity to this material.
Symptoms can be as mild as contact dermatitis or as severe
as anaphylactic shock (a severe and possibly fatal allergic
response to a foreign substance, characterized by difficulty
breathing and low blood pressure). The hazard from latex
use is recognized in many different industries, including
people in the latex-manufacturing industry, police, food
handlers, and sanitation engineers. Pregnant women also
appear to have a higher sensitivity to latex than the general population.

The causes of most reproductive health problems are
still unknown, but certain harmful substances can affect
the health of pregnant women. Approximately 75% of all
women of reproductive age are in the workforce, and more
than half of all children born in the United States are born
to working mothers. Women can be exposed to many different types of health hazards at work during pregnancy.
Hazards from environmental pollutants in the workplace
can cause multiple effects, depending on when the woman
is exposed (see Tables 15.6 and 15.7). Substances may
cause fetal damage, such as birth defects, low birthweight,
developmental disorders, miscarriages, or stillbirths; infertility; menstrual cycle effects; and even childhood cancer.
Other possible hazards to pregnant women include prolonged standing, lifting, and long work hours.
Around the world, working women face many of the
same challenges and opportunities that they do in the
United States. Gender gaps in employment and pay Persist, but have fallen in Europe and much of the developing
world. From 1990 to 2010, women's participation in the
global labor market increased compared to men's. Progress
in education has also occurred over the past generation. In
the European Union, female students outnumber males in
most universities. Progress has been more uneven and
slow in much of Asia, Latin America, and Africa, with
large gender gaps in adult literacy and enrollment in primary schools, secondary schools, and universities.
In spite of this progress, however, women continue to
face discrimination, reduced pay, and fewer opportunities
than men. These problems are strongest in the developing
world. Women are less likely than men to be employed as
politicians, managers, senior officials, and other powerful
positions, and more likely to work as clerks, sales workers,
and other lower—status, low—paying positions. Women
are working in greater numbers around the world, but still
almost always have primary responsibilities for household
chores, cooking, caregiving, and other housework. In all
major areas of the world, women spend at least twice as
much time as men doing unpaid household work.
Women contribute to local, national and global economies through the informal sector. Informal work includes
any position unrecognized or uncounted by government or
other authorities; workers may grow food or make goods
at home and sell them at an open market, or offer services
such as manual labor, cleaning, or Child care. Women
make up the backbone of this growing movement. In some
sub-Saharan African or Southeastern Asian countries, for
example, nearly 90% of the female labor force is in the
informal economy. Many economic experts believe that
stimulating this informal sector may be an important way
to promote long—term, healthy economic growth through-
out the developing world. Examples of such efforts include
microlending programs, where women receive small loans
with reasonable interest rates to further their businesses
without the need for collateral.

The rate of payback from these women—focused microlending programs has been higher than those observed
with most other credit programs. Once women gain access
to these loans, they can create sustainable and profitable
business opportunities for themselves and their families,
and protect themselves from the workplace health hazards
that present themselves in many work environments. In
addition, women typically reinvest the money they make
in their local economies, and use it to improve the health
of their families.

The United States, one of the richest countries in the
world, is one of only three countries (the other two are
swaziland and Papua New Guinea, two developing countries With low incomes and poor infrastructure) that does
not guarantee women any paid family leave. Worldwide,
128 countries mandate some sort of paid family leave. For
example:
I In Germany, a new mother receives 14 weeks of leave
at full pay.
I In Canada, new mothers can take up to a full year oiI
from work at 60% pay.
I In Norway, new mothers can take 1 year off from work
at 100% pay.
I In Japan, new mothers can take up to 14 weeks at 60%
of their pay.
I In South Africa, new mothers can take 4 months of paid
leave, at up to 60% of their income.
I In Mexico, new mothers can take 12 weeks Off from
work at 75% pay.
Sources of stress for women in the workplace may vary,
depending on the profession they are in; their personality
types; their age, race, or ethnicity; whether or not they have
children; and other factors. All jobs, however, are likely to
have some stress (being a homemaker has its own sources
of stress, and for women looking for work, the search for
a job can be a major source of stress). The key to improving one's mental health (and toward creating a more productive workplace) is to avoid stress when possible, and to
deal with unavoidable stress in healthful ways. Supportive companies produce workers who are less stressed, feel
more successful in the balancing of work and family, are
more satisfied with both their work and home lives, and
are more loyal and committed to their employers.
Employers can help employees to better balance parenthood and work life by offering services related to family planning, preconception health care and counseling,
and parenting classes. The Family and Medical Leave Act
(FMLA) has been a valuable tool for many women. The
FMLA provides 12 weeks of unpaid, job-guaranteed leave
for employees who need to care for newborns or a seriously
ill relative, or to recover from a serious illness of their own.
This benefit is available to employees who have worked at
least 1,250 hours over the past year for employers with 50
or more employees. Currently, the act covers just over half
of the country's private workforce. Workers in entry-level,
low—paying jobs are less likely to be offered paid maternity
leave than are managers and are less likely to get the time
off after having a baby. More than half of the women who
are covered by the FMLA do not know it. Although the
FMLA was originally envisioned as dealing with a women's issue, almost half of those who have requested family
and medical leave since its passage are men.

Employers can also ease new mothers' return to the
workplace by providing breastfeeding support through
lactation assistance programs and private breastfeeding
rooms. Only 10% of working mothers continue nursing for 6 months following birth, compared with 24%
of at—home mothers. Flirty—seven percent of employers currently provide opportunities for women who are
nursing to continue to do so; this provision cuts down
on absenteeism and healthcare costs for both mothers
and infants.
In addition, employers need to help employees find
affordable, quality child care and elder care; develop child care programs; or offer employee assistance for childcare
facilities. Childcare assistance programs need to include
more flexibility, by allowing for the needs of employees
who work night and weekend shifts (Figure 15 .5). Flexible
work schedules, jobsharing programs, and prorated benefits for part—time and temporary employees also need to
be enforced—two—thirds of part—time workers and three-
fifths of temporary workers are women. Some employers
have established flexible work policies and are promoting
the idea of a family—friendly workplace. Unfortunately, the
people who need the extra support are the people who are
often the least likely to receive it.

Women also need to be aware of their rights in the
workplace. Women should not tolerate discrimination
based on gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, disabilities, pregnancy, or other characteristics. Women who experience any of these forms of discrimination should promptly
write down the details of the incident, and then report it
to their supervisor or the company's human resources division. Women may also report a discrimination complaint
with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
(EEOC) or their state's fair employment agency.