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January 12, 1989 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 1989-01-12

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PERSPECTIVES

The Michigan Daily Thursday, January 12, 1989 Page 5

A

reversal

of

progress

Bi FRAN OBEID
A woman is applying for a job. She takes her re-
*sune and her doctor's certificate to the interview, stat-
ing that she has been sterilized. Ridiculous? Yes. A
make-believe story? Tragically, no.
Jn reaction to a new Brazilian law which extends
maternity leave from three to four months, many em-
ployers are demanding proof of sterilization as a
condition of employment, according to a recent New
Yark Times article (12/7/88). Paradoxically, an effort
to increase women's rights in the labor force has had
catastrophic repercussions: job security is threatened
*fol childbearing women and employment opportunities
fof women in the work force have drastically decreased.
tDiscrimination of this nature is not solely isolated
tolthird world countries with a struggling economy.
There have been reports that in the United States, if a
woman wants a job that involves certain "work condi-
tidns" that employers feel could harm an unborn fetus,
proof of sterilization or infertility is required so em-
ployers can safeguard themselves against birth defect
suits.
Why should I care about this? After all, I don't live
*in Brazil and I'm certainly not planning to have a child
at any point in the near future. But I do realize that it's
not too early to become aware of these and other perti-
nent women's issues. If we don't pay attention to
them, we could feasibly end up in a similar situation.
rPresently, the United States is one of the few
industrialized nations without mandatory maternity
leave. It is the onlyindustrialized country in the world
that does not have a federally supported child care pro-

gram. And though there are bills in Congress to
change these conditions, passage of these bills in a
male dominated Congress remains unlikely.
Policy changes in future years, however, is proba-
ble due to economic as well as social factors. If the
value of real wages continues to decrease, more women
will inevitably be forced into the labor market as it
becomes increasingly difficult for a family to survive
on one income. Due to a decreasing birth rate, as well
as an aging population, employers will be forced to
hire more women in the work force. Therefore, fewer
organizations will be able to operate with a work cul-
ture denoted as "men only".
Socially, (if one is being optimistic) the progres-
sion of women's rights should increase. With this in-
crease of women in the work force, some employers
may cater their benefit packages to women, making
future maternity leave likely.
But these are optimistic predictions. Regression to
a situation like Brazil's may actually be closer to real-
ity: employers resistant to providing benefits for
women may resolve to lock childbearing women out
of the labor force or require sterilization.
But why worry about the future? Discrimination of
women in the work force is alive and prevalent in the
United States today.
In 1986, 56 percent of all women were in the work
force and made up 44 percent of the total labor force.
Yet, discrimination is still widespread among employ-
ers - a woman is often directed to an "acceptable" job
during an interview, the top jobs in a company are
most often held by men and it is men who are trained
to replace those top positions.

Barbara Bergmann, author of The Economic Emer-
gence of Women,_describes work force conditions in
the eighties as "a segregation code" that exists to
avoids placing women in positions requiring supervi-
sion or even work with men. A corporation's culture
is often slow to change and typically reserves the top
paying, high status jobs for men - despite a plethora
of capable women.
In 1984, a female college graduate earned 60 percent
of what a male college graduate earned; even more dis-
turbing is the fact that a female college graduate earned
In 1984, a female college graduate
earned 60 percent of what a male
college graduate earned; even more
disturbing is the fact that a female
college graduate earned about $2,427
dollars less than a male high school
graduate.
about $2,427 dollars less than a male high school
graduate.
A study conducted at the University in the late '70s
by Mary Corcoran and Gregory Duncan indicated that
work force discrimination is responsible for two-thirds
of the wage gap between white women and white men
and three-fourths of the wage gap between Black

women and white men. They found that one-third of
the wage gap between white women and white men
was due to differences in education, experience, work
continuity, self-imposed restrictions on labor supply,
and absenteeism. These factors account for only 25
percent of the wage gap between Black women and
white men.
Many argue against the concept of comparable
worth between the sexes, claiming that wages are set
by the laws of supply and demand. But realistically,
many occupations that involve the same duties con-
tinue to be given different titles on the basis of sex -
and are therefore paid unequally.
A most recent threat to women's rights in this
country is the Supreme Court's decision to hear an
appeal that would allow Missouri to ban abortions at
public hospitals or other government-run facilities. A
reversal of the Roe vs. Wade 1973 decision allowing
abortion is a definite possibility. Already in Michigan,
poor women no longer have the freedom of choice due
to the passing of Proposal A, which no longer allo-
cates tax funds for the abortions of poor women.
Through these examples, it becomes obvious that a
woman's status in this country is regressing. Should a
college student care? Yes. For whether one is a woman
or a man, these discriminatory issues will have an im-
pact on one's life if they have not already.
Caring, however, is not enough. Education on these
issues is essential whether it be through a class, a
book or an article. This will at least allow one to be a
responsible voter. Some kind of action by all is
essential to prevent the unthinkable from becoming
reality.

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