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Women make progress in the federal workplace

May. 24, 2011 - 07:03PM   |  
By STEPHEN LOSEY   |   Comments

Women have taken significant steps toward equality in the federal workplace over the last two decades, the Merit Systems Protection Board said Tuesday, but full equality is not here yet.

In its report, "Women in the Federal Government: Ambitions and Achievements," MSPB said that more women hold professional and administrative jobs, and are increasingly serving in the Senior Executive Service.

For example, women made up 30 percent of the SES in 2009, up from 11 percent in 1990. Fewer women are reporting discrimination, and differences between men and women in experience and education are declining. And the median salary for women in professional and administrative jobs has climbed: In 2009, it was 93 percent of the median salary for men, up from 83 percent in 1991.

But MSPB said women remain less likely than men to work in high-paying occupations and supervisory positions. Those persistent occupational differences may hinder women's ability to advance as the government transitions to a more knowledge-based workforce.

"Women have made great strides in entering occupations such as physician and attorney, but remain relatively scarce in fields such as law enforcement, information technology and engineering fields important to the current and future federal workforce," MSPB said.

The Partnership for Public Service will release a separate report Wednesday showing gender differences in workplace satisfaction. The Partnership's report, which it prepared with Deloitte, found that women are less likely than men to feel they have the power to make workplace decisions and to feel they are consulted on decisions affecting their work. Women also are less likely to feel safe to blow the whistle on workplace violations, and less likely to feel arbitrary actions, favoritism and political coercion are not tolerated in the workplace.

The widest gaps between women and men were at the Veterans Affairs Department, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

NRC pointed out that despite the gender gap, its female employees still reported higher satisfaction levels than other agencies listed in the report. But NRC pledged to ask its Federal Women's Program Advisory Committee to review the findings and offer recommendations.

An EEOC spokeswoman said the agency had no comment because it had not seen the report. VA did not respond to a request for comment.

"The good news is that the differences between men and women are getting smaller," said John Palguta, vice president for policy at the Partnership. "But more progress can be made."

The Partnership also found that nonsupervisory men and women reported similar satisfaction with their work-life balance. But among managers, women's satisfaction rates fell 2.4 percentage points behind those of male managers.

Palguta said this may be because women still bear most of the responsibility for childcare in today's culture, even if they are high-ranking managers.

"Society still hasn't figured out how to equalize the demands on men vs. women, outside of the workplace," Palguta said.

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