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Women, Work, and Wages


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How to Use This Guide

This guide has been created to provide you with valuable tools that will help you obtain the job and salary that you want and deserve. In the guide, we offer information ranging from simple tips on where to look for a job and how to prepare for an interview to a discussion on how to negotiate for the pay package that you want. We also give you an overview of the wage gap that exists between women and men. Finally, we provide U.S. Department of Labor websites that can help you research wages in your field and provide other information that will help you in the job interview process.

We realize that there are many differences among women job seekers and among women workers. Some have higher-level skills and training than others. Some work in areas with good job opportunities and others may work in local areas with high unemployment or few well-paying jobs. Some work in low wage jobs while others receive high salaries. While the advice in this fact sheet will not apply to all readers, we hope that every woman who reads it can find something useful.

Good News About the Labor Market in General

At the national level, the economy is strong, unemployment is low, and workers are in demand. As a result, women have more bargaining power over work than ever before. By understanding the market you are dealing with and by knowing how to prepare for job hunting, job interviewing, and negotiating with potential employers, you can empower yourself to achieve better pay and benefits.

You Need a Job

There are jobs out there for you. How do you get the right job with the pay and benefits you need? You get it by selling your job skills.

Where to Get Information

Networking. Tell people you know and trust that you are looking for a job. Ask your friends about openings where they work

Private employers. Contact employers directly to sell your job talents. Talk to the person who would supervise you even if there are no jobs available right now.

One-Stop Career Centers. These provide help in finding jobs and other services, such as career counseling.

America's Job Bank. It contains information on job openings nationwide, which will extend your search to other States. This database can be viewed in your local One-Stop Career Center or accessed directly through the Internet at

Federal, State, and Local Government Personnel Offices list a wide range of job opportunities. Check the government listings in your telephone book.

Local Public Libraries have books on occupations and often post local job announcements. Many libraries also provide free access to the Internet through personal computers.

Newspaper advertisements -- the "want ads" list various job openings.

Local telephone book. Look for career counseling centers in your area. Some career counseling centers may require fees.

Private employment and temporary agencies offer placement. The employer or job hunter may pay a fee to the private employment or temporary agency.

Community colleges and trade schools usually offer counseling and job information to students and the general public.

Proprietary schools. Private training centers offer instruction in specific trades. Tuition is usually required. Check with your state education office for accredited schools.

Community organizations such as clubs, associations, women and minority centers, and youth organizations often have information about job openings.

Faith organizations frequently operate employment services or provide job search help. Veterans' placement centers operate mostly through One-Stop Career Centers.

Veterans' social and help organizations often have job listings for members.

Union and apprenticeship programs provide job opportunities and information. Contact your State apprenticeship council or relevant labor union directly.

Government-sponsored training programs offer direct placement or training and placement for applicants who qualify. Check the yellow pages under "Job Training Programs" or "Government Services."

Executive search firms provide highly skilled job seekers with assistance. The employer or job seeker may pay a fee.

Journals and newsletters for professional or trade associations often advertise job openings in their field. Ask for these at the local library.

Rights Against Discrimination in Training, Referral, or Hiring

Executive Order 11246, as amended, and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, forbid employers from discriminating in their employment practices.

Both Executive Order 11246 and Title VII prohibit employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.

Under Executive Order 11246, it is unlawful for Federal contractors and subcontractors holding non-exempt Government contracts or subcontracts exceeding $10,000 to discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin

Under Title VII, it is unlawful for:

an employment agency to fail or refuse to refer a person for employment based on his or her race, color, religion, sex, or national origin;
an employer to fail to hire someone on the basis of his or her race, color, religion, sex, or national origin;
a labor organization to discriminate based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin; and
an employer, labor organization, or joint labor-management committee controlling apprenticeship or other training or retraining (including on-the-job training) programs to discriminate based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.

There are other Federal laws which prohibit age discrimination (discrimination against workers age 40 and above), discrimination against persons with disabilities, and discrimination against veterans. These are the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA); Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA); Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended; and the Vietnam-Era Veterans' Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974, as amended.

If you believe that you have been subjected to employment discrimination under Executive Order 11246, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, or the Vietnam-Era Veterans' Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974, as amended, you can file a complaint with the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) of the U.S. Department of Labor. You may call the OFCCP Ombudsperson at 1-888-37-OFCCP to obtain information about filing a complaint.

If you believe that you have been subjected to employment discrimination under Title VII, the ADEA, or the ADA, you can file a charge with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). You may call 1-800-669-4000 or 1-800-669-6820 (TDD) to connect to the appropriate EEOC district office for your geographic area.

Tips for an Effective Resume

1. Be specific. Use concise sentences. Keep it short (one page is best).

2. Be positive. Identify accomplishments.

3. Use action verbs.

4. Center or justify all headings. Do not use abbreviations.

5. As part of your background and experience, list names of former employers, organizations for which you have done unpaid work, schools, training, etc.

6. Summarize your work experience. Stress skills, not titles. Include volunteer work and describe it in terms of specific job skills.1

7. Do not include irrelevant personal information, e.g. age, weight, height, and marital status.

8. Do not include past and/or present wages.

9. Proofread the master copy carefully. Have someone else proofread it too.

10. Make sure your resume "looks good" (neat and readable).

11. Inspect photocopies for clarity, smudges, and marks.

12. If possible, use a computer to prepare your resume. There are computer programs that make it easy to produce a professional- looking resume.

13. Be aware that some companies use computer systems to scan resumes to find key words and skills that are relevant to the job being filled. Resumes should be designed with that in mind. Be sure to list all the skills you have that are relevant to the job you are applying for.2


Most hiring decisions are made at the first interview. The impression that you make during this interview could be as important as your experience and job talents.

Technology is changing the way recruiting and interviewing is done. A new trend is for job candidates to be screened by telephone, video interview or computer.3

In some cases, interviewers are asking different kinds of questions during interviews instead of asking questions based on the applicant's resume, as they used to do. This is referred to as "behavior-based" interviewing and involves the interviewer asking the interviewee for examples of how they handled specific work-related situations in the past. This is a way to find out how the applicant used skills related to the job being filled.4

Here are some interviewing tips:

Before the Interview:

Make a personal assessment. When was the last time you...

1. Thought about what you do on the job, the skills you use, your contributions, and the value you bring to your employer?

2. Compared your skills and responsibilities to those of others in your workplace and industry?

3. Got a sense of pay ranges for someone of your qualifications within your industry, or in similar jobs in other industries, by consulting trade journals, career publications, or Department of Labor wage information?

4. Discussed the value of your skills and your responsibilities based on a performance review?

5. Asked for a raise if you feel that you are being underpaid based on your duties and responsibilities?

6. Gathered information from supervisors and colleagues about the kinds of skills and training needed to move into better paying jobs?

7. Networked with other people outside your company to broaden your knowledge of your occupation and trends in your industry, including information about pay, essential skills, and training opportunities?

8. Sought training, special projects or other skill building opportunities that could lead to a better paying job?

9. Pursued opportunities at your current place of employment or with other firms?

10. Shared ideas and concerns about compensation issues with other employees in your workplace?5

Learn as much as you can about the employer and the salary and benefits the employer offers. Friends, neighbors and relatives who work for the employer are good sources of information, as are the Internet, libraries, local chambers of commerce, etc.

Check out your target employer's:

Annual Reports
Special position papers
Organizational alignment
Key players/decision-makers

Learn everything you can about the job and how your education/previous experience and training qualify you for the job.

How Do I Use This Information?

Identify the person/unit who would be most interested in your skills/experience.

Think about how well you really fit into this organization. What "added value" do you bring?

Bring samples of your work (if practical).

Bring your Social Security card, driver's license, union membership card, military records, college transcripts, etc.

The Interview:

Dress appropriately. Neither overdress nor look too informal. Consider the type of job for which you are applying. In many workplaces, workers are being allowed to dress more casually. When in doubt, ask the company recruiter.

Go to the interview alone. Arrange for child care and transportation ahead of time so that you can be on time and relaxed in the interview.

Find common ground with the employer. Pictures, books, plants, etc., in the interviewer's office can alert you to the interviewer's interests and preferences.

Express your interest in the job and the company using information you gathered to prepare for the interview.

Let the interviewer direct the conversation.

Ask informed questions that show your understanding of the employer and job for which you are applying.

Don't mumble. Answer questions in a clear and positive manner. Show how your experience and training will make you productive with minimal supervision.

Don't speak negatively about former employers and co-workers no matter why you left the job, even if you were fired.

Ask about pay, benefits, and working conditions. Some of the benefits and working conditions you might want to ask about are health insurance, retirement plans (e.g., pensions and 401k plans), stock options, bonuses, work schedules, alternative work patterns (e.g., flextime, part-time employment, job sharing, and telecommuting), child care and/or elder care, and leave for family and medical reasons.

Seven out of 10 human resource professionals say they are comfortable with negotiating salaries and benefits, according to a poll by the Society for Human Resource Management and, a free site from The Wall Street Journal Interactive Edition.6

"Closing" the Interview:

If the employer does not offer you a job or say when you will hear about it, ask when you may call to find out about the decision.

If the employer asks you to call or return for another interview, make a written notation of the time, date, and place.

Thank the employer for the interview and reaffirm your interest and qualifications for the job.

The pamphlet "Tips for Finding the Right Job" can be found at the website Once you get to the website, click on "Are you looking for work?" under the heading "For Individuals." Then click on "Tips for Finding the Right Job." In addition to information on interviewing, the pamphlet contains information on determining your job skills, cover letters and letters of application, and preparing your resume.

The Interview Was a Success! They Want to Offer You a Job! Now's the Time to Negotiate for a Fair Salary

Working women are entitled to equal employment opportunity on the job, including the right to equal pay for equal work and non-discriminatory compensation. Working women continue to say that pay is one of their biggest workplace concerns and that they are not fairly paid for their work.

The fact is that there is a wage gap between working men and women. The reasons for this wage gap are complex and include such factors as differences in education and job experience, the concentration of many women in low-wage jobs, and discrimination.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics' Current Population Survey provides much of the following information on employment and earnings.

The "Wage Gap" Between Women and Men

Even in our booming economy, women overall are still earning less than men. In 1999, full-time women wage and salary workers earned 76.5% of men's median weekly earnings. In other words, they earned 23.5% less than men.

What is the wage gap? No matter how it has been measured, we find that women's earnings continue to be below those received by men. In essentially all occupations for which information is available, women's median weekly earnings are less than men's earnings.

In 1999, white women earned 75.7 cents for each dollar earned by a white man; black women earned 83.8 cents for each dollar earned by a black man; and Hispanic women earned 85.7 cents for each dollar earned by a Hispanic man.

Job Segregation The wage gap is, in part, related to women's concentration in lower-paying occupations.

In 1999, 57.4% of all employed women worked in technical, sales, service, and administrative support/clerical jobs.

The Wage Gap Between Women and Men in the Same Jobs

Women typically earn less than men even within the same occupation. The gap for a particular occupation is caused by many factors including education, experience, hours worked, and discrimination.

Change in the Wage Gap

How fast is the wage gap closing? If we look at the 20-year period between 1979 and 1999, we see that in 1979 women earned 62.5% of what men earned compared to 76.5% in 1999, an increase of 14 percentage points.

A lessening of the wage gap has occurred partly because women are gaining more education and work experience and entering higher-paying traditionally male-dominated jobs. Today 35.7% of women work in the higher-paying managerial and professional fields, compared with only 28.2% of men.

Prohibitions Against Wage Discrimination

There are laws that prohibit wage discrimination, and you need to know your rights under those laws. The Department of Labor enforces laws that ban pay discrimination in employment. The laws also require that Federal contractors take pro-active steps to ensure that all individuals have employment opportunities, including women and minorities, individuals with disabilities, and certain veterans. These laws help prevent pay discrimination by requiring contractors to conduct self-audits, which may bring to light otherwise unrecognized pay inequities. If you have a sex-based wage claim, you can file a complaint with the OFCCP. If you have reason to believe that a Federal contractor is engaged in discriminatory wage practices, you can provide that information to the OFCCP. For further information, contact the OFCCP Ombudsperson at 1-888-37-OFCCP.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) also enforces laws that prohibit wage discrimination in employment. Under the Equal Pay Act (EPA) of 1963, covered employers must provide equal pay to women and men who perform substantially equal work in the same establishment. This applies not only to wages but also to fringe benefits.

Under the EPA, employers cannot set lower wages for women who are doing substantially equal work to men on the market theory that women "will work for less."

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, prohibits employment discrimination based on sex, among other bases. Under this law, employers who have 15 or more employees are not allowed to discriminate with respect to:

• hiring/firing
• wages
• training
• promotion, and all other terms and conditions of employment.

In 1981, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that claims of sex-based wage discrimination brought under Title VII are not limited to claims of equal pay for equal work.7

In a 1985 decision,8 the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which enforces Title VII, stated that claims of sex-based wage discrimination could be proven by evidence of:

(1) the discriminatory application of a wage policy or system or the discriminatory use of wage-setting techniques such as job evaluations or market surveys;

(2) barriers to equal access to jobs; and

(3) the preponderance of direct or circumstantial evidence that wages are intentionally depressed because of the sex of the occupants of the job.

If you have a sex-based wage claim, you can file a charge with EEOC under both Title VII and the EPA.

If You Believe That You Are Being Discriminated Against or Paid Unfair Wages:

Know your legal rights.

Write down what happened to make you think you're being discriminated against, including who did what.

Get emotional support from friends and family.

Keep doing a good job and keep a record of your activities and accomplishments.

Find out how other women have been treated at your workplace.

Talk to your employer.

If you belong to a union, talk to your union steward or representative.

Consider filing a discrimination charge, but remember that laws have time limits for filing charges.

*For more information about matters relating to women in the workplace, contact the U.S. Department of Labor's Women's Bureau at


1. Job Options for Women in the 80's, Pamphlet 18, U.S. Department of Labor, Office of the Secretary, Women's Bureau, 1980.

2. "Resume Advice: It's as simple as black and white," USA Today, 1/24/96.

3. "The New Interview Etiquette," USA Today, 11/23/99; "Em[ployers Recruit Online to Cast Wider Net, Save Money, Speed Process," Daily Labor Report, 7/15/97.

4. "Trying to Put Job Candidates at Their Easel," The Washington Post, 9/21/97.

5. In California, Section 232 of the Labor Code prohibits employers from requiring that employees not reveal their wages or from discharging, disciplining, or discriminating against them for doing so.

6. "Job Candidates Have Room to negotiate, According to a SHRM/ Poll," Society for human Resource Management press release, 7/6/99. The Department of Labor does not endorse, takes no responsibility for, and exercises no control over the organization or tis views, or contents, nor does it vouch for the accuracy of the information contained on the organization's website.

7. County of Washington v. Gunther, 452 U.S. 161 (1981).

8. EEOC Decision 85-8, July 12, 1985.


1. The U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau.

2. The U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics

3. The U.S. Department of Labor, Women's Bureau

4. "Just Say More – How to Ask for the Salary You Deserve," Lynne Revo-Cohen, Hubbard and Revo-Cohen, Inc., 1999

5. NCPE Newsnotes, National Committee on Pay Equity, Fall 1999, Vol. 20.

6. Insights (The Real Impact of Salary Inequity), Women in Cable & Telecommunications, Fall 1999

7. Polling Data on the Wage Gap, National Committee on Pay Equity, Washington, DC, The Department of Labor does not endorse, takes no responsibility for, and exercises no control over the organization or its views, or contents, nor does it vouch for the accuracy of the information contained on the organization's website.


1. Don't Work in the Dark, Know Your Rights Brochures (Wage Discrimination, Age Discrimination, Pregnancy Discrimination, Disability Discrimination, Family and Medical Leave, Sexual Harassment), U.S. Department of Labor, Women's Bureau.

2. Hot Jobs for the 21st Century, U.S. Department of Labor, Women's Bureau.

3. Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2000-01 Edition, Bulletin 2520, U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, January 2000.

4. Career Guide to Industries, 2000-01 Edition, Bulletin 2523, U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, January 2000.

5. Executive Order 11246, Fact Sheet No. ESA 95-17, U.S. Department of Labor, Employment Standards Administration.

6. What You Should Know About Your Pension Rights, U.S. Department of Labor, Pension and Welfare Benefits Administration, 1995.

7. Women and Pensions, What Women Need to Know and Do, U.S. Department of Labor, Pension and Welfare Benefits Administration, 1998.

8. Working Women's Pension Checklist, U.S. Department of Labor, Women's Bureau.

9. Handy Reference Guide to the Fair Labor Standards Act, WH Publication 1282, Revised October 1996, U.S. Department of Labor, Employment Standards Administration.

10. Federal Laws Prohibiting Job Discrimination, Questions and Answers, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

11. Filing a Charge, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.


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