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The Employment Status of Women in the Federal Government
Women have made considerable progress in the Federal Government. Women now hold approximately 44 percent of the positions in both professional and administrative occupations, which constitute the pipeline for positions at the highest grade and pay levels, including the Senior Executive Service. Women are also increasingly visible at the highest levels of the Federal service. Women now account for approximately 30 percent of the Senior Executive Service, reflecting and building on the increased representation of women in supervisory and high-graded positions.
Differences in pay have narrowed. The progress that women have made is evident in pay as well as representation. The differences in pay (pay gaps) between women and men have narrowed. The gains have been greatest in administrative occupations, where the median salary for women is now almost 93 percent of that for men, up from just over 83 percent in 1991. This progress reflects, in part, convergence between women and men in characteristics such as length of service and educational attainment and the increased employment of women at higher grade levels.
Women are increasingly successful in competing for employment. Women account for an increasing percentage of upper-level entrants in both professional and administrative occupations. At entry and midlevel, the percentages of women and men are relatively balanced, although women are less frequently selected into upper-level positions than men. The proportion of women entrants is influenced by factors such as the specific occupations filled and the use of internal or external recruitment. Therefore, decreases in the proportion of women among entry-level applicants should not be interpreted as indications that Federal agencies have become less willing to hire women or that women are less, rather than more, able to compete.
Progress will continue. These developments are, to some extent, a natural consequence of success. The initial steps toward equity such as reducing overt discrimination are easier to identify, and produce more immediate and visible results than the final steps. Also, the changes in American society and the civilian labor force that facilitated a rapid increase in the presence and status of women in the workplace have slowed. For example, the labor force participation and educational attainment of women increased quite rapidly in the 1970s and 1980s. Since then, labor force participation has changed little; educational attainment is still increasing, but at a reduced pace. The possibility of gradual future progress should be kept in perspective.