Published October 1975 — Download PDF of the original newspaper column
Byrd's-Eye View By U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd Women and the Job Market Women are becoming an increasingly important part of the American workforce - for a number of reasons. First, of course, is the fact that the government has moved forthrightly against sex discrimination, and has been especially active in guaranteeing equal pay for equal work between men and women. The government's actions have encouraged more women to seek more and better jobs. And to secure those jobs, women have come to realize the importance of getting as much education as possible. Eighty percent of the nation's women now graduate from high school compared with 81 percent of young men who are graduating; and 28 percent of the women are going on to college-compared with 32 percent for men. But just as important as government actions and increased education is the fact that many of the myths about women workers have been exploded by recent studies. For instance, it was long believed that absenteeism among women was far greater than among men, and that women switched jobs at a much faster pace than men. However, a national health survey shows that the female absentee rate is 5.6 days per year; the rate for men is 5.4. And a 1970 U.S. Department of Labor study revealed that the "monthly quit rate" for women was 2.6 percent, and 2.2 percent for men. The reports note further that, while women do leave work for childbirth, their absence, more often than not is temporary. Fifty percent of all women with children between 6 and 17 are currently employed, and 38 percent of all women with children between 3 and 5 are now working. In fact, of the almost 32 million women in the American workforce, 4 out of 10 are mothers. That women are now being given greater opportunities in the job market is both just and proper and, in many instances, overdue. But while focusing attention on women working outside the homes, we should not forget the very real contributions being made by housewives. It is impossible to put a price tag on the work they do, although one estimate says the gross national product would be increased by at least $105 billion annually if housewives were paid for their work. Just as women desiring outside employment were getting too few opportunities for too long, women working in their own homes have been getting too little credit. That is a situation that should be rectified. After all, the housewife has the most important job of all-rearing the children. "The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world."