University of Hawaii

UH officials predict
women in top jobs

Officials say that more females
with degrees will occupy
more top-level positions

By Mary Vorsino

A gender gap at Hawaii's colleges could signal a shift in the state's work force with women coming out on top.

"It's not likely to happen quickly ... (but) over time, more women will find their way into jobs traditionally dominated by men," said Kathy Ferguson, director of women's studies at the University of Hawaii-Manoa.

That's because women have outnumbered men in UH's bachelor's graduating class for 24 years and at colleges nationwide for nearly as long, even though men account for about 52 percent of America's college-age population, according to recently released statistics from the UH Institutional Research Office.

Last year, 169,000 more women earned bachelor's degrees than men nationwide, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

As more women enter the nation's work force with college degrees, women will inevitably be more likely to secure top-level positions over time, even in predominantly men's fields, Ferguson said.

According to 2001 Department of Labor Women's Bureau statistics, 31 percent of the nation's managers and administrators are women, compared with 98.4 percent of the nation's secretaries, 76.9 percent of the nation's cashiers and 96.9 percent of the nation's receptionists.

Hawaii has historically "led the nation" in the number of women in the work force, Ferguson said. In 2000, 60.3 percent of Hawaii women worked compared with the national average of 57.7 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Bonnie Lambing, president of the Professional Women's Network, a Hawaii-based business women's organization, said, "A lot of women are finding that they don't have to be restricted to traditionally women's jobs."

Jeanne Rellahan, HPU dean for the school of international studies, agreed, saying that though women have to work much harder to get those positions than their male counterparts, "women have certainly made their mark" in the last three decades.


"Women have gotten the message that they have all these options."

They are becoming "increasingly confident," and even with marriage and families, "they're not talking about dumping their careers."

Since 1991, women have accounted for about 60 percent of master's degrees earned at UH -- at one point, in 2000, accounting for 64 percent, the Institutional Research Office said. The percentage of women earning doctorate degrees at UH has increased to 47.2 percent in 2001 from 27.9 percent in 1992.

J.N. Musto, executive director of the UH Professional Assembly, said university administrations, such as the University of Wisconsin and the University of Michigan, where women have already served or are serving as presidents, are already beginning to see the effects of more women than men graduating from college.

But Musto does not necessarily expect to see changes in the way institutions are operated because of it.

"Just because they're women," he said, "does not mean they're ... understanding."

And just because they're women, Ferguson said, does not mean that they can, will or want to change the way things are done. That means that even if more women climb to the top of Hawaii's social ladder, the way the work force is structured may stay the same.

But Ferguson said the "rosiest scenario" associated with more formally educated women than men could be a change in the way society understands work, from the way maternity leave is dealt with to the way that people are hired and considered for jobs.

Female employers, she said, would perhaps consider the "worker's whole life" rather than dividing the worker's public and private lives.

Until now, when a woman enters a predominantly male arena, it is likely the woman who changes, Ferguson said.

But with more and more women going into those positions, women will be more inclined to act like themselves rather than like their male counterparts.

Bob Sante, director of the counseling psychology graduate program at Chaminade University of Honolulu, said the emergence of Title IX in 1972, which barred sexual discrimination practices in colleges with federal funding, greatly increased the accessibility of college -- and subsequently a number of careers -- to women.

"(After Title IX, women) started to take a look at this opportunity of advancement. (Their) picture is not limited to raising kids and being a housewife -- not that that's a problem."

Rellahan agreed, saying that since she began teaching in the early '70s, women have "become increasingly confident" and competitive.

"Even with kids and marriages, they're not talking about dumping their career. Women are perfectly confident offering their opinion now."

University of Hawaii

E-mail to City Desk


Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
© 2002 Honolulu Star-Bulletin --