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The new liberated, highpower executives puffed by the chic women's magazines don't tell the true story of women's labor. That dismal story is told in those non-degreed service occupations where women predominate. If sheer numbers count, they are the true barometer of how women are faring in the job market. There are, in fact, three job markets: (1) mainly male, (2) mainly female, (3) integrated. Group two employs most women and comprises such traditionally female occupations as waitresses, clericals, saleswomen, and hairdressers. For these ""pink-collar"" employees the prospects are dreadful. Ask Avis as she applies the cream rinse; ask Peggy in the coat department where Howe met her during one Christmas rush. Lousy pay, lousy benefits, no security--that's the norm. And the ""little"" indignities--no chairs for the sales help, no lockers for the waitresses. Howe's informal slice-of-life portraits show these women juggling domestic duties, children and work schedules; supplying a disdained but much-needed ""secondary"" income; providing fully two-thirds of the part-time and temporary labor force that gives the cost-profit oriented company so much ""flexibility."" The grit of the women is amazing. Short of a drastic reordering of our social priorities, Howe has no neat solution to their plight. A hard look at female job ghettos where egalitarian reforms and rhetoric have not penetrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 25th, 1976
Publisher: Putnam