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THE GAP IS CLOSING BUT THE INEQUITY IN PAY REMAINS

If you are a female lawyer, you're going to be short $16,000 this year. If you're a computer programmer you stand to lose a little more than $6,600.

Only because you are a woman.

The National Committee on Pay Equity, which computes the differential in salaries between men and women, says that on average women fall more than $12,000 behind men each year.

This year the pay equity advocates figured out that April 3 is the day when women's pay in 1997 and the first quarter of 1998 will catch up to what men earned last year.

Things are looking up. In 1997, it took until April 11 for women to make what males did in the previous year.

The salary gap between men and women has been closing since 1963 in an up-and-down cycle that averages less than half a penny a year. It has been as wide as 57 cents to the man's dollar to as narrow as 74 cents, which is about where it is now.

That's causing some women to ask, "Where's my 26 cents?"

At least the pay equity coalition and the Women's Department of the AFL-CIO are prompting them to inquire. They are helping organizations all over the country stage demonstrations, programs, workshops and seminars on Equal Pay Day Friday.

The labor union got very vocal on the issue after equal pay emerged as a top priority in last year's poll of 50,000 working women.

Equal pay for equal work is the law of the land. Still, women nurses make $73 a week less than male nurses, and female accountants earn more than $200 less than male accountants. A woman doctor will take home $500 less each week than her male colleague and a secretary will make $100 a week less than a male clerical worker.

Even bigger disparities occur when you compare apples and oranges. Jobs held mostly by women pay much less than jobs held mostly by men. A disturbing pattern emerged when women began to take over traditionally male jobs -- the wages dropped.

Pay equity advocates found ways to compare jobs, and adjustments have been made, mostly in the public sector and mostly negotiated in collective bargaining.

Bargaining, litigation and legislation have advanced pay equity, but many experts believe that a reduction in men's salaries is most responsible for a narrowing wage gap. That's bad news for families dependent on a woman's inadequate wages and man's diminishing pay.

There are jobs where men and women work at nearly equal salaries -- social work, teaching, the garment industry -- but nowhere does the gap get narrower than 6 percent.

And some places are better than others -- the District of Columbia, where women employed full time earn 87 percent of men's wages, ranks No. 1. New York, with a rate of 73.3 percent, is sixth.

Despite improvements, pay equity advocates see a lingering pattern of discrimination that perpetuates low-paying, female job ghettos and persistent undervaluation of women's work, even as women's skills and education level rise and insidious policies shunt women into less lucrative slots.

Some year they would like to celebrate another Pay Equity Day on Dec. 31.
Assuming that Women's History Month will encourage you to learn about your foremothers, Betterway Books in Cincinnati, Ohio, has released "A Genealogist's Guide to Discovering Your Female Ancestors."

Author Sharon DeBartolo Carmack says it's not easy to track down your female ancestors, because they lived such anonymous lives. Their names were changed by marriage, they had no legal status, and their exploits were undocumented. Land records, wills and census reports did not always acknowledge their existance.

Researching women takes time, patience and creativity, says Ms. Carmack, a professional genealogist, who shares her expertise in this 144-page book, which sells for $17.99.
The American Society of Mechanical Engineers, which uses the annual history observance to celebrate accomplishments of women inventors and engineers, reports that 25 million new jobs will be created in the next 15 years and almost half will be filled by technical or professional people in engineering, physics, chemistry, computer and nuclear technology. ASME says women will fill 65 percent of these.

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