Women's Bureau (WB)

The Labor Department in The Carter Administration: A Summary Report — January 14, 1981 By Ray Marshall

Women's Bureau (WB)

Women's Bureau initiatives between 1977 and 1981 reflected a commitment to the goals of greater targeting of Departmental resources and expanding employment opportunities for all women, and especially for those who encounter particular disadvantages in the labor market. In 1977 about 40 million women were in the labor force. By October 1980, the number was more than 45.25 million, or about 43 percent of the labor force. More than half of all women 16 years and over were in paid employment by 1979. The rapid movement of women into the labor force has been hailed by labor economists as the single most outstanding phenomenon of our century.

The Bureau's efforts to carry out its responsibilities were enhanced by the transfer of the Women's Bureau from the Employment Standards Administration to the Office of the Secretary in 1978.

The Women's Bureau had significant impact on low income women's work and training opportunities through its participation in the development of the revised Comprehensive Employment and Training Act of 1978 and the implementing regulations. A number of new provisions related specifically to the employment needs of women, such as overcoming sex stereotyping of jobs, flexible work and training schedules, services of displaced homemakers, research and evaluation, and training for nontraditional work.

The Women's Bureau took a lead role in implementing the displaced homemaker provisions of the CETA legislation, preparing and distributing data sets identifying the numbers of CETA-eligible women and displaced homemakers by age, race and geographical area, in order to aid prime sponsors and others in planning for programs. The Bureau also provided leadership in the ETA/WB task force which developed policy direction and program design for the Displaced Homemakers Demonstration Program, and monitored the promotion and development contract that provides technical assistance to 30 prime sponsors and 6 nonprofit organizations that were funded to develop programs for this target group.

The Bureau made significant contributions to the Department's affirmative action efforts to expand opportunities for women in apprenticeship programs and in the construction industry. A training manual on women in apprenticeship was developed for training sessions with employers, agency staff, union officials, program operators and women's organizations, covering techniques for recruiting and placing women in apprenticeship programs.

In another area, the Bureau helped develop apprenticeship programs for women in Federal and state prisons. Apprenticeship programs were established in each of the four Federal correctional facilities that house women, and initiatives were taken to promote similar programs in state facilities for women.

The Bureau also contributed to policy initiatives that led to Executive Order 12138, which established a national policy on women's business enterprise. The Executive Order directs Federal agencies to establish goals for contract awards to woman-owned businesses.

The Women's Bureau has traditionally maintained close contacts with women's organizations, and has worked with both national and community based groups to achieve its goals for women workers. In 1978, the national office of the Bureau began to hold quarterly meetings with constituency groups to brief members of women's organizations on Department of Labor priorities and initiatives, and to facilitate their input into the policy making process. Ten regional offices have worked directly with women's groups, with employers and unions, and with state and local policy makers in their communities.

The Bureau's outreach efforts were assisted by the Employment and Training Administration, which funded several research demonstration projects. The projects included information and referral and job training programs for both rural and urban low income women; nontraditional job exploration, training, and work experiences in school-to-work transition projects for young women; and a variety of projects that placed emphasis on the special needs of black, Hispanic, Asian-Pacific American and American Indian women. Other programs include funding of model programs to help adolescent mothers remain in school and obtain employment experience assisting commissions on the status of women and helping ex-offenders re-enter the labor force.

Internationally, the Bureau either visited or received official visits from women associated with the governments of Spain, Ecuador, Canada, China and Israel; and provided information and technical assistance on women's employment programs and issues to many other countries.

Information and Technical Assistance

The Bureau prepares and disseminates a wide variety of publications on the economic status and legal rights of women, and on the results of its outreach efforts, to aid the implementation of policy and to support program initiatives. In addition to the models based on its own outreach projects, the Bureau has identified other outstanding programs and developed models for dissemination. Among the models published in the past four years are CETA-funded program for displaced homemakers, a program on training child care workers, and two programs that recruit and train women for nontraditional jobs in the skilled trades.

In support of the apprenticeship initiatives, materials were developed to explain the apprenticeship system, the new Department of Labor regulations in apprenticeship and construction industry, and how to find a job in the construction industry. Several publications were prepared to inform women and community based organizations about the revised Comprehensive Employment and Training Act and how to use its provisions to ensure good services to women. Other materials provide information about employment rights, legislation and regulations that affect women's employment, and the economic status of women.

The Future

As already stated, the rates of women's labor force participation increased dramatically in the past decade. BLS projections for 1990 show that women's labor force participation rates will reach 65 percent.

The Women's Bureau anticipates that it will have a larger role in the development of policies and programs to meet existing and developing needs as the impact of the changing roles of women becomes more apparent.

In terms of policy initiatives the Bureau anticipates that efforts needing attention will include the following: (1) changing outdated perceptions about the role of women in the economy; (2) increasing efforts to assist those whose income is below the poverty level; (3) improving job opportunities for women in nontraditional areas such as apprenticeship and construction, in management and entrepreneurship, and in occupations that are emerging with new technology; (4) examining job classification systems that mask wage discrimination based on sex; (5) identifying areas for model state legislation to improve the civil and political status of women; (6) changing retirement, social security, disability, insurance and unemployment compensation policies to meet the needs of women; (7) increasing the availability of child care services; (8) fostering flexible work schedules and staffing patterns while meeting the needs of workers who are also parents; (9) designing education, training, vocational education and employment programs to meet special needs of young women and mature women; (10) analyzing health problems associated with worker's dual role in the workplace and at home; and, (11) ensuring that women obtain their fair share of assistance under trade adjustment and re-industrialization programs.

The Women's Bureau also sees work yet to be done in strengthening itself as an agency to address these issues. Because emerging policy initiatives need testing in local settings and because the Bureau has the capacity to make a range of Federal resources more understandable and accessible to women unfamiliar with them, future plans call for more Bureau emphasis in the field.