Women and Paid Work



A productive workforce is a prime goal of the Decade of Behavior initiative. Thanks to the women’s movement that started in the 1960s, the majority of adult women today are a part of that productive workforce, demonstrating their knowledge, skills and abilities, and earning a livelihood through paid employment. Nevertheless, real equal opportunity in paid work remains an elusive goal. In this paper, two major reviews of the literature on women and paid work written 20 years apart (Cleveland, Stockdale, & Murphy, 2000; Nieva & Gutek, 1981) serve to structure a discussion of what we know about women’s experiences in paid work. Selective areas of research are reviewed under four kinds of topics: (1) topics that have disappeared over the past 20 years, (2) important topics that were not studied or could not be studied 20 years ago but are now (women as leaders), (3) previously neglected topics (stereotyping), and (4) rapidly emerging topics (mentoring, effects of preferential selection, sexual harassment). It is largely from feminist scholarship on women and paid work that we have been able to separate myth from reality through the accumulation of a sizable research-based literature. Unfortunately the body of research on women and paid work is still insufficiently integrated into the body of research on the psychology of work.