Women Who Work in Factories

Women Who Work in Factories

The current feminist literature largely ignores women who work in factories and their special problems. Is this justifiable? Is industry truly a declining sector in the economy, employing an ever-decreasing percentage of the labor force while the service sector keeps expanding? Women in the academy and the mass media have been organizing to demand their rights; so have some welfare mothers, domestic workers, and white-collar workers. Have the voices of the blue-collar women not been heard because their numbers are declining to a point where improving their conditions is not worth the effort?

Statistics show no such decline. The proportion in the U.S. of women among industrial workers—as well as the proportion of women industrial workers among all working women—has remained stable. This is borne out by the latest figures available from the U.S. Department of Labor, covering the years 1967, 1968, and 1969. In those three years the numbers of blue-collar women were 4.597 million, 4.9 million, and 4.974 million. The proportion of women among all employees in industry was 27 percent, which seems constant for these years (I cannot check the data with absolute accuracy). The percentages of blue-collar women among all working women was 16.7 percent, 17.3 percent, and 17.1 percent. Looking at the 1960s as a whole, the proportion of women among operatives and in industrial crafts, though constant among employed women, has slightly declined in the total population. Of much more significance, however, is the continued concentration of blue-collar women in the lower skills and the backward branches of industry.

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