While women have made progress in the business world, they are still less powerful, make less money and find fewer opportunities for advancement than men, said a study Monday by the National Association of Female Executives.
"Across the board, women are conspicuously absent from the highest levels of American professional decision-making," said the group. It concluded that women often remain "professionally ghettoized" in female-dominated professions.
Discrimination against women persists among corporations, in the non-profit sector and in government, the group said.
And while more and more women are entering certain professions such as law and medicine, the study concluded, "even within these, women are segregated in certain specialties and barred from the most influential and highest paying positions."
The association, the largest businesswomen's group in the country with 250,000 members, announced a campaign to "achieve equal representation for women . . . by the end of this decade."
Wendy Reid Crisp, the association's director, said she was surprised by a review of statistics on women in business that more progress has not been made in elevating professional women into middle and top management positions.
"Women are just not breaking through," she said at a news conference. "Discrimination exits every step of the way."
According to statistics gathered by the businesswomen's group, women continue to trail men substantially in earnings as well as in the number of women who attain positions in the upper echelons of corporate America.
As of 1990, only 4.3 percent of corporate officers were women and "the rate of increase has improved little in the 25 years these figures have been assembled," the study said.
It noted that even among companies boasting good working conditions for women, there are few female corporate officers. In 48 of the top 75 companies for women, fewer than 10 percent of the senior officers above vice president were female, the report said.
And while women today hold 40 percent of all executive, management and administrative positions, they are mostly confined to the lower and middle ranks and in staff jobs such as labor relations, personnel and public relations, the study said. Front-line jobs such as marketing and sales that directly involve business operations still are largely male dominated, it said.
Labor unions remain as male-dominated as corporate America, the study said. For example, the AFL-CIO executive board has only one woman among 33 members, although it had three women members a few years ago.
An area where there has been a significant success among women, however, is in starting businesses. The study said there are at least 6.5-million women business owners in the country, ranging from construction and manufacturing to retail sales and professional services.
Women also have entered the legal profession in record numbers over the last 20 years, but few have moved into the top levels, the report said. Women accounted for 21 percent of the legal profession in 1990, compared with only 3 percent 20 years earlier.
But as of 1991, men still held 89 percent of the partnerships in the nation's largest law firms.
Ms. Crisp noted that even in female-dominated occupations _ such as insurance sales, where two of every three agents now are female _ there still has been little advancement in gaining access to the power structure.