WASHINGTON - Although they say they are stretched to the breaking point trying to juggle family, work, child care and other pressing concerns, most American women like their jobs.
That's the consensus from a first-of-its-kind survey of America's working women, released yesterday by the Women's Bureau of the Department of Labor.
More than 250,000 women responded to the "Working Women Count" survey, which polled women on issues like equal pay, job advancement, and child and health care.
Four in five women said they either "love" or "like" their jobs. "Given the nature of their response in other areas, like the need for child care and pay inequity, that was a surprise for us," said Karen Nussbaum, Women's Bureau director.
Yet women said they are tired of trying to run offices and households and lives, tired of workplace policies that penalize them for responding to their children's needs, tired of doing the same work for less pay than their male counterparts.
The questionnaire was distributed through the mail, in newspapers and to companies and organizations nationwide. Also, the Labor Department conducted a scientific survey using the same questions with a random sample of 1,200 working women. The scientific survey was much more representative of all women, Nussbaum said, because respondents came from a broader range of economic and educational backgrounds.
Among the findings:
-- Most women said improving pay scales is a high priority. -- Fifty-two percent of women in the scientific survey and 61 percent in the popular survey said that on-the-job training is vital for change.
-- The No. 1 issue women would like to talk with President Clinton about is their inability to balance work and family. Unequal or unfair pay is second and lack of equal treatment or opportunity is third.
-- Three-fifths of women in the scientific sample said they have little or no ability to advance.
"Companies that hire and train women but then let them leave because they won't offer advancement are incredibly shortsighted," said Thomas White, a business-ethics professor at Loyola Marymount College in Los Angeles.
"They take a direct hit each time they lose that investment, but it happens all the time, and it's no wonder women lose heart."
That most women like their jobs but decry enduring workplace problems is not surprising to one psychologist who studies women and workplace issues.
"Those results confirm the belief that workplace involvement is extremely important for a woman's self-esteem," said Dr. Catherine Chambliss, head of the psychology department at Ursinus College in Collegeville, Pa.
Chambliss said the social interaction and stimulation are vital for most women who work. Chambliss, who has extensively researched the psychological issues facing working mothers, said most women don't want to quit, they just want more equality and support.