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Wednesday, August 22, 1990 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Our Turn

The `Glass Ceiling': Myth Or Reality For Women?

Universal Press Syndicate, Inc.

A recent Fortune magazine study of major corporations showed women occupying only 19 of the top 4,000 most powerful positions as officers and directors. Labor Secretary Elizabeth Dole is devising a plan to speed up promotion of women to the top corporate echelons. Do women encounter the so-called ``glass ceiling,'' which limits their promotion opportunities?

NO:

LINDA CHAVEZ

MY generation of women thought we could have it all - career, kids, happiness. There were no limits. Unfortunately, it hasn't turned out that way. As we tried to balance the demands of job and family, we learned that success in one sphere doesn't necessarily translate into success in the other. There may even be an inverse relationship between the two.

Getting to the top of the career pyramid entails sacrifices, whether you're a man or a woman. Ask any wife of a corporate CEO how much time her husband spends with her or the children.

For years, men have been sacrificing family life in pursuit of career. But, until recently, such men could count on their wives to take care of the home front.

But what about women who want to make that same climb up the corporate ladder? Nearly half the top-paid female executives in Fortune's survey were childless. One told the magazine: ``I would never want my mother to know how much it hurts me to be childless.''

A lot of those who have tried have decided the top rungs look less and less attractive the closer they get, and they voluntarily take themselves out of the competition.

I remember the rat race from nearly three years in the Reagan administration and one as a candidate for the Senate. I remember getting up at dawn and leaving home before my kids were out of bed.

I remember coming home after the family had finished dinner. My youngest child still reminds me that I missed his second grade school play.

And I remember the mad rush to take a sick child to the doctor and make it back in time for a senior staff meeting.

No thanks. I wouldn't do it again - not as long as my kids are still young. I didn't encounter a glass ceiling. I looked in the mirror and decided I didn't like what I saw.

Linda Chavez, a senior fellow with the Manhattan Institute of Policy Research, is a former member of the Reagan White House staff.

YES:

BONNIE ERBE

NOTHING is more infuriating than a woman who denies that women face workplace discrimination.

No doubt, many women decide juggling career and family takes too large an emotional and physical toll. They freely choose to travel a slower career path.

But the picture my colleague paints of women ascending to plum White House positions or running for the U.S. Senate and simply tossing it all aside because a child bemoans mother's absence from a school play is the exception, not the norm.

The norm, as documented in Arlie Hochschild's book,''The Second Shift,''is that men still expect women to cook the bacon after they bring it home. The norm, as a job-hunting mother of a 14-month-old recently told me, is that companies are reluctant to hire mothers of young children. The norm, according to the corporate research firm, Catalyst, is that 80 percent of CEOs admit that male managers stereotype and discriminate against women employees.

The women's movement was supposed to be about choice. Women were supposed to be free to choose to become home

makers if they desired. Or they were supposed to be able to dive into the work pool free of the prejudices that shackled their predecessors.

But neither has happened. Homemakers will tell you that society doesn't view their contribution as worthwhile. Career women will tell you that husbands who share the burden of child-rearing don't exist, and corporate managers who tolerate family demands are almost as rare.

The situation is not, however, irreparably bleak. As dual-career fathers are forced to shoulder more domestic responsibility, they will become more sensitive to women's plight. As corporations become desperate for talent in the lean years of the ``baby bust,'' they will bend to workers' family demands.

But in the interim, there is a concrete, not just a glass, ceiling holding women back. And women should be the last to deny its existence.

Bonnie Erbe is a broadcast journalist who reports on the Justice Department and the Supreme Court.

(Copyright 1990, Creators Syndicate, Inc.)

Copyright (c) 1990 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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