Contrary to popular belief, a higher percentage of Utah's women work outside the home than the national average, according to a report released Tuesday.
The report, prepared by the Utah Department of Employment Security, also said women are beginning to break into professional, technical and managerial jobs that traditionally have been held by men.The report is likely to be used by statewide women's groups who want more attention from the state Legislature. It appears to contradict a national perception of Utah as a place where women remain in the home and rear children.
The Governor's Commission on the Status of Women, for instance, was denied funding earlier this year despite support from Gov. Norm Bangerter. Critics said the group did not represent the majority of Utah women who prefer to stay in the home.
According to the study, 60 percent of Utah's women over 16 were employed as of 1987. The national average is 56 percent.
Bangerter, in releasing the study during a morning news conference, quoted Brigham Young, Utah's first territorial governor and the second president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as saying women should become trained in law, physics and all types of trades and businesses. Bangerter said too many Utahns feel it is wrong for women to be educated and trained for professions.
"There's never been a taboo on that," he said. "We need to get out the message. We need to tell our young women that when they go to high school they need to plan for higher education."
The statistics in the report are more surprising when broken into age groups. In Utah, 71 percent of women between the ages of 20 and 35 are employed.
Lecia Langston, a labor market economist who prepared the report, said young women account for most of the workers and more than one-third of the state's working women have part-time jobs.
Langston said she had difficulty compiling much of the report because the most recent data was from the 1980 census. For instance, the report shows that Utah women earn only 53 percent of what the state's men earn. But the figures are based on 1979 statistics. Since then, the national average for female wages has gone from 56 percent to 70 percent of male earnings.
"We suspect that Utah's following that trend also," she said.
She said the report does show some disturbing trends. For instance, secretarial and typing jobs appear to be more female-dominated than ever.
"I think it's shocking that 99 percent of the secretaries are women," she said.
The report said research shows a woman is more likely to be employed if she has few or no children; women who have or expect to have children generally earn less than childless women; the more educated a woman is the less likely she is to have children; the more educated a woman is the more likely she is to join the labor force; and the closer a wife's earnings are to her husband's, the more likely she is to delay having children.
The report also said women are continuing to move into the work force because families need two incomes to survive and because more interesting and better paying jobs are opening up to women.
Langston said she expects the percentage of Utah working women to continue to grow for several more years. She predicted 62 percent of the state's women will work by the year 2000.
Percentage of Utah women who work outside the home: