Affirmative Action for Women

Commentary by Pete du Pont

Host intro: A recent study reports that even though women make up 46 percent of the workforce, they represent only 10 percent of corporate officers at the 500 largest corporations. Is this an argument for affirmative action? Pete du Pont of the National Center for Policy Analysis says no.

Women are everywhere in the professions, they're starting business in record numbers, and laws barring discrimination against women are in force.

So why the underrepresentation at the CEO level? Because of the pipeline theory.

The people who got graduate degrees in the 50s and 60s, who are now taking CEO jobs, were mostly men. Is this discrimination? No, just a question of education and experience. Will it continue? No. Since 1986, the number of female executive vice-presidents has more than doubled; for senior vice-presidents, an increase of 75 percent. In 1994, women earned more associate, bachelor's and master's degrees than men. More than 70 percent of women between the ages of 20 and 54 work.

Women aren't filling the pipeline, they're clogging it.

The issue is also more complex than those crying discrimination want to acknowledge. Occupational and educational choices, absenteeism and intermittent work all are critical variables that slow some women's progress. Many voluntarily choose careers with more flexibility in work hours, and these jobs typically pay less.

Meanwhile, among those ages 27 to 33 who have never had a child, women's earning are close to 98 percent of men's.

Women have made impressive gains, and that will continue without affirmative action, preferences or quotas.

Those are my ideas. And at the NCPA, we know ideas can change the world. I'm Pete du Pont, and I'll see you tomorrow.