AAAS CEO Alan I. Leshner urges US to continue collecting job data on women workers

05/19/05

WASHINGTON, D.C.-- The American Association for the Advancement of Science on Wednesday (18 May) urged the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to continue the collection of employer job counts of female workers, saying such data are crucial to understanding links between gender, income and productivity.

In a letter to the Office of Management and Budget, Alan I. Leshner, chief executive officer of AAAS and executive publisher of the journal Science, joined thousands of organizations and private individuals who have opposed the plan announced by federal officials last December to stop collecting such information.

If enacted, the plan would "rob businesses, non-profits, and governments of a vital indicator: how participation by gender in the labor market relates to income and productivity," Leshner wrote. [See the full letter at www.aaas.org/news/releases/2005/0519ombletter.shtml]

The gender data have been collected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the monthly Current Employment Statistics survey of employer payrolls. Among other things, the data help establish women's employment in various sectors of the U.S. labor market.

The Bureau wants to gather more job and payroll information on all workers; it proposed to stop asking for the data on women to avoid creating a reporting burden for businesses. But women are the biggest bloc in the underrepresented majority that will be important to renewing the U.S. science and engineering workforce in years ahead, Leshner said. "Monitoring their participation can hardly be considered a 'reporting burden,' he said. "Indeed, it is central to the integrity of the data series and the fairness of actions based upon it."

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has said it will continue to publish information on women's employment derived from census surveys of households. But critics have complained that the monthly surveys of employers' payrolls provide different information, and that the data from those surveys offer a more complete and accurate picture.

May 18 was the deadline for public comment on the Bureau's plan. That plan requires approval from the White House Office of Management and Budget.

Since its founding in 1848, AAAS has been dedicated to the development and improvement of the science and technology workforce. It has a long record of advocating fairness and equal opportunity for women, people of color and people with disabilities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. In February this year, the AAAS Board of Directors approved a statement reaffirming its commitment to increasing the participation of women in science and engineering. (See www.aaas.org/news/releases/2005/0208board.shtml)

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