Document 2: Anita R. Schiller, "The Widening Sex Gap," Library Journal 94 (March 15, 1969), pp. 1098-1100


   In this article, which appeared in Library Journal, one of the most respected journals for librarians, Schiller provided some of the first data on salary differences between men and women in the library profession. She reported figures from a study conducted in 1966-67 of academic librarians employed in over 2,000 institutions. Data from this article appeared in early newsletters of the Task Force on the Status of Women in Librarianship, providing compelling evidence as to why the American Library Association needed to focus more attention on women's issues within the profession. Schiller noted that her data was not new and that it was not restricted to academic libraries. She observed other factors that were used to justify women's disadvantaged status in the library field including marital status and lack of mobility, writing "that we have been all too willing to accept the low status of women, and even to allow various rationalizations to serve, in effect, to legitimize discrimination." She concluded by saying that "serious efforts to restructure this situation are long overdue." Schiller would go on to write several more articles about the status of women in the library field.

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    "Given existing conditions, women librarians are likely to become increasingly disadvantaged in relation to men"

The Widening Sex Gap


    MOST LIBRARIANS ARE WOMEN, as we all know, yet the library profession has devoted very little attention to the unequal status of this sexual majority of its members. That the status of women is unequal to that of men in the profession was dramatically indicated in the national study "Characteristics of Professional Personnel in College and University Libraries," by the author. The survey was conducted at the Library Research Center of the Graduate School of Library Science, University of Illinois under a contract with the U.S. Office of Education, and is to be published by the Illinois State Library this year. Its findings regarding women in academic libraries suggest that the relatively low status of women in librarianship should be a matter of urgent professional concern.

    It is generally estimated that about eight out of ten librarians are women. Even in academic libraries, where the ratio of men to women is higher than it is in libraries of other types, nearly two out of three professional positions are held by women. In contrast, over 60 percent of the positions in all professional and technical occupations together, are held by men.

The large proportion of librarians who are women is all the more striking when librarianship is compared to some of the more established professions, where women are notably under-represented. In 1964, for example, "only six percent of physicians were women. Similarly women had only a token representation among scientists (eight percent), lawyers (three percent), and engineers (one percent)." Even among certain other occupations such as social work, which like librarianship have been considered as strongholds of women, the ratio of men to women is higher than it is in the library profession, and in secondary school teaching men quite recently ascended to the majority.

    In our society, certain problems are associated with working women in all professional fields. In librarianship, where the relative concentration of women is high, these problems may be expected to affect a large portion of the profession. Although the entry rate of men into librarianship is currently increasing, and this is a welcome sign of the profession's rising status in contemporary society, women continue to be the numerically dominant, but less favored group.

    There are several indications, in fact, that the relative status of women, rather than improving with the passage of time, has actually declined. In academic libraries, for example, there is less room at the top for women now than there has been in the past. In 1930, a study of chief librarians in 74 large colleges and universities reported that of all chief librarians in these institutions 19 were women and 55 were men.

A check of the same positions in these libraries today reveals that four of them are held by women, and 70 by men. Despite the fact that there are nearly twice as many women as men who are academic librarians, not one of the 50 largest academic libraries in the United States is headed by a woman.

    That the status of women librarians is lower than that of men is no surprise. What is surprising is that the library profession has barely begun to recognize that fact and other closely related problems. One indication of this basic lack of concern is demonstrated by the fact that we do not even know exactly how many men and women librarians there are. U.S. Census figures, while they report the number of men and women in each occupation, are not entirely satisfactory, and no other source regularly provides the figures or the more detailed data needed to describe the current situation of the woman librarian and where it is leading.

    Turning to the aforementioned study, it was performed during 1966-67, and it describes the characteristics of academic librarians employed in over 2000 institutions of higher education in the U.S. Based on a two-stage, stratified probability sample, approximately one out of every five professionals employed in these libraries was selected to receive a mail questionnaire.

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High response rates (95 percent of 580 institutions sampled in stage I, and 93 percent of 2,459 full-time personnel sampled in stage II) resulted in a representative sample of librarians employed in institutions of varying type, size, and means of control.

    Of the 2,282 full-time employees who returned the questionnaire, 1,451 (64 percent) are women, and 831 (36 percent) are men. The median age (half are younger and half are older) for women is 48 years, and for men, 41 years. By number of years of professional experience, the median for women is ten years, and for men slightly more than eight years.

Annual Salary (1966-67), By Sex

(Percent Distribution)
Salary Interval Total Men Women
Under $6000 7.3% 3.1% 9.7%
6000-6,499 9.6 6.0 11.7
6500-6,999 12.3 8.5 14.5
7000-7,499 13.5 10.2 15.4
7500-7,999 8.6 7.1 9.5
8000-8,499 8.9 8.0 9.5
8500-8,999 7.3 7.2 7.3
9000-9,499 6.6 6.7 6.6
9500-9,999 4.6 5.9 3.8
10,000-10,499 5.3 7.9 3.8
10,500-10,999 3.1 3.6 2.8
11,000-11,999 4.1 6.9 2.5
12,000-12,999 3.2 6.2 1.5
13,000-13,999 1.5 2.9 .7
14,000 and over 4.0 9.8 .7
Total 99.9% 100.0% 100.0%
Base 2181 802 1379
Median $7,925 $8,990 $7,455
Mean 8,425 9,598 7,746

    The table shows the salary distribution for academic librarians in 1966-67. The salary differentials between men and women are striking. The median salary for men is $8,990. The median salary for women ($7,455) is about $1500 less. Twenty-seven percent of the men, compared to 11 percent of the women, earn between $10,000 and $13,999; and ten percent of the men, in contrast to one percent of the women, earn $14,000 or more.

    Other survey findings relating to position level and faculty rank reveal similar disparities. In absolute terms, the numbers of men and women who are chief librarians are roughly equal, but only 12 percent of the women, compared to 22 percent of the men, hold these positions. The chance for a woman to become head librarian is, therefore, only about half as good as that of a man, even though the libraries that women administer are generally smaller and their salaries lower. Among chief librarians, the median salary for men is $11,710 while for women it is only $8300. Men who are not chief librarians (median salary is $8,577) tend to do as well as, or better than, the women who are. (The median salary for women who are not chief librarians is $7,105.)

    Roughly half of all the academic librarians hold a specific faculty rank. Women, however, are more likely than men to be represented at the rank of instructor, while at the highest professorial rank, the reverse is true. Although the majority of academic librarians are women, three-quarters of those who are full professors are men. Men not only achieve this rank more readily than women but when they do, they receive higher rewards than women at the same rank. The median salary for men who are full professors is $14,330; for women it is $9,750.

    The foregoing data on salary and status differentials between men and women show very clearly that women are the underprivileged majority of this professional group. They are freely accepted into its ranks, but once having joined, their future advancement within the profession is limited.

    This problem is neither new, nor is it restricted to academic librarianship. Previous reports and studies of public, academic, and federal librarians, of library school graduates, and of other groups of librarians have noted such disparities between men and women. Several studies have pointed out "that men not only have a better chance than do women of reaching the top, but that they get there faster."

Given existing conditions, women librarians are likely to become increasingly disadvantaged in relation to men. Although matching comparable data are not available to document precisely what has occurred over a period of time, the gap in career opportunities between men and women does, indeed, appear to be widening.

    One of the factors which is associated with disadvantaged groups generally is a low educational level. A somewhat parallel situation, although of a very different order, has existed within librarianship, where among any

given group of librarians, women have been found to have less education than men. The present study of academic librarians shows that the men have only slightly more professional education than the women (over four-fifths of each group hold at least the first professional degree), but one-third of the men, compared to one-fifth of the women, hold graduate degrees in other fields. Additionally, although only about one percent of the respondents hold doctoral degrees in library science, and three percent hold doctoral degrees in other disciplines, the majority of all doctoral degrees are held by men. While educational disparities between the sexes seem to warrant our professional concern, salary differentials between men and women cannot be attributed entirely to differences in educational levels, and equal educational qualifications are today no guarantee of equal opportunity.

    The data show, for example, that among those who work on an 11-12 month contract and whose highest degree is the fifth-year MLS, coupled with a nonlibrary bachelor's, the median salary for men is $8,345, compared to $7,270 for the women. Furthermore, men tend to earn more than women at all levels of professional experience. Considering the same groups as above, the median salary for those with less than two years of professional experience is $6,825 for the men and $6,605 for the women. As length of experience increases to ten years or more, these figures rise to $10,165 for men, and $8,525 for women with the equivalent educational qualifications. Thus women with the same amount of professional experience and education

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as men are compensated at a lower rate, and the more experience they acquire, the greater their relative disadvantage.

    The low status of women, although confirmed in the findings of study after study, has not been generally acknowledged, and conventional attitudes which have served to justify the status quo, have gone unchallenged. It is time for the profession to examine and discuss this major issue, to explore the causes of the problem, and to develop specific action programs designed to improve the status of women in librarianship. Toward this end it is important to consider both professional goals and individual needs.

    One commonly used explanation for the low status of women (even though, paradoxically, their unequal status is barely recognized) is that women have divided loyalties between their professional and personal commitments. Women, it is claimed, are unstable employment risks because they may leave their positions for marriage or family reasons; and indeed, they frequently do. In the present study, for example, one out of seven women academic librarians had left library work for these reasons for six months or more, although they had later returned to library employment.

    This is a very real problem, both for the library profession, which loses trained manpower temporarily, and in some cases indefinitely; and for the individual women whose future careers may be handicapped as a result of their temporary withdrawal from professional work. When women leave their library jobs to marry or deal with family responsibilities, they are likely to do so at just that point when their careers are becoming established. When they return to work, they are likely to find that they have been overtaken by others who have continued their careers.

    A somewhat similar problem, and one which may be less widespread but more difficult to overcome, relates to job mobility. A recent survey of special librarians has shown, for example, that those who are able to move can and do earn more than those who are not.

The lack of mobility which characterizes married women (in contrast to men and single women) may operate as a restraint upon career advancement. At the same time, worthwhile employment opportunities may remain unfilled, and trained manpower, which may be available generally, cannot necessarily be channeled where it is most needed.

    Drop-out and job mobility patterns each have ramifications for the profession as a whole, as well as for the status of individual practitioners, yet the nature and extent of these problems have not been fully examined, nor have attempts been made to mitigate them. Whatever their real effects, however, and these must be studied and recognized, discriminatory attitudes have certainly served to reinforce existing inequalities.

    Thus, for example, men are considered more reliable employment risks than women, although they are more likely than women to leave their positions for other opportunities. High turnover rates may indeed have serious effects upon the stability of library operations, but how high they are, and whether it is the women who are most culpable has not been demonstrated. Where men leave one position for another, for example, the disruptions may be particularly strongly felt, for men are more likely to hold administrative positions and thereby to be responsible for library policy and planning. Turnover in these positions may have more harmful effects in the long-run than changes in personnel at the lower levels. Moreover, because some women may withdraw from their employment for overriding personal commitments, women in general are held accountable for inhibiting "the development of solid, long-range programs,"

and prejudice against women who do not marry probably exceeds even that which is expressed against women who do.

    Women's marital status (whether they are married or unmarried), as well as various personality characteristics which have been attributed to women, have been used repeatedly to justify their unequal position. Yet an important previous study of academic librarians found that "the failure of women to be promoted to the better paying positions or to headships of libraries cannot be attributed to any general lack of personality qualifications among women as compared to men."

    We are all familiar, too, with the rationalization that single women require less remuneration than men who may have families to support; and with the claim that married women need only pin money, anyway. Women as a group have traditionally been underpaid and used as a source of cheap labor supply. At the same time, their low salaries have been taken to signify their low value.

    The point here is simply that we have been all too willing to accept the low status of women and even to allow various rationalizations to serve, in effect, to legitimize discrimination. Although the specific rationalizations may have changed somewhat with the times, discriminatory attitudes continue to prevail.

    The problems of women in librarianship are greater, rather than less, than we had imagined. Equal opportunities for women have not been provided and ". . . the best possible use of womanpower has not been achieved."

Serious efforts to restructure this situation are long overdue. The library manpower shortage has highlighted the need to utilize all our professional resources to their full potential. Perhaps this will encourage a commitment to improve the status of women in the profession.

Reproduced, with permission from Library Journal, © copyright Library Journals, LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Media Source Inc.

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