We Haven't Come Such A Long Way, Gary

Gary Becker's article on "Working women's staunchest allies: Supply and demand' (Economic Viewpoint, Dec. 2) overstates the number of women entering the engineering profession. Unfortunately, this share is not rapidly growing but has been relatively stagnant since the early 1980s, according to the May, 1991, Engineering Manpower Bulletin, "Women in Engineering."

The Society of Women Engineers is actively working to counter this stagnation through a wide variety of programs. Attracting more women to engineering makes sense for employees and employers. Women in the engineering field overwhelmingly report that their profession is respected, their jobs are interesting, and that they do important work.

Increased visibility for the many worthwhile contributions made by engineers to society will help to make this career choice more desirable for both men and women. In order to meet the technical challenges in the business world and ensure that a qualified and trained work force is available in the future, we must train more women and minorities as engineers.

Jill S. Baylor

President

Society Of Women Engineers

Denver

As a 25-year-old female seeking my MBA and studying compensation management, I was appalled at Gary Becker's claims.

To say that women have made "rapid progress in occupations and earnings compared with men since the late 1970s" is completely untrue. In fact, when such variables as experience and seniority are held constant, there has been no significant improvement whatsoever in 20-plus years.

To say that the "glass ceiling" refers to women not being able to get to "the very top" is also inaccurate. In fact, many women are finding it easy to get hired but difficult to move aboveentry level. This is also a "glass ceiling" effect.

To say that "women advanced most rapidly during the Reagan and Bush Presidencies" and therefore civil rights legislation and the women's movement were not responsible for this progress is ludicrous. It shows no respect for women and leaves no doubt about Becker's political leanings.

To claim that unpaid parental leave discriminates against single or childless people and is inefficient is all wrong. It is actually much more efficient to allow a trained, competent employee to have a leave of absence than to force him/her to quit, resulting in hiring and training costs for a replacement. Also, single or childless people should hardly begrudge the new parent who takes this leave. I would hardly call it a benefit to go several weeks without pay while recovering from childbirth and taking care of a newborn. The real benefit comes at the end of the leave, when the parent gets his/her job back and the employer gets the valued employee back. So believe it or not, Becker, having a baby is not exactly a vacation.

Stephanie Kendall

Bloomington, Ind.