Results of Working Women
Questionnaires for Los Alamos
by Wendee M. Brunish
The Los Alamos Women in Science, a chapter of the New
Mexico Network for Women in Science and Engineering,
distributed about 3000 questionnaires to women at the Los
Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), including both UC
employees and contractors. We received a total of 1034
responses. The questionnaires were filled out in late August
and early September 1994. The responses to those
questionnaires are reported below.
Job Description (Questions 1 through 3)
About one-third of the LANL respondents are in
clerical/support positions, and about one-third are
professionals (scientist, engineers, etc.). One-sixth of the
respondents described themselves as technical workers
(technicians, programmers, etc.), while one in ten of the
surveys returned was from a manager. Over 90% said they
had only one paid job, although several mentioned other
unpaid work, as well as school and other commitments.
Two-thirds of the respondents work a 40 hour, but many
mentioned that they often work more than 40 hours without
Personal and Family Statistics (Questions 10, 14 and 15, 17
Approximately a third of the respondents, both locally and
nationally, are between 35 and 44, with another third
younger than 35 and the remaining third 45 and older. 61%
of the LANL respondents are married. 45% of respondents
have children under 18 living at home. Of those with
children living at home, 85% have one or two children, and
over half report that their youngest child is 7 or older. 31%
of the LANL respondents identified themselves as Hispanic,
while only 2% described themselves as Asian, and 4% as
Native Americans. A single questionnaire was returned by a
Black woman. A small but vehement fraction (about 5%)
refused to provide ethnicity information and questioned why
such information was being collected.
Education and Salary (Questions 11 through 13)
Almost sixty percent of LANL respondents have a college or
postgraduate degree, compared with 35% in the national
sample. 26% of the respondents in the national sample earn
between $25,000 and $50,000, compared to 59% at LANL.
The percentage of LANL respondents with salaries over
$50,000 is three times that in the national sample.
III. Workplace Issues
Job Satisfaction (Questions 4 and 6)
Although 18% of the respondents said that they loved their
job, and 54% said that they like it, this compares with a
national response of 21% loved their job and 49% liked it.
When asked what they liked most about their job, the most
frequent response was “good benefits”, followed by “I like
what I do”, “I am productive”, I am paid well”, and “My
hours are flexible”. In the national survey, “I am
productive” was not listed in the top five, instead “I enjoy
the company of my coworkers” was in the top five.
Approximately one-third of the respondents in the national
sample cited flexible hours, while only 27% of LANL
respondents mentioned a flexible schedule. Very few women
cited “authority to get job done”, or job security, possibly
indicating that most are dissatisfied with these things at
Problems in the Workplace (Question 5)
When asked what issues were problems for them at work,
the most serious problems were not getting paid what the
job is worth (46% considered this most serious, very serious
or somewhat serious), too much stress (45%), and worried
about losing their job (37%). In contrast, in the national
survey, the number three concern was getting better benefits.
One quarter of the LANL respondents stated that they knew
someone who had lost a job or promotion because of race or
gender and considered this a serious problem.
Benefits and Opportunities (Question 7)
When asked to rate various aspects of their job, more than
two-thirds said that their vacation and sick leave were
excellent or good. Less than 10% said that their vacation
and sick leave were poor or non-existent, compared with
more than a third of the national sample. Almost two-thirds
rated their health care benefits, retirement benefits and
schedule flexibility as good or better. More than half said
that their pay was at least good, and that their job was
challengingand interesting. More than half said that training
opportunities support for family responsibilities were good
or fair. However, fully 65% of LANL respondents said that
their ability to advance was only fair or worse.
Towards a Better Workplace (Question 8)
When asked to choose which improvements would create a
better workplace, respondents cited improving pay scales,
equal opportunity, and on-the-job training as their top three.
Also considered important was health care insurance for all
employees. LANL women employees also feel that giving
more responsibility to employees for getting their job done
would be an important improvement in the workplace.
Flexible work hours and paid family leave were less
important while student loans were rated significantly less
important. Child care rated very low for the employee
population as a whole, but for those with child care
responsibilities, it rated the in the top six. In comparison
with the national survey, LANL respondents gave a lower
priority to paid leave and health care insurance, and a
slightly higher priority to equal opportunity, on the job
training and increased responsibility for getting their jobs
done. Both national and LANL respondents rated
improving pay scales as very important, regardless of
whether they rated their own pay and benefits as excellent,
perhaps indicating their concern for women less fortunate
9. If you could tell President Clinton one thing about what
it’s like to be a working woman, what would it be?
There were two main messages here. One is that women feel
that gender, racial, and age discrimination, as well as sexual
harassment, are pervasive and have a negative effect on their
careers. They feel that they have little chance for
advancement, and that they do not receive equal pay for equal
work. The second message is that being a working woman
is tough and it is stressful. Juggling the demands of work
and family while battling the above mentioned obstacles
leads many women to feel tired, discouraged and conflicted.
V. Summary of Responses
As in the national survey, the chief concerns of women at
LANL center around being overworked and underpaid.
Women feel, and statistics support their perception, that they
are not paid what their job is worth, and particularly that
they are paid less than men doing equivalent work (U. S.
Bureau of the Census, Current Population Reports, Series
P60-172, Money Income of Households, Family, and
Persons in the United States, 1989). Women are under a
great deal of stress at work, exacerbated by the demands of
family and household responsibilities. At LANL, the stress
is compounded by the perceived lack of job security due to
politically driven funding uncertainties. Women with minor
children are faced with problems in obtaining and paying for
quality child care. (Recently published reports on child care
nationwide indicate that quality child care is indeed very hard
to find.) Nevertheless, most women at LANL like their jobs
and appreciate the excellent benefits they receive, including
vacation and sick leave, health care insurance, and retirement
plans. It should be noted that the contractor population, in
sharp contrast, is very concerned about their lack of or the
inadequacy of benefits. Women at LANL are concerned
about the lack of advancement opportunities, lack of pay
equity, and the persistence of discrimination on the basis of
gender or ethnicity in promotion and hiring.
There are other improvements to the workplace that women
would like to see. These include wider availability of health
care insurance, more opportunities for on-the-job training to
enhance their skills and improve their advancement
possibilities, and more responsibility given to employees
for how they get their job done.
Wendee Brunish is an astrophysicist and project leader for
Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty research at Los Alamos
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