< Back to Contents
Men's Working Lives
Women at Work: Values
At the beginning of the century, only about one of twenty physicians, one of a hundred lawyers, and one of a thousand engineers were female. After 1970, however, women flooded into law schools and medical schools, and many moved from the lower rungs of those professions into more prestigious specialties. Even in engineering, the number of women increased dramatically. By 1998, women constituted 29 percent of lawyers, 26 percent of physicians, and 11 percent of engineers. In
1940, the earliest year for which reliable information about the racial composition of individual occupations is available, there were approximately four thou-sand black physicians, one thousand black lawyers, and three hundred black engineers in the entire country.
After the civil rights revolution of the 1960s, the situation changed somewhat. There were proportionately fewer black physicians in 1970 than in 1940, but three times as many lawyers and twelve times as many engineers. Still, they constituted less than 2 percent of their respective professions, and the doctors and lawyers served primarily black clienteles.
Between 1970 and 1997, however, black representation in medicine, law, and engineering roughly doubled. Equally important, most black physicians treated patients of all racial and ethnic backgrounds, and many black engineers worked for large firms. Some black lawyers still served mostly black clients, but many others did not.
At the end of the century, the proportions of women and blacks among students preparing for medicine, law, and engineering were higher than among active practitioners. As a result, the post-1970 trends were set to continue for many years to come. The sharp growth of Hispanic and Asian-American representation in the major professions, which occurred later than for women and blacks, will also persist far into the next century.
For women, see HS series D 233; SA 1997, table 645; and SA 1999, table 675. For blacks, see Stephan Thernstrom and Abigail Thernstrom, Black and White in America: One Nation, Indivisible (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1997), page 187; SA 1997, table 645; SA 1998, table 672; and SA 1999, table 675.