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DESPITE women's advances in education (a majority of college students are women), in politics and law (a vice-presidential candidate, Supreme Court justice), and in working outside the home (the woman's paycheck is now essential in households), sex discrimination continues to hem them in. The National Academy of Sciences has taken the kind of sober, thorough look at the issue of women in the workplace that one would expect of that organization. The report was funded by the Carnegie Corporation and the Departments of Education and Labor. Gains against sex discrimination, evident in the 1970s, will be harder to come by in the future, the academy concludes from its two-year study. Legal and social barriers remain.

Proposed federal civil rights policy changes, which would drop 20-year-old hiring goals for the hiring of women and minority group members under federal contracts, are one factor. But so is the likelihood that jobs growth will occur in fields dominated by one sex -- and the more any field is dominated by women, the lower its average pay.

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Training, promotion, and transfer policies that limit women's work options still require more vigilant scrutiny and review.

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