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Barriers falling for women in many fields

Increasingly, women are moving into fields once dominated by men. And they're pulling even - or even slightly ahead - in the pay they receive.

Take veterinarians. In 1989, less than 2 percent of them were women; today, they account for 43 percent of that profession, according to a recent analysis of federal Bureau of Labor Statistics by the Employment Policy Foundation. During the same period, the Washington-based economic think tank found the female share of bus drivers made almost the identical jump.

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As for certain declining blue-collar jobs (such as crushing- and grinding-machine operators), the increase in women workers was anywhere from seven- to 13-fold.

Female participation also climbed for growing white-collar and service occupations, such as top public administrators (up nine-fold), chemistry teachers and dentists (up four-fold), car salespeople and messengers (up three-fold).

Even the share of female clergy rose from 6 percent in 1989 to 18 percent today.

In white-collar jobs with the largest female influx, young women (aged 25 to 35) who worked full time pulled even with men in terms of pay, the foundation discovered. In fact, they averaged slightly more in the top 10 female-gaining white-collar occupations than men in the same job and age bracket - $823 a week versus $813 a week - but the difference was not statistically significant.

"There really aren't any barriers," says D.J. Nordquist, vice president of the foundation. "Women can choose whatever job they want."

So what professions are women leaving to men? Among the professions women no longer dominate: cooks, sales-counter clerks, and English teachers.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor