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More than 40% of all employed women work in the traditional female ghettos, as salesclerks, secretaries, bookkeepers, receptionists, telephone operators. Their wages are low, averaging $4,700 for sales clerks and $6,400 for clerical workers. Even these jobs are becoming harder to find, as college graduates, including many men, are competing for them in a tight job market.
Sometimes learning more physical blue-collar work can be a way out of the white-collar ghettos. Ann Serrano, 25, was a telephone operator for Pacific Telephone in Inglewood, Calif., a few years ago. Now, after on-the-job training, she has doubled her salary by learning to repair and maintain telephone equipment. "Some men resent it and still don't have confidence in women," she says. "But they will have to recognize that from now on, this is the way it's going to be."
In Los Angeles, Janis Stark, 26, a telephone installer, drags around 60 lbs. of equipment and says that "going up telephone poles was fearsome at first. Now it's second nature." Still less usual is the work of Evelyn Newell, 28; tired of her dead-end job as a railway clerk, she apprenticed as a fireman and attended a locomotive training school, becoming the first woman locomotive engineer in the U.S. With three years' experience, she now earns close to $25,000 annually. The support from the men on the job has been terrific, she says. "There are no conflicts in my life. But it would probably take another railroadman to understand."
Until the weather stalled construction for the winter, more than 3,000 women were working on the Alaska pipeline as craftsmen, clerks, cooks. Adele Bacon, 22, for a time was an apprentice pipefitter on the line. "The men watched their language when I was around," she admitted, "so I had to watch mine." At Prudhoe Bay, petite Kathleen Gotten, 26, was a warehouse checker. Among her duties: helping to get 17,000-lb. sections of pipe moving on rollers as they were being cleaned. The women on the pipeline, although their bedrooms are sometimes side by side with the men's, encountered few problems in coed living. "They're treated just like everyone else," said one electrician. "I walk down the halls in my shorts. If they don't like it, too bad. Most of us are family men. If one guy starts giving a woman a hard time, there are twelve others ready to knock him down. We sort of watch out for them."
One complaint of blue-collar women in several areas is the prevalence of calendar nudes around the shops. A woman working in construction near Seattle was appalled to climb into the cab of a truck and find its ceiling papered with crotch shots. Sometimes the hazards are more serious. Because many men fear women will take their jobs away, there is much hostility. One woman apprentice machinist in Seattle was told by men workers that it was safe to put her hands into a container of acid. She did not. Others in the construction trades complain that they have been given the silent treatment for months.
Breaking into the male unions is often difficult. Says a staff member of San Francisco's Advocates for Women, which places women in nontraditional jobs: "We had a woman who tried to get into the plumbers' union. She went through three tests and finally got to the oral