Washington has always provided opportunities for white-collar professionals. The government serves up a steady stream of jobs that are oriented toward the social sciences. Nowadays, those jobs attract more women, who cluster in social-science or arts-oriented studies and are graduating from college at higher rates than men. The city is home to several major universities, a key factor in upping women’s labor participation. Women also tend to have the kinds of attributes—diligence, good manners, smarts—that make them easy hires.
“Washington is one of those markets where it’s really all about your talent,” said Leslie Hortum, who manages the D.C. office of Spencer Stuart, an executive search firm.
But a National Journal online survey of 717 women professionals and nearly two dozen interviews with women across the spectrum of policy and politics found that D.C. is a tough town, and it’s even tougher for women. Almost three-fourths of the women surveyed (73 percent) said that men have more opportunities to get ahead than women. Half said they had personally experienced discrimination at work because of their gender. Older women told NJ that the path is easier now than when they started out. But women still have a long, long way to go.
Sixty percent of the respondents said that it is harder for women than for men to attain positions of leadership. Yet almost the same number of women (65 percent) said they believed they could advance as far as their talents would take them, regardless of gender.