I was asked once in a job interview what my husband thought of me applying and whether, as the mother of two young children, I could handle the position.
That was in 1992, three decades after the dawn of the modern women's movement, 20 years after Title IX threw open competitive sports to girls and women, and 28 years after Congress banned discrimination on the basis of sex and race.
Not surprisingly, they offered the job to a man, so I didn't have the pleasure of turning them down.
Washington has long been ahead of most of the country when it comes to gender equity. Our state passed women's suffrage in 1910, a decade before the nation, after a united campaign by women, labor unions, and the Grange. We're the only state with women serving as Governor and in both U.S. Senate seats. And a recent report from the University of Albany found that Washington was one of five states where women occupy high-level government posts in numbers about equal to their percentage in the population.
We know there are vestiges of old attitudes and occasional acts of active discrimination. But we generally assume the job market is pretty open these days, with both women and men able to follow non-traditional careers.
This summer, researchers in my office have been studying changes in men's and women's employment since 1990. I expected we'd find growing gender equality in types of work. Instead we found most workplaces continue to be predominately of one sex.
Even more surprising, the average monthly pay of Washington women has declined from 68 percent of men's in 1990 to 64 percent in 2007. Last year, women on average took home $1,672 less than men each month, even though women's median hourly earnings had increased by then to 81 percent of men's.
Today, women make up about half of Washington's workforce. There have been some positive changes in employment patterns. For instance, the number of women in construction has tripled since 1990. That raises the percentage of women construction workers, but to just 16.5 percent.
But in the fast growing field of software publishing, women's share of jobs fell from 40 percent in 1990 to 26 percent. Aerospace manufacturing jobs, through ups and downs, have remained about one quarter female.
In all three of these fields women at least have made big strides towards wage parity. Still, their average earnings remain considerably less than men's.
Women continue to dominate health care jobs, holding 79 percent today. That's little changed since 1990. And while there may be more women doctors and dentists and more men in support positions now, women's earnings in health care relative to men's have barely budged, from 59 percent to 60 percent.
I asked my son which type of employer he thought was most gender-segregated. An acute social observer, he guessed correctly