The role of women in our society gets two no-nonsense examinations in PBS programming, and the grades are mixed. The Women's Decade: Beyond Beginnings (PBS, Wednesday, Dec. 18, 10-11 p.m., check local listings), anchored by Susan Stamberg, host of NPR's ``All Things Considered,'' looks at women all over the world to evaluate the changes of the past 10 years.
While there are many gains, mainly in the areas of literacy and jobs, the fact is that women everywhere still have little or no voice in government. And while there are more jobs for women, many of the jobs still do not pay the same to women as to men. And both men and women suffer in times of economic depression.
At the start of the decade, women's expectations about themselves were changing, and it was essential for the nations of the world to do something to recognize that. Most did. The program counts on knowledgeable, outspoken women like Germaine Greer to make it clear that nothing is going to happen unless women do it for themselves. And this program pinpoints what women are doing for themselves.
Chock-full of articulate women of the world voicing their varied feminist-humanist stances, the program stresses that women throughout the world have gone on with their lives while improvements on many but not all levels were going on.
Wherever they are, Ms. Stamberg stresses, women are the poorest segment of the population. This program, like the organized Decade of Women programs, is an attempt to go beyond rhetoric. But it is difficult to come up with meaningful figures, since women in industrialized nations live under very different conditions from women in third-world countries. Portions of a British documentary, ``The Impossible Decade,'' are used to examine various women's experiences through chatting with individual women -- p robably the best way to determine the facts accurately.
Some facts pinpointed by Ms. Stamberg:
Although half of the world's population are women, less than one one-hundredth of the property is owned by women.
Women do two-thirds of the world's work and receive one-tenth of the world's income.
On an average, women still earn less than two-thirds of men's pay for the same jobs.
A production of WETA/Washington, produced by Sue Ducat, ``Women's Decade'' is a straightforward, fact-filled documentary that makes no secret of its own point of view. With fair yet skillful use of animation, well-documented facts, and fascinating film footage, it avoids becoming a mere one-sided polemic and proves to be solidly informative.
The final part of the program reports on the 1985 UN Conference of Women in Nairobi, Kenya. It was the largest international gathering of women in this century and narrowly missed being destroyed by the political debate on Zionism. Although some women who attended were disappointed with the results, there was a growing universal awareness that women must unite to gain their rights. `Windows on Women'
The conclusion of the UN Decade for Women (1975-1985) is celebrated with a sampling of public television's best documentaries and dramas of the past decade that dealt with women's rights: Windows on Women (PBS, Friday, Dec. 20, 10-11 p.m.). It includes scenes from such award-winning shows as ``Nova,'' ``Frontline,'' and even ``Masterpiece Theatre.''
According to host Ruby Dee, the most significant achievement of the decade has been ``the emergence of an international women's movement, which continues to pursue equality and more opportunities.''
Included in the program are candid interviews with Jane Fonda, Jeane Kirkpatrick, and Winnie Mandela.
``The Women's Decade'' and ``Windows on Women'' make it apparent that although this has been a decade in which women have begun to be portrayed more honestly in commercial series television, there is still much to be accomplished in the real lives of women all over the world. Both of these programs are performing a public service by making certain that word of the advances, as well as the work still to be done, are widely disseminated among women . . . and men, too.