Society has always tried to isolate women from the contributive tasks by doubting their capabilities of performance and competitiveness. This gender is considered suitable for specific work like household chores. For society, a woman is a mother, wife, and daughter. She is deemed to be lacking in tactics of dealing with the sharp and political world of men.
The discrimination practices against women were most prominent in the early periods, which have changed to a certain extent with the passage of time. However, there were many reasons why women were considered to be less competitive.
The lack of education, training, and exposure made women unfit for the job market. The point of consideration, though, is the vicious circle it involved. Women were not allowed to be educated in the first place due to societal factors, and then their lack of education made them non-competitive, and the circle continues.
Then the time required the society to change its tune. With industrialization, opportunities for men opened up, and in the late 1800s, one occupation that became prominent for women was teaching. The reason, however, was not really the acceptability of women. Rather it was the shifting of men to other better earning and high-status occupations. The wage differentials did not escape this profession as well. The gap was less in rural areas, but still, women suffered even in the occupation which had women majority. (Boyle, p1)
In the late 1800s, besides this profession, women scarcely had any other options. Men could adopt medicine, law, manufacturing practices, etc., as their professions which certainly were not the career options available to women.
Women bore many hardships in their different fields of life. In an effort to put that to an end, different women movements started which fought for the rights of women and their competence with respect to jobs and wages. These were referred to as the Women’s Suffrage movements. When these movements were started, the primary objective was to help a woman get a position in the society which is above their current status of merely being a household individual.
Initially, the movements revolved mainly around striving for the attainment of social rights such as the right to vote. The right to vote was thought to be an instrument that would help in the future to reach other goals. Along with these, anti-discriminatory struggles also started. However, more focus on discrimination at the workplace only became prominent once the other central issues got resolved.
In the late 1800s, unions were strongly fighting for the rights of men. However, there were no associations for women. In 1869, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony formed an association called “The National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA)’. This organization fought for justice and an end to the discriminatory practices in jobs. For their struggles, Stanton and Anthony are considered pioneer theoreticians of the 1800s. (Eisenberg and Ruthsdotter, p1)
The movements faced much opposition as they were aiming at changing the mindset of the society for which society was certainly not ready. The conventions to fight for the rights of women continued and with time got some success as well.
In 1920, when the right to vote was granted to women, the attention was directed to the other issues that were in the pipeline. The workplace problems were one of them. The Women’s Bureau of the Department of Labor was formed to address these issues. To ensure women should have equal rights as those of men, Alice Paul, in 1923, drafted an equal rights amendment for the constitution as well. However, it raised many controversies and took a long period to get passed in the Congress. (Eisenberg and Ruthsdotter, p1)
In 1960s, another round of movements started. In 1961, President Kennedy, when convinced by Esther Peterson (Director of Women’s Bureau of the Department of Labor), started efforts to investigate discrimination practices. (Eisenberg and Ruthsdotter, p1)
The hard work paid off. The Equal pay Act of 1963 was passed that required to eliminate the wage differentials which are based entirely on the gender of an employee. Another act, passed in 1964, was called ‘Civil Rights Act. This is considered to have brought tremendous changes. It addresses different discrimination issues and how an employer should avoid these. (DeCenzo and Robbins, p62, 81)
In 1966, Betty Friedan, along with others, found the National Organization for Women (NOW). This organization worked on eradicating many problems which were faced by women. There used to be prominent segregation of jobs for both genders. ‘NOW’ worked on the equalization of opportunities for women.
No one could deny the importance of education if women have to step forward in the competitive world and therefore, Title IX in the Education Codes of 1972 was included. The access to higher and professional education, which was either not allowed or deemed unsuitable for women before, was now considered to be a practice which needs to be followed. This increased the number of women in different professions such as medicine, law, engineering, athletics, architects, etc. (Eisenberg and Ruthsdotter, p1)
Many of these acts and laws were actually the result of struggles of different organizations which were fighting for the rights of women. Although, the problems and oppositions faced by these organizations were endless, nevertheless, it seems their efforts did come to fruition to a large extent.
The results of these movements are evident in the high participation rates of women in all fields. In 2007, 46% of the total U.S. labor force was comprised of women, and this is expected to increase in the future. In high-paying jobs, the percentage of women was also remarkable. (U.S. Department of labor, 2007)
There is no doubt that there have been huge changes in the approach of the society with respect to the role of women if the comparison is made with the situation in the late 1800s. There are now more career opportunities available to women. The increased awareness and education allow them to work in all fields, to accept challenges and to compete with men. There are even certain professions which have become female-oriented due to the specialized skills of women.
Additional advantage was brought about by the concept that prevailed in organizations according to which diversity in workforce brings along increased productivity. It is believed that this diversity gives a mixture of skills and knowledge of a large customer base. These financial, marketing and other benefits associated with diversity compelled the organizations to hire more women than they previously were willing to recruit. (McInnes, p1)
This increase of women participation rate in the workforce does not really mean the end of all the problems. Even after the protests, efforts and changes that were brought about, it seems that the struggle will continue on. The major issues with respect to job discrimination have not still been settled down. Wage gaps, priorities, harassments, barriers to promotions, etc in different organizations are still been experienced by the females.
Glass ceiling, which is described as an invisible barrier, continuously pushes back females from reaching the top positions in organizations. This clearly shows the lack of belief in their competitiveness. There are still many professions which are male-oriented. When the two candidates of different genders are on the same position and are expecting a promotion, the chosen one is always a male. When the two people are in the same positions, men get higher pays. Husbands still consider their working wives a threat if their wives are getting higher salaries. (DeCenzo and Robbins, p81)
How long will this struggle continue? When will women get their rights? This is a question that probably no one can answer. The societal beliefs prove to be change-resistant. It seems that the movements and the laws are not sufficient. Women still face many hindrances in pursuing their careers successfully and still are not paid equally.
Nonetheless, the efforts were not completely futile. They at least helped raise the hopes of women. Alice Paul, a women activist, once said, “I always feel the movement is sort of a mosaic. Each of us puts in one little stone, and then you get a great mosaic at the end” . The end has certainly not come yet, and a lot needs to be done to make the job market an equal opportunity for both genders.
Boyle. “The Feminization of Teaching in America”.2004. Massachusetts institute of technology. Web.
Decenzo, Robbins, Fundamentals of Human Resource Management. Eighth edition (pg 62, 81). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley&Sons,Inc, 2005.
Eisenberg, Ruthsdotter, “Living the Legacy: The Women’s Rights Movement 1848 -1998.” History of the movement 1998:1. National Women’s History Project. Web.
McInnes, “Workforce Diversity: Changing the Way You Do Business.” 2000:1. Web.
U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment and Earnings, 2007 Annual Averages and the Monthly Labor Review. Web.