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The advance of feminism into the workplace

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Sociology
Wordcount: 1671 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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From the beginning of the first wave of feminism following through to the third wave of feminism women in the workforce has changed substantially overtime. From the beginning roles of women staying at home being housewives and there high expectations from men, to the current times of the working mom. With help from legislation a woman entering the workforce has increased. As women entering the workforce started to evolve so did the laws. It started with women gaining the right to vote which increased the education and job opportunity. As times pass the Equal Pay Act was passed that improved economic status of women. There were some barriers such as the glass ceiling act that effected the advancement of women. The most recent law that has affected the working women is the Lilly Ledbetter fair play act. I choose this topic because I think women have came a long way and have gained a lot more independence to go out and work a job with the barriers that were faced.

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Beginning in the first wave of feminism and moving forward times have changed. Women went from being house wives to entering the work force. After the 19th amendment was passed giving the women the right to vote, may have been the opening door to end discrimination. Male politicians were enthusiastic about women’s right to vote and allowing them to hold public office and service or juries. Following the pass of the amendment there was still many struggles to come to gain equality.

The ideal role of women was to get married, have children and stay at home to keep things in order for the family. In another words they were considered a house wife. Betty Friedan who is considered the “god mother” of equality feminism stated that the statement of being a house wife can create a sense of emptiness, non existence, and nothing less in women (Iannone). She felt that the aspect of a housewife role was what made it impossible for women of adult intelligence to retain a sense of human identity and the firm care of herself (Iannone). While the women stayed home the men were responsible for running the country, being head of corporations and being the main provider to the household. There was fear that working women would compete for the men’s job. Women who did work had low paying occupations. Even the females who held the same occupations as men were paid less for doing the same job.

Beginning the 19th century there was and increase in the required educational preparation focusing on the study of medicine. In 1890, women constituted about 5 percent of the total doctors in the US. Not only were more women involved in the study of medicine they also focused on the teaching profession. During the first wave, and focusing on the 1920’s is when things started to happen with women rights. During the 1920’s, 1 in 4 women over the ago of 16 were part of the work force. The number of working women increased by 50.1 percent. As working women continued out in the workforce, they gained little opportunity to advance. They showed there success by demonstrating they were capable of economic independence. (Women’s History in America)

As the times progress and we move through the years into the second wave of feminism women entering the work force seems to increase. Since 1960 more women with children have been forced to work . For women with children under the age of 6, 12 percent worked in 1950, 45 percent in 1980 and by 1987 the amount increase to 57 percent. Over half of the mothers with children under the age of three were in the work force by 1987. During this time from 1950-1980 it was envisioned that women will educate themselves, pick a career path, and eliminate there dependencies on men. Women constituted more than 45 percent of employment in the US by 1989,and only a small share of those decisions making jobs. The numbers for women working as managers, officials, and other administrative has increase in 1989 they were out numbered by 1.5 to 1 by men. Women in 1970 were paid about 45 percent less than men for the same job. In 1988 the percentage for pay decreased to 33 percent less. Professional women did not get the important assignments and promotions given to the male (Women’s History in America).

Women who are not able to pursue a career or who do not earn enough money to have and adequate standard of living are dependent on the government agencies or their husbands for support. In the glass ceiling during the period from 1985- 1986, one out of every four women earned less than 10,000 per year these earnings are less than adequate wages for single mothers. On average women have a lower income even with a degree or certificate than men who have comparable years of work experience without a high school diploma (as sighted in Rhoodie, 1989).

The equal pay act of 1963 is the United States federal law amending the fair labor standards act. This law was aimed to eliminate wage level based on sex. It was signed into law on June 10, 1963 by John F. Kennedy. The law provided that no employers having employees subject to any provision of this section shall discriminate within any establishment where employees are employed, between employees on the basis of sex and paying wages to employees at a rate less than the rate that employees are paid of the opposite sex for equal work on the job (Wikipedia).

By passing the equal pay act the congressional intent was the first step towards and adjustment of balance in pay for women. The Equal Pay Act should be a starting point for establishing pay for women. The impact that this law provided according to the bureau of labor statistics, women’s salaries have increased from 62 percent of men’s earning in 1970 to 80 percent in 2004 (Wikipedia).

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In 1991 the United States Department of labor used a term called the “glass ceiling”. The glass ceiling refers to a situation where the advancement of a qualified person within the organization is stopped at a lower level because of some form of discrimination, most commonly sexism or racism. This situation refers to the ceiling as there is a limitation blocking upward advancement and glass as transparent because the limitation is not immediately apparent and is normally an written and unofficial policy. This ceiling tends to affect working women the most. This barrier makes many women feel as they are not worthy enough to have high ranking positions, or that their bosses do not take them seriously or believe that they could be candidates for growth potential within the work place (Wikipedia).

As we move forward into the more current times, the amount of women in the work place have increased. Today over 46 percent of the work force is women, over 37 percent of business managerial positions and held by women. The economy can’t run with 46 percent of its workforce staying at home. All companies large and small recognize the value that women bring to their companies, and some have proven to run more successfully with working women (Pile). In addition, the average household needs two wages to meet today’s financial needs. Women are following right behind the men with there salaries (U.S. Department of labor). In 2004 women earned 80 percent of there males salaries compared to the 63 percent in 1963 (U.S. Department of labor). The economy can not run with 45 percent of its work force staying at home (U.S. Department of labor). All companies, big and small, recognize the value that women bring to their companies, and some have proven to run more successfully (Pile).

The existence of anti discrimination laws and the high cost of litigation have paved the way for many women to be promoted, and it is rare to find large established companies without written policies that help promote women to managerial positions. But even with the help of plan and anti- discrimination laws, women still run into a glass ceiling. One example is Deloitte and Touche, an accounting firm with a strategic plan to promote women. The firm found out that, although they had been hiring a workforce composed of 33 percent to 50 percent of women out of college annually, they retained a much lesser percentage a decade later. They found that only 14 percent of their partners were women. In the end they found out that women were not leaving because they were not happy with their jobs, they were leaving because the male managers had been favoring the male subordinates, and this frustrated women who were competing for these top assignments (Sommers).

On January 29, 2009, Barack Obama signed into law the “Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act”. This law is intended for fair pay of individual workers regardless of their gender, age, race, ethnicity, religion or disability. This bill is for the women across the country that still are earning 78 cents to every dollar men earn, and women of a different race even less. This means today that women are still losing thousands of dollars in salary, income and retirement savings over the course of a lifetime. This bill was a simple step to fundamental fairness to American workers. (Obama Signs Lilly Ledbetter Act)

Women starting it the first wave had a very rough life starting out. They were confined to the house to raise the children and take care of the men. Women were not allowed to go out and make their own livings. They were to be there for the men and the family. Things starting out like this made it hard for women to enter the work force. Education levels of women were lower than men so therefore there pay was lower and that was something that escalated over time. Fair pay is still something that women face today. With the legislative rights such as the right to vote, equal pay act, and the fair pay act things have came a long way. Women are entering the work force now and making a living.


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