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Current statistics show that as it stands now there is legal equality between people of all races and gender in the United States. It seems that although we live in an age where there is legal equality between men and women, there still exist a strong “internal discrimination” against women in the workplace. The attitudes and beliefs held by men in the workplace prevent women from succeeding hence leaving them on the bottom of the corporate world’s ladder.
Implementation by law
Equality in the work place was made mandated by implementation of the Equal Pay Act of 1963. It does not allow the discrimination based on sex, between men and women who work for the same organization and who do jobs that demand same skills, responsibility and effort and are performed in similar environments. It also does not allow wage discrimination between the two genders (Beinum, 67).
The Civil Right Act of 1994 primarily talks about the civil rights of Americans. In one of its clauses, it also prohibits discrimination of workers in their places of work based on their ‘sex’. It also provided for equal employment opportunities for both men and women and creates a commission that reviews complaints in that regard. However, this commission did not have any relevant enforcement powers. In addition, this Act motivated many women to join universities and further their education. Women took up more roles in the corporate world. There were now more women doctors and lawyers than just teachers and nurses (Matlin, 34).
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All throughout history, women have generally had less legal rights than men; their primary duty was to give birth. However in the 20th century, the women in many nations fought for their rights and their most significant victory was succeeding in having the society change their views on their roles in society. This, in turn, increased their job and educational opportunities (Beinum, 77).
Historically women have always been viewed as intellectually inferior to men, and additionally a source of temptations and evil. For example in Greek mythology, it was a woman, Pandora, who opened a box that was forbidden and consequently unleashed untold evil to the world.
In Christianity, a Latin priest by the name saint Jerome, considered women evil objects and the gateway to hell. He argued that the unique role of women was the conception since according to him; men were better advised and assisted by their fellow men.
Legal status of women
As a result of the myth that presumed men were naturally superior to women, the status of women legally was undermined. Under common law, a woman could own property and had the capacity to sue and be sued. However married women did not have such privileges. Once a woman, was married, she became one with her husband. Thus, her property was merged with his, and it came under his control (Matlin, 134)
However, with the emergence of equity law, there was the emphasis on equal rights for both men and women. This allowed women to own property, but in the case of a divorce, the man would keep legal control of both the property and the children. Some of these laws were seen as restricting to women. Changes were then made, and these restrictions were lessened.
Nevertheless, these restrictions persisted in other fields. Some stores would not offer married women with independent credit cards while divorced or women that ere not married would still have trouble getting credit to buy cars or houses (Beinum, 86).
In 1890, the National American Woman Suffrage was formed when two women groups merged. The activists, however, used a different approach to fight for the women’s rights to votes. The argument they used was different from what they used before. Instead of saying that men and women were equal and deserved equal rights, they argued that women should be voted in because they were different from men. They argued that they could use their domesticity to their advantage when it came to political ventures. This argument worked in their favor in many arenas. It especially helped in winning the middle class vote because they argued that the franchising of white women would help gain and maintain supremacy by honestly earning it (Beinum 96).
“The Quiet Revolution”: a time of change for women
This revolutionary phase of empowering women began in the 1970’s, and it is still continuing. It transformed women in terms of education, employment and family. This phase was characterized by women’s ability to identify with their careers, their evident attachment to their places of work and capabilities to make better joint decisions with their husbands. This encouraged women to choose more challenging careers and more of them became doctors and lawyers instead of taking the easier ones like being nurses and teachers (Matlin, 67).
The current situation
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Years after women started being involved in the workforce, a large percentage of women, 84%, are of the opinion that men are paid more money for doing jobs similar to those done by women. This view is further propagated by government statistics that are of the same view. However two-thirds of the men agree. More than four in every ten women attest to having encountered discrimination personally in their places of work. Both of these views are similar to those that, were deduced, from a survey that was done in 1997 (Beinum, 567).
However even with all of these challenges, most women say that they can be able to strike a balance between home life and work. The percentage of women who are of the idea that women cannot have both a professional life and maintain their homesteads has declined from 78% in 1997 to 66 % in the latest research done. However, the percentage has declined over time and especially that of younger women. Men are of the opinion that sometimes companies go overboard in a bid to ensure equality in the workplace. A number of women are of the opposite view they say that they would go to meetings and offer opinions, and it would be like they were not there. A man however would make the same point, and it would be perceived as a good idea. This they say can be very frustrating (Matlin, 89).
The Bureau of Labor Statistics after performing a study found that women who worked full time earned 79% of what men took home. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research, a study that keeps track of the gap between men and women found that women’s median earnings are lower than those of men in every occupation. The gap might have narrowed in the 90’s, but there has very little change after that.
The rate of promotion for women
In a market economy, promotions are linked with wages. This is because promotions come an increase in wages. The question to ask, however, is whether the probability of getting promoted is equal between men and women with the same qualifications.
A survey perfformed showed that 71% of women professionals felt that they encountered more barriers to getting promoted in the workplace. A further 29% said that gender was their biggest hurdle to getting promoted. The research that was conducted by Microsoft found that 28% of the women who participated in the study thought that prioritizing home life was one of their biggest hurdles in getting promoted. A further 27%, a larger number of whom were below 35 said that there a significant lack in support for working mothers.
The said study explored a wide scope of areas that which included the views of the participant regarding their attitudes and views on the professional networking and development, boardroom politics and attitudes toward promotions and the presumed barriers for women in the workplace. This is illustrated by the low number of women in top positions. There are more male chief executive officers than their women counterparts. The sample included an even number of Irish professionals and the results reflected that, 72% of women professionals were likely to feel that there were barriers to their promotions in their workplace (Beinum, 457)
What is the reason for the gap?
The gap between men and women has existed since time immemorial. This has been caused by a number of reasons. One of these reasons is the stereotype that men are superior and better than women. Regardless of the ardent fights for women rights by different female activists over history did not seek to prove that women were just as good as men. Instead, they sought to prove that women were different from men and that this difference is what made them better suited to take up leadership roles (Matlin, 67).
There is a breed of chauvinistic men who constantly undermine the efforts made by women in their work places. They then constantly seek to prove how unimportant the women and their roles in the organizations are. There is a breed of women who are comfortable taking a back seat and letting their male counterparts take all their leadership roles. They lack the confidence and this make them shy away from taking up challenging courses in the universities, and, as a result, they also do not take up challenging and male dominated careers. There have been reports of lecturers and teachers discouraging women who take up courses that were traditionally thought to be male in universities.
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What is available to change the current situation?
Although there has been a change in the situation since the early 1990’s there, is still a lot that needs for more steps to be taken. Companies need to implement structures that require employers and fellow employees to treat the females in the organization with equal respect as the males. Governments can put in place statutes that make it mandatory for women to hold a certain number of positions in government committees (Beinum, 907). Additionally the government could offer benefits and tax cuts to companies that offer equal job and promotion opportunities to women working in their organizations.
There has been tremendous improvement in the state of things since the early 90’s. This, however, is not enough and more needs to be done. There is still a lot of discrimination against women in the work place, and the rate of promotion for women is slower than that of men. The need to balance their homes and their professional lives is also a huge hurdle for women. Hence a conclusion is drawn that even with all the efforts that have been put in place to improve the stand of women in society, it might be a long time before men and women can be termed as equal (Matlin, 78).
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