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History of Women's Rights and the Gender Pay Gap

Info: 2119 words (8 pages) Essay
Published: 20th Feb 2019 in History

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1998 marked the 150th Anniversary of a movement by women. The fight for women’s rights began in the late 19th century. 1917, women could vote, making 2017 the 100th anniversary of the ending for women’s suffrage, or has it? Although we have marched, protested and have the 19th amendment stating our rights, we are still not quite equal. This research will explore the past and current state of women’s pay in the workplace, supported with data. We have made progress, but the problem is still there. The only way to eliminate a global problem such as this, is to fight together, both genders. Men must see women as their coworker and partner, not combatant or slave.

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Elizabeth Cady Stanton wrote what is known as the Declaration of Sentiments, in 1848.
These sentiments stated facts about women, their rights and equality, that we are still fighting today. “When women did work they were paid only a fraction of what men earned” (Ruthsdotter, 1998). This was stated in the early 19th century, yet in what will soon be the 22nd century, some women are still paid this way. Women are still fighting to be considered an equal, a partner, a co-worker and not a combatant. Women prior to the 19th amendment were basically subject to their husbands. Their entire lives were solely based on their husbands. Their income, land, child custody, all other rights, and more were chosen, mandated and or owned by their spouse. 

“In 1920, the Women’s Bureau of the Department of Labor was established to gather information about the situation of women at work, and to advocate for changes if needed. Many women’s activist became involved with campaigning for laws to protect women workers from abuse and unsafe conditions. It took seventy-two years for women and their male supporters to be successful.” (Ruthsdotter, 1998) In 1923, Alice Paul, the leader of the National Woman’s Party wrote the Equal Rights Amendment for the United States Constitution and Congressional Union, followed by the National Woman’s party in 1916. (Ruthsdotter, 1998) We have had many waves of change for women and their rights, but we still aren’t quite equal yet.

We are now allowed to vote, divorce, take full custody of our children, own land, be leaders in religious organizations, be business owners, CEO’s, and file with the courts over domestic abuse. These things and more have shown how far we have come since 1848. The reason for the constant waves of change, and fighting back, is possibly due to men and women alike, can see a woman as more than just a female, with limited ability. Who some only seen her job as a wife, birth children and take care of the home. Women are now seen as fellow human being who deserve respect and the same rights as their male counterpart. Women and men have fought alongside each other for the equality of women; especially in the work place, for many years. If men in the workplace could see women as their partner, and not combatant maybe we would end this wage inequality amongst women.

Many have done research to find why are women paid less than men in the workplace? Two researchers have taken a different approach in their research in women’s lives, that may contribute to the wage gap. One researcher discovered personality and wages have a correlation with wages for men and women. “Women score more highly on agreeableness than men, and because this trait is associated with lower wages in the labour market, men having lower agreeableness represents an advantage. On the other hand, men have a higher average score for intellect than women, and because this trait is rewarded in the wage setting, men’s higher score for this trait also represents an advantage.” (Nyhus, 2012)  

This is profound research, not many people would involve the personalities of men and women and based wages on that. Of course, many will argue that should not be a factor, in the fairness of equal pay for women. Another researcher viewed the correlation of childcare and wages for women. “Countries where society has a positive mindset towards working mothers or about the desire for external childcare for children will provide more childcare, which will result in increases of fertility and female labor force participation and will reduce the wage gap. External childcare reduces the time women put into child rearing which increases fertility and labor supply and this decreases the gender wage gap. If everyone believes that childcare usage will be zero, the use of childcare will be zero, which leads to zero usage. Fertility and female labour supply will be consequently low and the wage gap will be high.” (Borck, 2014)

Borck, could see the importance of having childcare facilities, that will provide care and childrearing for children, so women could work. We often do not think about childcare and afterschool programs to help working women. Borck could prove this in his research. These programs and childcare centers should be seen as positives, this will help lower the wage gap in the future, as long as our society can see the benefit it has on working women.

So how big is the problem? “In 2015, women working full time in the United States typically were paid just 80 percent of what men were paid, a gap of 20 percent (Proctor et al., 2016). The gap has narrowed since 1960, due largely to women’s progress in education and workforce participation and to men’s wages rising at a slower rate. At the rate of change between 1960 and 2015, women are expected to reach pay equity with men in 2059. But even that slow progress has stalled in recent years. If change continues at the slower rate seen since 2001, women will not reach pay equity with men until 2152.” (Hill, 2017) These findings are frightening, if this continues this will have long term financial effects on working women. In 2015, 14 percent of American women ages 18–64 were living below the federal poverty level, compared with 11 per- cent of men. (Hill, 2017)

So, what is causing it? So far researchers are discovering it is a combination of, occupation, higher education, and industry choices. If a woman chooses a low-paying cashier position and another chief executive that also contributes to the data of women with low wages.  “Of the overall U.S. gender pay gap of 24.1 percent in base pay, we find that 16.2 percent is “explained” by differences between male and female workers: different ages, levels of education, experience, industries, occupations, company sizes and locations. The remaining 7.9 percent of the pay gap is “unexplained,” due either to factors we aren’t able to observe or to workplace bias and discrimination.” (Chamberlain, 2016)

Warren Farrell listed his top 5 positions that he believes will keep women employed, if they chose something that isn’t always in the office and neat, but sometimes messy and includes heat. “In brief, technology is not job security, but career security. Career security matters more than job security, and both can matter more than the exact amount you are paid.” (Farrell, 2005)

 The Field-with-Higher-Yield Formula: One to Five

  1. Choose a field in technology or the harder sciences, not the arts or social sciences (pharmacology vs. art history)
  2. Get hazard pay without the hazards (female adminstratior in air force vs. male combat soldier in army)
  3. Jobs requiring little education, those that expose you to the heat and are possibly messy pay more than those that are indoors and neat (UPS deliverer vs. receptionist)
  4. In most jobs with higher pay, you can’t mentally check out at the end of the day (corporate attorney vs. librarian)
  5. Fields with higher pay often have lower fulfillment (tax accountant vs. child care professional)  (Farrell, 2005)

Is it possible that women could be limited themselves from higher paid positions? Part of the answer is yes, while the other part is no. Yes, If women constantly take on low-paying jobs and not attempting to obtain a higher education, they will only help with the negative statistics. No, if women as a collective whole, began to earn college degrees and experience in male dominated industries, yet still paid a lower salary, the fight will continue. There are also women who have higher education, yet are still paid less due to no child care, working part time and other family related issues.

Doctor Anne Montgomery watched her pay change at various times in her career as she made sacrfices for her family. She runs a family-medicine residency program in Rancho Mirage, California. She cut back to about three-fourth’s of her full time so she could care for her son.”I actually pretty much worked full time my whole career,”She continues. “I only got paid for part time.” In 2009, she was earning $170,000 a year as a full-time faculty physician in Spokane, Washington. She was thrilled to get a $30,000 raise but it only brought her more in competition with a newly hired male colleague who had aggressively negotiated.

Her husband Glen Stream; who is also a doctor, had an easier time climbing up the income ladder. He negotiated his pay and eventually earned a $275,000 base salary as chief medical-information officer of a Spokane multispecialty group. In 2012, his earnings reached $400,000 when he made $190,000 as the American Academy of Family Physicians’ president plus three-fourths of his executive salary. Last year, Dr. Montgomery earned $303,000, while her husband, earned $364,000. (Adamy, 2016)

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In conclusion, Dr. Montgomery’s story shows that even in white collar professions, women are still having a great disadvantage compared to their male counterparts. Often women are still seen in the same light as they were in 1848, before the 19th amendment took place. What if men began to take on the role as the “stay at home dad” and women were the bread winners? Would it matter? Would it hurt us as a society? I do not believe it would. Our society has been fed through media for over a 100 years about a woman’s place in our society. Dictating what constitutes as a female job and male job. Who came up with what our jobs are suppose to be? I believe as women and men we need to eliminate what constitues as a specfic gender job.  If we eliminate the labels, and allow men and women to work where they will be their best, we can start to make more progress. If we could stop seeing women as unreliable due to child rearing, and believeing they can only work so many hours, do only certain jobs, and base salary on their personality traits, child care, etc. We can possibly elimnate the gender wage gap sooner.


Adamy, J. &. (2016, May 18). Pay gap widest for elite jobs — women in white-collar careers see biggest gender disparity, defying legislative remedies. Retrieved from Wall Street Journal: http://search.proquest.com.bakerezproxy.palnet.info/docview/1789404832?accountid=8473

Borck, R. (2014). Adieu Rabenmutter-culture, fertility, female labour supply, the gender wage

gap and childcare. Journal Of Population Economics, 27(3), 739-765. doi:10.1007/s00148-013-0499-z

Chamberlain, D. A. (2016, March). Demystifying the Gender Pay Gap . Retrieved from Glassdoor: https://research-content.glassdoor.com/app/uploads/sites/2/2016/03/Glassdoor-Gender-Pay-Gap-Study.pdf

Farrell, W. (2005). Why Men Earn More : The Startling Truth Behind the Pay Gap–and What Women Can Do About It (1st Edition ed., Vol. 1). New York, NY, USA: American Management Association International.

Hill, C. (2017, September 20). The Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap. Retrieved from The American Association of University Women (AAUW): http://www.aauw.org/research/the-simple-truth-about-the-gender-pay-gap/

Nyhus, E. K., & Pons, E. (2012). Personality and the gender wage gap. Applied Economics,

44(1), 105-118. doi:10.1080/00036846.2010.500272

 Ruthsdotter, B. E. (1998, January 01). History of the Women’s Rights Movement. Retrieved from The National Women’s History Project: http://www.nwhp.org/resources/womens-rights-movement/history-of-the-womens-rights-movement/


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