Women's Rights in US Social Policy

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20th May 2019 Sociology Reference this

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Women’s Underrepresentation

Although the rights of women have improved immensely since its original Suffrage Act, a massive issue regarding the predisposed disadvantage that women are given just because of their gender is still prevalent. The amount of opportunities and avenues available to women has expanded but still proves to have a “glass ceiling”. Ellen Futter, president of the American Museum of Natural History and former president of Barnard College in New York City, said [“Currently, young women have the chance to pursue jobs and careers in all fields, yet they remain restricted to training and entry level.”] In 2010, Women were found to be either sole, primary or co-breadwinner in six out of ten American families, a fact that exposes a major issue with the wage gap between men and women. Former Vermont Governor and Deputy Secretary of Education Madeleine Kunin said, “We’ve made tremendous progress…but the earning power of women is still considerably lower than that of men.” This state of imbalance has fueled feminists and liberals’ minds alike to fight for a solution. The battle has been going on since 1920 but even nearly a century later a common ground has not been established.

According to the American Progress Report, “Women earn on average seventy-seven cents for every dollar earned by men”. Women are excessively populated in the lowest-paying jobs such as clerical/ secretarial or labor and lack representation in higher-ranking professions. In the educational sector, “women are a minority in terms of faculty rank, salary, prestige, and status are men.” In efforts to resolute the epidemic of inequality on April 8, 2014, otherwise, known as Equal Pay Day, President Obama signed two executive orders: [One of which “Prohibits federal service providers from penalizing employees for sharing their salary information with co-workers”. The other directed the Labor Department to create new regulations that require federal contractors to report salary data, including gender and race breakdowns to the agency.] All which sound promising however according to the Panam Post and several other journals, this was heavily frowned upon because it “does more harm than good.” Consequences included bad labor market regulations and for some places, hostility in the workplace.  Unfortunately, there were many holes in this deal one of which being the age requirement for this deal excludes today’s millennial generation. The stipulations of the Affordable Care Act force newer generations to contribute to their elder’s retirement. Millennials will be paying for the older generation’s social security and retirement but when the time comes for them (Millennials) to retire, there won’t be any money left. The attempt to convert minimum wage into a “living wage” for all was well-intentioned but wasn’t properly thought out. Obama’s actions that were meant as another step toward gender equity became another reason that those who are “far right” preferred to not even go down this road.

Another issue that was brought up was the Pink Tax, an additional invisible fee tacked onto women’s products in comparison to their counterpart’s. Not only are women shortchanged with each paycheck, but they endure inflation of basic products just because of its gender specificity. At this rate, women require a higher living wage than men, yet they still get paid less. Some companies claim that women are paid less to cover certain events such as maternity leave or child related events. However, being a mother is a job by itself and although there can never be an exact price breakdown on how much it costs to raise a child, corporations still try. What is purely unjustified is that this role of “stay at home mom” and “working man” was created by society and when women derail from that lifestyle and try to join the workforce in a way they are still punished.

In 2010, according to the American Progress Report,” women represented only 43.2 percent of the executive, scientific and technical services sector and 8.9 percent of the construction sector. Twenty-four percent of the CEOs in the US were women and they earned just 74.5 percent as much as males.” In 2013, Women held less than 15 percent of senior positions among Fortune 500 companies and 17 percent for the Board of Directors’ seats. Time and time again are men receiving opportunities over their female counterparts in jobs across the board, the military recently being the most controversial. Due to certain restrictions and requirements, women are prohibited from holding many positions in the military. Jena McGregor, a Washington Post journalist, believed in the idea of equality for women in the military and claimed that such restrictions limited women from reaching their fullest potential. In her 2012 May article, “Military Women in Combat: Why Making It Official Matters”, McGregor points out that for every fourteen thousand jobs offered there are 250 thousand that are closed off and not available to women. Some claim that women are not as physically strong or lack the frontline experience for these jobs, but the fact of the matter is that woman are constantly being underestimated and automatically grouped under the same sexist opinion. Several women who are well qualified for these jobs shouldn’t have to deal with the red tape that a man wouldn’t even have to face. Plainly put, these brave women were being held back because of gender bias, an issue that applies all aspects of life.

In the film industry according to Forbes’ 2016 May issue of the top-earning actors and actresses shows that Jennifer Lawrence, who made $46 million, earned only about 71% of what Dwayne Johnson earned at $64.5 million. If the lists were combined Lawrence would be moved from 1st to 6th. The same fact applies to athletes. In Glamour magazine’s July issue Serena Williams commented, “I’ve been working…playing tennis since I was three years old. And to be paid less just because of my sex — it doesn’t seem fair…” She goes on stating her concerns for her daughter who will “[grow up feeling that she will never be able to compete with men no matter how hard she works.]” Too many little girls are intimidated and discouraged by the mere fact that society constantly prioritize men over women and never view both as equals.

On the other hand, we must realize that women have already made tremendous progress in the past century, paving the way for themselves, pushing through expectations. A woman’s “job” in the United States has changed considerably over the past few decades. Increasing numbers of women have taken on new responsibilities outside the home by joining the employment realm. Women have gone from making up a mere third of the workforce in 1969, women today make up almost half of all workers in the United States. Women are also stepping up in an official and political standpoint. From Hillary running for president to a record number of women running for public office in 2012, and record-high percentages of women serving in Congress. Companies like Amazon have started paying women 99.9% of men’s wages. Wages across the board are increasing. If employers instituted workplace flexibility in terms of hours and locations, the gender gap in pay would be considerably reduced and might vanish altogether.

Despite the smaller issues such as a better paycheck, we must view this at a broader perspective. In other countries, women aren’t allowed to work and generally don’t have rights at all. They are kept as property and often sold and traded for business mergers. Compared to them, our society’s issues with women about cyber and verbal persecution for wearing too little or more commonly known as “Slut-shaming”, seems small while other countries are murdering for the same reason. Although women’s equality will forever be a controversial issue and may take several more years to achieve true impartiality, women have proven to be strong and will continue to persevere despite the obstacles put in their way. As Maya Angelou put it passionately in her liberal poem Still I Rise women continue to prevail and “rise like air” and allowing an oppressor (whether that be on a political standpoint, in the workplace or simply in society) to hinder them from breaking that glass ceiling will never be acceptable. Women have already broken so many barriers and in an ever-changing world, things can only go up from here.

Works Cited

  • Barber, S. (n.d.). Woman’s Suffrage History Timeline. Retrieved from https://www.nps.gov/wori/learn/historyculture/womens-suffrage-history-timeline.htm
  • Chu, A., & Posner, C. (n.d.). The State of Women in America. Retrieved from https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/women/reports/2013/09/25/74836/the-state-of-women-in-america/
  • Coleman, I. (2017, June 13). The Payoff from Women’s Rights. Retrieved from https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/2004-05-01/payoff-womens-rights
  • Epstein, R. (2014, April 22). The Many Problems With “Equal Pay”. Retrieved from https://panampost.com/valerie-marsman/2014/04/22/the-many-problems-with-equal-pay/
  • Kane, S., & McCabe, S. (n.d.). Women in the U.S. Today. Retrieved from http://www.scholastic.com/browse/article.jsp?id=4975
  • May, A. (2016, August 26). Women’s Equality Day: How equal are women in 2016? Retrieved from https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2016/08/26/womens-equality-day-how-equal-women-2016/89396664/
  • McGregor, Jenna. “Military Women in Combat: Why Making It Official Matters.” From Critical Thinking to Argument. Barnet, Bedau. Boston: Bedford, 2005. 33-35. Print.
  • Wang, W., Parker, K., & Taylor, P. (2014, April 10). Breadwinner Moms | Pew Research Center. Retrieved from http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2013/05/29/breadwinner-moms/

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