Women in Business
Women are only slightly more successful in reaching the highest levels of business today than they were in the colonial times. With the start of the twentieth century, more and more women carry the desire to have a career outside the home. They would like to get out in the real world and be independent. This is however hard to do considering the average man with a high school degree earns more than the average woman with a college degree (Empowering). However, some women are slowly walking away from the general stereotype of a “housewife” and branching out into the workforce. But, even with the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which states that discrimination in any way is illegal among other things, this is not an easy task to accomplish. Women are supposed to be in the home cooking, cleaning and caring for the family. This is not a bad stereotype considering all the rewards of watching the children grow and taking care of the family. But, whose to say those women can not have a job and still care for the family? Many people in society today still think that a women having a career is not the right way to do things. The woman should not worry because the man will take care of her, i.e.: she is helpless female and incapable of fighting in the real world. With this attitude in mind how can women not be discriminated against in the workplace? The “glass ceiling” is a term used to describe this attitude society has today (Glass Ceiling). The glass ceiling is not simply a barrier based on a person’s inability to handle a higher-level job, but applies to women as a group who are kept from advancing higher because they are women.
“The highest ranking women in most industries are in non-operating areas such as personal, public relations, or occasionally, finance specialties that seldom lead to the most powerful top-managing posts” (Journal 86). 99% of secretaries are women, 93% are bookkeepers, 93% are nurses, and 82% are administrative/clerical workers. Women are simply locked out of jobs in the “business mainstream” (Reskin 97). The route taken by CEO’s and presidents, is a very slim possibility for women and if a woman was able to get a line job, it is not likely to be the type of job that will mark them as leaders. There seems to be little opportunity to reach the top. Many corporate leaders tend to select leaders like themselves, so it is unlikely that a female will move up in the business when promotion time comes around. If a woman is able to become an executive in the company, she is usually excluded from social activities that exist among men at the top. In the Wall Street Journal Gallup survey, women managers were asked what they felt to be the most serious obstacle in their business careers. Only 3% said family responsibilities, but half named reasons dealing with their gender, including: “male chauvinism, attitudes towards a female boss, slow advancement for women, and the simple fact of just being a female.” Men, they say, don’t take them seriously.
This glass ceiling effect that many women are feeling today is quite frustrating. The belief among many women is that the Anti-Discrimination Laws are too lax. The Regan and Bush Administrations seem to have taken away the government’s commitment to affirmative action. As a result, equality is no longer on the corporate agenda. A 1983 survey of 800 business leaders by Sirota and Alphen Associates found that out of 25 human resource priorities, affirmative action for women ranked 23rd (Empowering). While it is a little higher on the list today, it is still somewhere near the bottom. And as if circumstances were not already difficult for women, the Supreme Court has issued several decisions on equal employment that make it harder for women and minorities to successfully bring about discrimination lawsuits. It is “?.. harder for women and minorities to prove discrimination” and “?. easier for those opposed to civil rights to challenge them” (Civil Rights Monitor). So, without pressure from the outside and strong legal actions, the real problems of sex discrimination may never be addressed.
Still feminists continue to fight for change. In the 1920’s they fought to allow more women to work in government positions. And feminists were able to get The Equal Pay Act of 1963 passed which requires employers to pay men and women equally for work performed under similar working conditions. But, perhaps one of the greatest accomplishments in the fight would be Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which became a gateway for outlawing sex discrimination as well. Including women in the Civil Rights Act was an effort by Martha Griffiths in congress that became victorious. The bill was passed on to the Senate, surviving eighty-three days and as a result, sex discrimination is illegal in the workplace (Empowering). But, the feminists were not completely satisfied yet. In 1967 The National Organization for Women was launched into effect. They picketed and lobbied and put tremendous pressure on the EEOC and the government for equal rights. In 1973 with NOW and the help of other feminists, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act was extended to cover employment in educational institutions and government agencies, and the Equal Pay Act was extended to cover professional and executive positions in business (Clayton 13). In 1978, the feminists won passage of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act to prohibit discrimination in employment on the basis of pregnancy. However, although feminists have fought to establish and enforce guidelines and laws prohibiting sex discrimination in employment, there is still a long road to equality. Further gains depend on getting more feminists into decision-making positions and creating new strategies for change.
The changes that affirmative action will bring about will be “good for all”. With everyone’s input the nation will be able to grow that much more and be that much more successful. We cant afford to waste anybody’s knowledge. Women’s problems today are pressing and the challenges are great, but when they are overcome the nation will be much better off. The society’s resistence to the change is partly that a new perspective can be quite disturbing and scary. We tend to want to hang out in the comfort of the old view no matter how dysfunctional it may be. However, our resistence also signals a concern of “it can’t be so easy”, that more is needed than simply putting women in positions of power.
There will be benefits when the changes do come about over time. Several buisnesses and firms will benefit a great deal from the new perspectives of women. Also the pressures men feel by the stereotype they have today will be somewhat repressed. There will not be a full load on the man to carry out the decisions and support the family financially. He will be able to spend more time with his family and not be so left out of the day to day family activities of the household.
From the moment the new model of equality began, women have been striving for their place in the nation’s management and leadership. Perhaps we will be able to solve other serious problems of society as affirmative action grows stronger. Women will someday be able to demonstrate society’s need for them and the folly of of continuing to exclude women and their viewpoint. But, I believe women must show the strengths clearly. They cannot simply sit back and expect to be noticed. For too long women have been the unseen glue that holds society together, the contributions appropriated, distorted and unrewarded. The females of society cannot continue to let this happen. They must step up and make things happen; make men see.