Initially, the first women entering the workplace did so out of desire. In a post feminist, post-civil right era and spurred on by higher levels of education. Women saw jobs and careers as rights that had previously been denied to them. Women were tired of just being “Big Johns Wife” or “Little Johnny’s mommy”. They wanted to be known the way men have always identified themselves by their jobs, their careers, and the level of success to which they had risen. Status, not salary, was the prime mover of the first wave of women to assault the previously all male worlds of medicine, and the corporate citadel
. 1975 The second wave of women entering the job market was motivated less by desire and more by necessity and the need to earn money. Everything cost more now and the amenities of middle class existence can no longer be maintained on a single income. With the rising cost of houses, cars, college, private schools. The economic facts are clear, women must work. Now is the time for women’s equality from Congress to all other government and corporate decision-making levels. With men, we get rhetoric, more problems and no answers, but lots of excuses. In the political arena women are making strides throughout America. Although women elected to positions of prominence do not always take pro-women positions, their presence makes a difference. The transnational company that works within government structures and agencies is in an ideal position to use its home country experience working with women managers, and executives to positively reinforce the role of women in government in those jurisdictions where the company has subsidiary operations. Although there are many examples of the growing numbers of women in Americas government, Most recently it was announced that in Peru, Martha Chavez will serve as South America’s first female president of congress, and in addition to this term in Peru, there are13 women in congress, several women ministers, a woman attorney general, and all three of the Congressional Steering Committee members are women. (Mandel-Campbell, p. 13A).
The changes occurring in the workplace present several sub-trends. One of the most significant is that women are returning to it in large numbers. I use the term returning rather than entering because women comprised a major factor in the workforce during World War II, but was forced out by men returning from the war. Jamieson and O’Mara (1991) project that approximately 50% of the workforce will be comprised of women by the year 2000. Wives came to the rescue of the family in the 1970s and 1980s. Even though male earnings dropped substantially for all but the top 20% of male workers, real household incomes fell only marginally for the bottom 60%, and increased for the top 40%. One third of this increase was a result of a rise in female real annual earnings; however, two-thirds was due to women working more hours per year. Unfortunately, most income earners in the family are now working as many hours as they can. The reentrance of women into the workforce occurred during the transition from the industrial to the information age.
To a large extent, women entering the workplace are immediately faced with the issue of how to adapt to the new workplace environment. As we look at the characteristics of organizations in the industrial-age (e.g., bureaucratic structure, focus on rank and control, mechanistic and impersonal) versus the characteristics of organizations in the information-age (e.g., network structure, focus on connections and knowledge exchange, holistic and personal), I do not think it takes too big a stretch to re-label these columns male and female, masculine and feminine, or at a minimum, masculine and androgynous. Some evidence for this re-labeling comes from statistics on the percentage of women currently working in different occupations. In those areas more oriented to the information and service sectors, women have attained equality and in some cases have dominated certain occupations.
One of the keys to success in the information age is educational attainment. In terms of graduating from high school, women have been keeping up with the increased graduation rate for men for the past three decades. Education is the ultimate key to enhanced positions in the work place, and must be encouraged for women, particularly in newly developing sectors like technology. Some countries are making enormous strides in this respect, and soon well are seeing the results in the marketplace. In Mexico, for instance, as of 1995, nearly half of the students in law schools, medical schools, and accounting schools are women. (Solis, p. B12). It is clear that with real incomes falling, women’s involvement in the workplace is necessary for most families. If work is to meet women’s needs, they need to be involved in economic and social development. They need to run their own businesses. They need to be involved in the training and development of the future workforce. They need to be involved in the highest levels of government and politics. They need to own media. They need to be presidents of universities, superintendents of schools. They need to be so thoroughly enmeshed in the fabric of decision-making and policy that their voices are heard at every turn.
In the last 25 years, we’ve convinced ourselves, and a majority of the country that women can do what men can do. Now we have to convince the majority of the country–and ourselves–that men can do what women can do.
As we move from the agricultural/industrial age to the information age, increased emphasis is being placed on relationships, on empathy and care, on the spiritual and emotional aspects of their lives. Our nation, as well as the world, has been socializing women, who now comprise a major sector of the workforce, for these precise attitudes and skills. We need to listen carefully to what they have to say and allow women full participation in the decision-making and transformational process.
As much as women might like for men to take up the cause of equality or for society to continue to change in ways that lead to equal opportunity for women, that might not happen as rapidly as some women desire. Rather, every woman individually needs to take it upon her to forge ahead, to muster the energy and drive necessary to attain excellence in the workplace, in political life, in religious organizations, in sports, in the arts, and all other areas of human endeavor. Group attainment is based on individual attainment, on the individual striving and growing and changing. Fortunately for all of us, individual women have demonstrated an ability to attain the highest levels of achievement. To the extent that a society and the world continues to move towards individual liberties and economic growth, women should continue to make giant strides on the road to equality. To the extent that economic growth declines or group norms based on obsolete ideals of women’s place in the world are advocated.
In conclusion my predictions for the” future women in the workplace”, is that with the impact of technology. The coming decade will bring more job opportunities. Which will provide better advancement into executive and upper management positions. Women must continue to take a stand for their own independence and equality. With the support of governmental and private support systems, women are being heard. With the impact of technology on society, our future will prove to be similar to that which has been documented throughout history. “Women in the workplace” will continue to exhale.
Women’s Equality Day is August 26.
2000 was the 152nd. Anniversary of the Women’s Rights Movement.
Website: “The National Women’s History Project.”