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Cabarrus Magazine

Wonder Women! You've Come a Long Way, Baby?

Jan 09, 2015 01:46PM ● By Jason Huddle

LAST MONTH, WHILE THE LITTLE ONES VIEWED A CLASSIC CHRISTMAS TELEVISION SPECIAL, DONNER RESPONDED – IN A VERY DEEP AND AUTHORITATIVE VOICE – TO HIS WIFE, WHO ASKED TO HELP SEARCH FOR THEIR SON, RUDOLPH, “NO, THIS IS MAN’S WORK.” THE YEAR? NINETEEN SIXTY-FOUR.

 

On the heels of the Civil Rights Movement, the Vietnam War, Neil Armstrong walking on the moon and Richard Nixon being elected president came the Women’s Liberation Movement. Most prominent as icons for the crusade were Gloria Steinem, and Betty Friedan. They and thousands of American women got their voices heard through rallies and protests.

“The women’s movement of the ‘70s was in part a reaction against the type of happy homemaker that was often portrayed in television sitcoms of previous decades,” workforce.com says. “Like it or not, girls growing up in the ‘50s would have been exposed to role models such as the housewives in Leave It to Beaver, The Donna Reed Show and Father Knows Best – women whose career goals were getting the kids off to school and serving dinner on time.”

What was once a necessity – World War II-era America needing women to fill the large number of job vacancies – created a new niche that would not go away; women were going to work. Then 1970s American families found that a single paycheck didn’t afford them a middle-class lifestyle, so Mom got a job.

The movement was an effort to assert that women could work in fields that were, at that time, dominated by men and that they deserved equal pay for doing the same job. Stereotypes still remain with respect to the jobs held by women...dental assistants: 96.3 percent are women; secretaries: 95.9 percent; and registered nurses: 91.2 percent.

The graph on page 6 outlines this more thoroughly. The figures are a comparison between the 1970 U.S. Census and the 2006-’10 American Community Survey.

When the Equal Pay Act was passed in 1963, women were earning 58 cents for every dollar earned by a male counterpart. The Civil Rights Act followed, signed in 1964, then the Pregnancy Discrimination Act in 1978. And, in 1993, the Family and Medical Leave Act. But what comes under scrutiny is whether or not these historical pieces of legislation and others have made a far-reaching impact. True, the number of women working rose from 41 percent in 1967 to 60 percent in 1999, but at what price?

Workforce.com says, “Today, women comprise nearly half of the U.S. labor force. While 70 percent of families in 1960 had a stay-at-home parent, now 70 percent of families have either both parents working or a single parent who works. In two-thirds of all households, women are either the main breadwinner or the co- breadwinner, according to the Center for American Progress. In 40 percent of all households, women are the only wage earners. Yet, on average, women in the workplace earn 20 percent less than men doing comparable jobs (currently about 77 cents for every ‘man’s’ dollar).”

To add to the irony, the 2010 census shows that 36 percent of women in the 25 to 29 age bracket had graduated from college while 28 percent of men the same age had. “A December 2011 report by the Harvard Independent states that since 1980 not only are more women than men enrolled in higher education, but also more women graduate with honors,” according to workforce.com. ”Yet, in Fortune 500 companies, women account for just 7.5 percent of top earners, and only 3.6 percent of those companies’ CEOs are women.”

Women are said to have to be able to balance work with home, and they’re often the caregivers for their children and their elderly parents as the Silent Generation and Baby-Boomers age. Our culture dictates that mothers and fathers have certain roles and responsibilities and, even with Mom working too, those roles have not transitioned.

So, while women have made great strides in their quest for professional equality in a man’s working world, there’s still room for improvement. Those that have broken the barriers and established themselves among the corporate elite are commended. It takes patience, persistence and girl power!

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