From running for president, making up over half of the workforce, managing some of the world’s most successful companies, and earning almost 60% of university degrees in America and Europe, women’s presence in the workforce is more prominent today than ever. This “economic empowerment of women” is changing the workplace, as we know it. Only 20 years ago, women were viewed as only capable of unskilled jobs and were assumed to place marriage and children before having a career.
In today’s society, women have more opportunities to have power over their lives and chose their career path. In today’s global economy, every country should be utilizing the talents of their women in their workforce. For many countries, this progress has not been the same as America. For example, in Italy and Japan men employment rates are more than 20 percentage points higher and women’s employment rate is still below 50%. On average, women still earn significantly less than men and are a minority in top management. Remarkable Social Change without Conflict
The Economist found three surprising results from the increase of women in the workforce: the lack of privilege felt from women about their new opportunities, unmet expectations of women’s role in the workforce and the lack of resistance from society, especially men. The lack of celebration from women is believed to be because of the economic necessity of women to work. Today, most households are two-income and women have little choice as to whether they want to work or not. Their contribution is the only way for many households to maintain their standard of living after having children.
Also, many young women take this opportunity to work for granted, because they have grown up in a welcoming environment where women were always part of the workforce. Although women are encouraged to enter the work force, only 2% are managers and less than 13% are board members. Men dominate top management. America and Britain’s average full-time, female workers earn only about 80% as much as their male counterpart. Finally, most Americans are comfortable with women in the workforce with 9 out of 10 men are even comfortable with women earning more than they do.
The minimal resistance to this social trend, especially by men, has allowed it to adapt rapidly and with little conflict. Contributing Factors to this Social Change A major explanation for increased women in the workforce is the large amount of women who are university graduates and professional workers. Growth of higher education has increased women’s value in the job market and has caused a shift in the woman role model as professional women, not just homemakers. According to The Economist, in 1963, 62% of college-educated women were in the workforce whereas 46% of those who had a high school diploma.
Today, 80% of American women with a college education are in the workforce in contrast to 67% with a high school diploma and 47% without one. Women are also educated in more “marketable subjects” such as business and management. In 1966, 40% of women obtained a degree in education and 2% in business and management. Where as today, 12% obtain degrees in education and 50% obtain degrees in business and management. Engineering and computer science are one of the few areas women are lagging in. Politics have had a major effect on this revolution. Feminists have made domestic slavery unacceptable.
Feminists have also strongly criticize discrimination toward women in the work place. We’ve even seen equal-rights acts passed in order to assure an equal playing ground in the work force for men and women of all ethnicities. Economic and technological forces have also played a role in the empowerment of women in the workforce. There has been a growing demand for women in the workforce. When strength was required to work, men had the advantage. The growth in the service sector and decline in the manufacturing sector has made brainpower more of a demand in the work force.
This puts men and women on a more equal playing ground. Lastly, women have been more than willing and able to meet the demands of being in the workforce. Many factors play a role in this. For example, traditional cleaning is done easier and quicker than before. The contraceptive pill has allowed women to get married late, increased their ability to invest in their careers, and allowed them to finish schooling instead of taking breaks due to childbirth. Major Challenges Faced with a Woman Workforce Two major challenges have occurred with the increase of women in the workforce.
First, women continue to be under-represented in top management, with only 2% in America and 5% in Britain, and are paid considerably less than men. Secondly, it is very demanding for women to manage both their career and their family. In America, 74% of parents believe they don’t spend enough time with their children because they are constantly juggling their work and home life. In two-parent working households, childcare consumes a large proportion of the budget, but having one parent stay at home could result in much lower income for family expenses.
Therefore, having only one income is not an option. Poor households are affected the most because of the large amount of poor mothers in the workforce and the unwillingness to spend public funds on childcare for these mothers. Career Woman vs. Motherhood As women become more and more prevalent in the workforce, they find themselves choosing between being successful in their careers and being a stay-at-home mother. Many women are in challenging careers in their 20s, leave in their 30s to have children and find it hard to return after their leave of absence.
Of all the women who left work to have children, 93% of women wanted to return to work, but only 74% returned to work, only 40% returning full-time. Also, many women find the role of motherhood damaging to their professional career. Those women in corporate America who don’t have children earn as much as men, where as mothers earn less and single mothers even less. The Economist explains that the “cost of motherhood” is great for women in professional careers because wages increase abruptly and schedules are very demanding.
Many times executives are expected to work in numerous departments and travel often. Therefore, the gap ii pay and positions between men and women may be because women are measured exactly the same as men, not because of discrimination or unfair treatment. This trend is producing high cost on individuals and society because many professional women are eliminating motherhood altogether or are forced into the fertility industry when they do decide to have children. Solutions for these Challenges For the most part, people believe that this trend will handle itself.
Others argue that government intervention such as women quotas, state-funded daycares, extended paid maternity leave, “parent’s salary,” earlier preschool education, or the elimination of part-time jobs is necessary to fix these problems. The Economist discusses how these different alternatives have been used in other countries with success, but there is not enough evidence to show these measures have created the success. In fact, America has had many of the same results as these countries without taking such drastic measures.
There are less dramatic steps that the American government can take to improve and ease women into the workforce. These include alterations such as longer school days and shorter summer holidays or closing midday. The struggle with fixing problems from “the social consequences of women’s economic empowerment” will continue for decades to come. The Future of Women in the Workforce This trend of women in the workforce is likely to continue to grow and is apparent throughout all aspects of business. The Economist predicts that by 2011, there will be 2. 6 million more female than male university students.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that women already compose more than 2/3 of employment in 10 of the 15 job categories today. Many women are also opening their own business, doubling that of men in the last 10 years. Women will also benefit from the “war for talent” because of the ageing workforce and need for skill-dependent workers. Many firms are dividing hours differently such as judging hours annually instead of weekly, allowing them to come in early or late, allowing Fridays off as long as hours are made up, and even allowing husbands and wives to share jobs.
The corporate world is even making adjustments to encourage women into the workforce and help with the juggle of raising children and working such as rethinking promotional practices and sustain communication with mothers who are away from work due to their children, allowing them to work from home, or offering flexible scheduling. With the advancement of technology – Internet, e-mail, and conferencing – redesigning the workplace is much more possible.
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