Evolution Of Women In Workforce Sociology Essay

Learning Objectives

  1. Understand the extent of and reasons for gender inequality in income and the workplace.
  2. Understand the extent of and reasons for sexual harassment.
  3. Explain how and why women of color experience a triple burden.
  4. Describe how and why sexual orientation is a source of inequality.

We have said that the women’s movement changed American life in many ways but that gender inequality persists. Let’s look at examples of such inequality, much of it taking the form of institutional discrimination, which, as we saw in Chapter 7 “Deviance, Crime, and Social Control”, can occur even if it is not intended to happen. We start with gender inequality in income and the workplace and then move on to a few other spheres of life.

Income and Workplace Inequality

In the last few decades, women have entered the workplace in increasing numbers, partly, and for many women mostly, out of economic necessity and partly out of desire for the sense of self-worth and other fulfillment that comes with work. This is true not only in the United States but also in other nations, including Japan, where views of women are more traditional than those in the United States (see the “Learning From Other Societies” box). In February 2010, 58.9% of U.S. women aged 16 or older were in the labor force, compared to only 43.3% in 1970; comparable figures for men were 71.0% in 2010 and 79.7% in 1970 (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2010). Thus while women’s labor force participation continues to lag behind men’s, they have narrowed the gap. The figures just cited include women of retirement age. When we just look at younger women, labor force participation is even higher. For example, 76.1% of women aged 35–44 were in the labor force in 2008, compared to only 46.8% in 1970.

Learning From Other Societies

Women in Japan and Norway

The United Nations Development Programme ranks nations on a “gender empowerment measure” of women’s involvement in their nation’s economy and political life. Of the 93 nations included in the measure, Norway ranks 1st, while Japan ranks 54th, the lowest among the world’s industrial nations (Watkins, 2007). This contrast provides some lessons for the status of women in the United States, which ranked only 15th.

Japan has historically been a nation with very traditional gender expectations. As the image of the woman’s geisha role in Japan illustrates, Japanese women have long been thought to be men’s helpmates and subordinates. As Linda Schneider and Arnold Silverman (2010, p. 39) put it,

The subordination of women is built into Japanese institutions, shaping family life, education, and the economy. Women are seen as fundamentally different from men and inferior to men. Almost everyone assumes that the purpose of a woman’s life is to serve others: her children, her husband, perhaps her in-laws, the men at work.

Many more Japanese women work outside the home now than just a few decades ago and now make up almost half the labor force. However, the percentage of all management jobs held by women was just 10.1% in 2005, up only slightly from its 6.6% level in 1985. Japan’s work culture that demands 15-hour days is partly responsible for this low percentage, as it is difficult for women to meet this expectation and still bear and raise children. Another reason is outright employment discrimination. Although Japan enacted an equal opportunity law for women’s employment in 1985, the law is more symbolic than real because the only penalty it provides for violations is the publication of the names of the violators (Fackler, 2007).

In sharp contrast, Norway has made a concerted effort to boost women’s involvement in the business and political worlds (Sumer, Smithson, Guerreiro, & Granlund, 2008). Like other Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Sweden) that also rank at the top of the UN’s gender empowerment measure, Norway is a social democratic welfare state characterized by extensive government programs and other efforts to promote full economic and gender equality. Its government provides day care for children and adult care for older or disabled individuals, and it also provides 44 weeks of paid parental leave after the birth of a child. Parents can also work fewer hours without losing income until their child is 2 years of age. All of these provisions mean that women are much more likely than their American counterparts to have the freedom and economic means to work outside the home, and they have taken advantage of this opportunity. As a recent analysis concluded,

It has been extremely important for women that social rights have been extended to cover such things as the caring of young children and elderly, sick and disabled members of society. In the Nordic countries, women have been more successful than elsewhere in combining their dual role as mothers and workers, and social policy arrangements are an integral part of the gender equality policy. (Kangas & Palme, 2009, p. S65)

While the United States ranks much higher than Japan on the UN’s gender empowerment measure, it ranks substantially lower than Norway and the other Nordic nations. An important reason for these nations’ higher ranking is government policy that enables women to work outside the home if they want to do so. The experience of these nations indicates that greater gender equality might be achieved in the United States if it adopted policies similar to those found in these nations that make it easier for women to join and stay in the labor force.

The Gender Gap in Income

Despite the gains women have made, problems persist. Perhaps the major problem is a gender gap in income. Women have earned less money than men ever since records started being kept (Reskin & Padavic, 2002). In the United States in the early 1800s, full-time women workers in agriculture and manufacturing earned less than 38% of what men earned. By 1885, they were earning about 50% of what men earned in manufacturing jobs. As the 1980s began, full-time women workers’ median weekly earnings were about 65% of men’s. Women have narrowed the gender gap in earnings since then: their weekly earnings now (2009) are 80.2% of men’s among full-time workers (U.S. Census Bureau, 2010). Still, this means that for every $10,000 men earn, women earn only about $8,002. To turn that around, for every $10,000 women earn, men earn $12,469. This gap amounts to hundreds of thousands of dollars over a lifetime of working.

As Table 11.2 “Median Annual Earnings of Full-Time, Year-Round Workers Aged 25–64 by Educational Attainment, 2009” shows, this gender gap exists for all levels of education and even increases with higher levels of education. On the average, women with a bachelor’s degree or higher and working full time earn almost $20,000 less per year than their male counterparts.

Table 11.2 Median Annual Earnings of Full-Time, Year-Round Workers Aged 25–64 by Educational Attainment, 2009

Less than ninth gradeHigh school dropoutHigh school degreeSome college but no degreeAssociate’s degreeBachelor’s degree or higher
Gender gap (%; women ÷ men)75.975.673.472.274.072.5

What accounts for the gender gap in earnings? A major reason is sex segregation in the workplace, which accounts for up to 45% of the gender gap (Reskin & Padavic 2002). Although women have increased their labor force participation, the workplace remains segregated by gender. Almost half of all women work in a few low-paying clerical and service (e.g., waitressing) jobs, while men work in a much greater variety of jobs, including high-paying ones. Table 11.3 “Gender Segregation in the Workplace for Selected Occupations, 2007” shows that many jobs are composed primarily of women or of men. Part of the reason for this segregation is that socialization affects what jobs young men and women choose to pursue, and part of the reason is that women and men do not want to encounter difficulties they may experience if they took a job traditionally assigned to the other sex. A third reason is that sex-segregated jobs discriminate against applicants who are not the “right” sex for that job. Employers may either consciously refuse to hire someone who is the “wrong” sex for the job or have job requirements (e.g., height requirements) and workplace rules (e.g., working at night) that unintentionally make it more difficult for women to qualify for certain jobs. Although such practices and requirements are now illegal, they still continue. The sex segregation they help create contributes to the continuing gender gap between female and male workers. Occupations dominated by women tend to have lower wages and salaries. Because women are concentrated in low-paying jobs, their earnings are much lower than men’s (Reskin & Padavic, 2002).

Table 11.3 Gender Segregation in the Workplace for Selected Occupations, 2007

OccupationFemale workers (%)Male workers (%)
Dental hygienists99.20.8
Speech-language pathologists98.02.0
Preschool and kindergarten teachers97.32.7
Secretaries and administrative assistants96.73.3
Registered nurses91.79.3
Food servers (waiters/waitresses)74.026.0
Computer software engineers20.879.2

Source: Data from U.S. Census Bureau. (2010). Statistical abstract of the United States: 2010. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office. Retrieved from http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab.

This fact raises an important question: why do women’s jobs pay less than men’s jobs? Is it because their jobs are not important and require few skills (recalling the functional theory of stratification discussed in Chapter 6 “Groups and Organizations”)? The evidence indicates otherwise: women’s work is devalued precisely because it is women’s work, and women’s jobs thus pay less than men’s jobs because they are women’s jobs (Magnusson, 2009).

Studies of comparable worth support this argument (Stone & Kuperberg, 2005; Wolford, 2005). Researchers rate various jobs in terms of their requirements and attributes that logically should affect the salaries they offer: the importance of the job, the degree of skill it requires, the level of responsibility it requires, the degree to which the employee must exercise independent judgment, and so forth. They then use these dimensions to determine what salary a job should offer. Some jobs might be “better” on some dimensions and “worse” on others but still end up with the same predicted salary if everything evens out.

When researchers make their calculations, they find that certain women’s jobs pay less than men’s even though their comparable worth is equal to or even higher than the men’s jobs. For example, a social worker may earn less money than a probation officer, even though calculations based on comparable worth would predict that a social worker should earn at least as much. The comparable worth research demonstrates that women’s jobs pay less than men’s jobs of comparable worth and that the average working family would earn several thousand dollars more annually if pay scales were reevaluated based on comparable worth and women were paid more for their work.

Even when women and men work in the same jobs, women often earn less than men (Sherrill, 2009), and men are more likely than women to hold leadership positions in these occupations. Census data provide ready evidence of the lower incomes women receive even in the same occupations. For example, female marketing and sales managers earn only 68% of what their male counterparts earn; female human resource managers earn only 68% of what their male counterparts earn; female claims adjusters earn only 83%; female accountants earn only 72%; female elementary and middle school teachers earn only 90%; and even female secretaries and clerical workers earn only 86% (U.S. Department of Labor, 2008). When variables like number of years on the job, number of hours worked per week, and size of firm are taken into account, these disparities diminish but do not disappear altogether, and it is very likely that sex discrimination (conscious or unconscious) by employers accounts for much of the remaining disparity.

Litigation has suggested or revealed specific instances of sex discrimination in earnings and employment. In July 2009, the Dell computer company, without admitting any wrongdoing, agreed to pay $9.1 million to settle a class action lawsuit, brought by former executives, that alleged sex discrimination in salaries and promotions (Walsh, 2009). Earlier in the decade, a Florida jury found Outback Steakhouse liable for paying a woman site development assistant only half what it paid a man with the same title. After she trained him, Outback assigned him most of her duties, and when she complained, Outback transferred her to a clerical position. The jury awarded her $2.2 million in compensatory and punitive damages (U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 2001).

Some of the sex discrimination in employment reflects the existence of two related phenomena, the glass ceiling and the glass escalator. Women may be promoted in a job only to find they reach an invisible “glass ceiling” beyond which they cannot get promoted, or they may not get promoted in the first place. In the largest U.S. corporations, women constitute only about 16% of the top executives, and women executives are paid much less than their male counterparts (Jenner & Ferguson, 2009). Although these disparities stem partly from the fact that women joined the corporate ranks much more recently than men, they also reflect a glass ceiling in the corporate world that prevents qualified women from rising up above a certain level (Hymowitz, 2009). Men, on the other hand, can often ride a “glass escalator” to the top, even in female occupations. An example is seen in elementary school teaching, where principals typically rise from the ranks of teachers. Although men constitute only about 20% of all public elementary school teachers, they account for about 44% of all elementary school principals (National Center for Education Statistics, 2009).

Whatever the reasons for the gender gap in income, the fact that women make so much less than men means that female-headed families are especially likely to be poor. In 2009, about 30% of these families lived in poverty, compared to only 6% of married-couple families (DeNavas-Walt, Proctor, & Smith, 2010). The term feminization of poverty refers to the fact that female-headed households are especially likely to be poor. The gendering of poverty in this manner is one of the most significant manifestations of gender inequality in the United States.

Some women’s jobs pay less than men’s jobs even though their comparable worth is equal to or even higher than the men’s jobs. For example, a social worker may earn less money than a probation officer, even though calculations based on comparable worth would predict that a social worker should earn at least as much.

Women constitute only about 16% of the top executives in the largest U.S. corporations, and women executives are paid much less than their male counterparts. These disparities reflect a “glass ceiling” that limits women’s opportunities for promotion.

Sexual Harassment

Another workplace problem (including schools) is sexual harassment, which, as defined by federal guidelines and legal rulings and statutes, consists of unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or physical conduct of a sexual nature used as a condition of employment or promotion or that interferes with an individual’s job performance and creates an intimidating or hostile environment.

Although men can be, and are, sexually harassed, women are more often the targets of sexual harassment, which is often considered a form of violence against women (discussed in Chapter 11 “Gender and Gender Inequality”, Section 11.4 “Violence Against Women: Rape and Pornography”). This gender difference exists for at least two reasons, one cultural and one structural. The cultural reason centers on the depiction of women and the socialization of men. As our discussion of the mass media and gender socialization indicated, women are still depicted in our culture as sexual objects that exist for men’s pleasure. At the same time, our culture socializes men to be sexually assertive. These two cultural beliefs combine to make men believe that they have the right to make verbal and physical advances to women in the workplace. When these advances fall into the guidelines listed here, they become sexual harassment.

The second reason that most targets of sexual harassment are women is more structural. Reflecting the gendered nature of the workplace and of the educational system, typically the men doing the harassment are in a position of power over the women they harass. A male boss harasses a female employee, or a male professor harasses a female student or employee. These men realize that subordinate women may find it difficult to resist their advances for fear of reprisals: a female employee may be fired or not promoted, and a female student may receive a bad grade.

How common is sexual harassment? This is difficult to determine, as the men who do the sexual harassment are not about to shout it from the rooftops, and the women who suffer it often keep quiet because of the repercussions just listed. But anonymous surveys of women employees in corporate and other settings commonly find that 40%–65% of the respondents report being sexually harassed (Rospenda, Richman, & Shannon, 2009). In a survey of 4,501 women physicians, 36.9% reported being sexually harassed either in medical school or in their practice as physicians (Frank, Brogan, & Schiffman, 1998).

Sexual harassment cases continue to make headlines. In one recent example, the University of Southern Mississippi paid $112,500 in September 2009 to settle a case brought by a women’s tennis graduate assistant against the school’s women’s tennis coach; the coach then resigned for personal reasons (Magee, 2009). That same month, the CEO of a hospital in the state of Washington was reprimanded after a claim of sexual harassment was brought against him, and he was also fired for unspecified reasons (Mehaffey, 2009).

Sexual harassment in the workplace is a common experience. In surveys of women employees, up to two-thirds of respondents report being sexually harassed.

Women of Color: A Triple Burden

Earlier we mentioned multicultural feminism, which stresses that women of color face difficulties for three reasons: their gender, their race, and, often, their social class, which is frequently near the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder. They thus face a triple burden that manifests itself in many ways.

For example, women of color experience “extra” income inequality. Earlier we discussed the gender gap in earnings, with women earning 79.4% of what men earn, but women of color face both a gender gap and a racial/ethnic gap. Table 11.4 “The Race/Ethnicity and Gender Gap in Annual Earnings for Full-Time, Year-Round Workers, 2009” depicts this double gap for full-time workers. We see a racial/ethnic gap among both women and men, as African Americans and Latinos of either gender earn less than whites, and we also see a gender gap between men and women, as women earn less than men within any race/ethnicity. These two gaps combine to produce an especially high gap between African American and Latina women and white men: African American women earn only 63.0% of what white men earn, and Latina women earn only 54.6% of what white men earn.

Table 11.4 The Race/Ethnicity and Gender Gap in Annual Earnings for Full-Time, Year-Round Workers, 2009

Annual earnings ($)Percentage of white male earnings
White (non-Latino)52,350
White (non-Latina)37,94872.5

These differences in income mean that African American and Latina women are poorer than white women. We noted earlier that about 31% of all female-headed families are poor. This figure masks race/ethnic differences among such families: 21.5% of families headed by non-Latina white women are poor, compared to 40.5% of families headed by African American women and also 40.5% of families headed by Latina women (Denavas-Walt, Proctor, & Smith, 2010). While white women are poorer than white men, African American and Latina women are clearly poorer than white women.

Sexual Orientation and Inequality

A recent report by a task force of the American Psychological Association stated that “same-sex sexual and romantic attractions, feelings, and behaviors are normal and positive variations of human sexuality” (Glassgold et al., 2009, p. v). A majority of Americans do not share this opinion. In the 2008 General Social Survey, 52% of respondents said that “sexual relations between two adults of the same sex” is “always wrong.” Although this figure represents a substantial decline from the survey’s 1973 finding of 74%, it is clear that many Americans remain sharply opposed to homosexuality. Not surprisingly, then, sexual orientation continues to be the source of much controversy and no small amount of abuse and discrimination directed toward members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered community.

These individuals experience various forms of abuse, mistreatment, and discrimination that their heterosexual counterparts do not experience. In this respect, their sexuality is the source of a good deal of inequality. For example, gay teenagers are very often the targets of taunting, bullying, physical assault, and other abuse in schools and elsewhere that sometimes drives them to suicide or at least to experience severe emotional distress (Denizet-Lewis, 2009). In 38 states, individuals can be denied employment or fired from a job because of their sexual orientation, even though federal and state laws prohibit employment discrimination for reasons related to race and ethnicity, gender, age, religious belief, and national origin. And in 45 states as of April 2010, same-sex couples are legally prohibited from marrying. In most of these states, this prohibition means that same-sex couples lack hundreds of rights, responsibilities, and benefits that spouses enjoy, including certain income tax and inheritance benefits, spousal insurance coverage, and the right to make medical decisions for a partner who can no longer communicate because of disease or traumatic injury (Gerstmann, 2008).

Household Inequality

We will talk more about the family in Chapter 11 “Gender and Gender Inequality”, but for now the discussion will center on housework. Someone has to do housework, and that someone is usually a woman. It takes many hours a week to clean the bathrooms, cook, shop in the grocery store, vacuum, and do everything else that needs to be done. The best evidence indicates that women married to or living with men spend two to three times as many hours per work on housework as men spend (Gupta & Ash, 2008). This disparity holds true even when women work outside the home, leading sociologist Arlie Hochschild (1989) to observe in a widely cited book that women engage in a “second shift” of unpaid work when they come home from their paying job.

The good news is that gender differences in housework time are smaller than a generation ago. The bad news is that a large gender difference remains. As one study summarized the evidence on this issue, “women invest significantly more hours in household labor than do men despite the narrowing of gender differences in recent years” (Bianchi, Milkie, Sayer, & Robinson, 2000, p. 196). In the realm of household work, then, gender inequality persists.

Key Takeaways

  • Among full-time workers, women earn about 79.4% of men’s earnings. This gender gap in earnings stems from several factors, including sex segregation in the workplace and the lower wages and salaries found in occupations that involve mostly women.
  • Sexual harassment results partly from women’s subordinate status in the workplace and may involve up to two-thirds of women employees.
  • Women of color may face a “triple burden” of difficulties based on their gender, their race/ethnicity, and their social class.
  • Sexual orientation continues to be another source of inequality in today’s world. Among other examples of this inequality, gays and lesbians are prohibited from marrying in most states in the nation.

For Your Review

  1. Do you think it is fair for occupations dominated by women to have lower wages and salaries than those dominated by men? Explain your answer.
  2. If you know a woman who works in a male-dominated occupation, interview her about any difficulties she might be experiencing as a result of being in this sort of situation.
  3. Write a short essay in which you indicate whether you think same-sex marriage should be legal, and provide the reasoning for the position you hold on this issue.


Bianchi, S. M., Milkie, M. A., Sayer, L. C., & Robinson, J. P. (2000). Is anyone doing the Housework? Trends in the gender division of household labor. Social Forces, 79(1), 191–228.

Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2010). Employment & earnings online. Retrieved from http://www.bls.gov/opub/ee/home.htm.

DeNavas-Walt, C., Proctor, B. D., & Smith, J. C. (2010). Income, poverty, and health insurance coverage in the United States: 2009 (Current Population Report P60-238). Washington, DC: U.S. Census Bureau.

Denizet-Lewis, B. (2009, September 27). Coming out in middle school. The New York Times Magazine MM36.

Fackler, M. (2007, August 6). Career women in Japan find a blocked path. The New York Times, p. A1.

Frank, E., Brogan, D., & Schiffman, M. (1998). Prevalence and correlates of harassment among U.S. women physicians. Archives of Internal Medicine, 158(4), 352–358.

Gerstmann, E. (2008). Same-sex marriage and the Constitution (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Glassgold, J. M., Beckstead, L., Drescher, J., Greene, B., Miller, R. L., & Worthington, R. L. (2009). Report of the American Psychological Association task force on appropriate therapeutic responses to sexual orientation. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Gupta, S., & Ash, M. (2008). Whose money, whose time? A nonparametric approach to modeling time spent on housework in the United States. Feminist Economics, 14(1), 93–120.

Hochschild, A. (1989). The second shift: Working parents and the revolution at home. New York, NY: Viking.

Hymowitz, C. (2009, May 1). For executive women, it can be lonely at the top. Forbes. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/2009/05/01/executives-c-suite-leadership-forbes-woman-power-careers.html.

Jenner, L., & Ferguson, R. (2009). 2008 catalyst census of women corporate officers and top earners of the FP500. New York, NY: Catalyst.

Kangas, O., & Palme, J. (2009). Making social policy work for economic development: The Nordic experience [Supplement]. International Journal of Social Welfare, 18(s1), S62–S72.

Magee, P. (2009, September 22). USM settles with ex-student. Hattiesburg American. Retrieved from http://pqasb.pqarchiver.com/hattiesburgamerican/access/1866160481.html?FMT=ABS&date=Sep+22%2C+2009.

Magnusson, C. (2009). Gender, occupational prestige, and wages: A test of devaluation theory. European Sociological Review, 25(1), 87–101.

Mehaffey, K. C. (2009, September 15). Chelan hospital board fires CEO. The Wenatchee World. Retrieved from http://www.wenatcheeworld.com/news/2009/sep/15/chelan-hospital-board-fires-ceo.

National Center for Education Statistics. (2009). The condition of education. Retrieved from http://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/2007/section4/indicator34.asp.

Reskin, B., & Padavic, I. (2002). Women and men at work (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge Press.

Rospenda, K. M., Richman, J. A., & Shannon, C. A. (2009). Prevalence and mental health correlates of harassment and discrimination in the workplace: Results from a national study. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 24(5), 819–843.

Schneider, L., & Silverman, A. (2010). Global sociology: Introducing five contemporary societies (5th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Sherrill, A. (2009). Women’s pay: Converging characteristics of men and women in the federal workforce help explain the narrowing pay gap. Washington, DC: United States Government Accountability Office.

Stone, P., & Kuperberg, A. (2005). Anti-discrimination vs. anti-poverty? A comparison of pay equity and living wage reforms. Journal of Women, Politics & Policy, 27(5), 23–39. doi:10.1300/J501v27n03_3.

Sumer, S., Smithson, J., Guerreiro, M. d. D., & Granlund, L. (2008). Becoming working mothers: Reconciling work and family at three particular workplaces in Norway, the UK, and Portugal. Community, Work & Family, 11(4), 365–384.

U.S. Census Bureau. (2010). Statistical abstract of the United States: 2010. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office. Retrieved from http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab.

U.S. Department of Labor. (2008). Highlights of women’s earnings in 2007. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Labor.

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. (2001). Jury finds Outback Steakhouse guilty of sex discrimination and illegal retaliation. Retrieved from http://www.eeoc.gov/press/9-19-01.html.

Walsh, S. (2009). Dell settles sex discrimination suit for $9 million. Retrieved from http://www.gadgetell.com/tech/comment/dell-settles-sex-discrimination-suit-for-9-million.

Watkins, K. (2007). Human development report 2007/2008. New York, NY: United Nations Development Programme.

Wolford, K. M. (2005). Gender discrimination in employment: Wage inequity for professional and doctoral degree holders in the United States and possible remedies. Journal of Education Finance, 31(1), 82–100. Retrieved from http://www.press.uillinois.edu/journals/jef.html.

This is a derivative of Sociology: Understanding and Changing the Social World by a publisher who has requested that they and the original author not receive attribution, which was originally released and is used under CC BY-NC-SA. This work, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Women in the workforce earning wages or a salary are part of a modern phenomenon, one that developed at the same time as the growth of paid employment for men, but women have been challenged by inequality in the workforce. Until modern times, legal and cultural practices examples needed, combined with the inertia of longstanding religious and educational conventions, restricted women's entry and participation in the workforce. Economic dependency upon men, and consequently the poor socio-economic status of women, have had the same impact, particularly as occupations have become professionalized over the 19th and 20th centuries.

Women's lack of access to higher education had effectively excluded them from the practice of well-paid and high status occupations. Entry of women into the higher professions like law and medicine was delayed in most countries due to women being denied entry to universities and qualification for degrees; for example, Cambridge University only fully validated degrees for women late in 1947, and even then only after much opposition and acrimonious debate.[2] Women were largely limited to low-paid and poor status occupations for most of the 19th and 20th centuries, or earned less pay than men for doing the same work. However, through the 20th century, public perceptions of paid work shifted source needed as the workforce increasingly moved to office jobs that do not require heavy labor, and women increasingly acquired the higher education that led to better-compensated, longer-term careers rather than lower-skilled, shorter-term jobs. Despite this, women are still at a disadvantage compared to men because of motherhoodhow?. Women are viewed as the primary caregiver to children still to this daysource needed, so their pay is lowered when they have children because businesses do not expect them to stay long after the birthsource needed.

The increasing rates of women contributing in the work force has led to a more equal disbursement of hours worked across the regions of the world.[3] However, in western European countries the nature of women's employment participation remains markedly different from that of men. For example, few women are in continuous full-time employment after the birth of a first child due to the lack of childcare and because women in Britain lose 9% of their wage after their first child and 16% after their second child.[4]

Although access to paying occupations (the "workforce") has been and remains unequal in many occupations and places around the world, scholars sometimes distinguish between "work" and "paying work", including in their analysis a broader spectrum of labor such as uncompensated household work, childcare, eldercare, and family subsistence farming.

Areas of study[edit]

As the Civil War raged in the U.S., Virginia Penny of Louisville, Kentucky was finishing up her research project and publish the ground-breaking book, How women can make money married or single, in all branches of the arts and sciences, professions, trades, agricultural and mechanical pursuits (Philadelphia, 1862). Hoping to offer hard facts about what women in the workforce would encounter, Penny had interviewed thousands of employers, using both a survey via the postal mail and in person – when she would also interview workers. Much of her site visits were conducted in Philadelphia, New York and Boston. She distilled her research to list over 500 jobs that were open to women as well as the information about the jobs and potential availability for women. She also indicated when employers offered their reasons for wage differentials based on gender. She dedicated her book "to worthy and industrious women in the United States, striving to earn a livelihood," and the book garnered much attention by reviewers and scholars across the country. She sold her rights to the book to another publisher who put it out instead as an encyclopedia, The Employments of Women: A Cyclopaedia of Woman's Work, in 1863. It sold better once it was re-titled again in 1870 as How Women Can Make Money, Married or Single.[5] In total, the several different versions of the book ended up with 36 editions published between 1862 and 2006, and six editions of the adaptation in German (first published in 1867).[6]

In the twentieth century, division of labor by gender has been studied most systematically in women's studies (especially women's history, which has frequently examined the history and biography of women's participation in particular fields) and gender studies more broadly. Occupational studies, such as the history of medicine or studies of professionalization, also examine questions of gender, and the roles of women in the history of particular fields. Women dominate as accountants, auditors, and psychologists.[7][8][9]

In addition, modern civil rights law has frequently examined gender restrictions of access to a field of occupation;gender discrimination within a field;and gender harassment in particular workplaces. This body of law is called employment discrimination law, and gender and race discrimination are the largest sub-sections within the area. Laws specifically aimed at preventing discrimination against women have been passed in many countries;see, e.g., the Pregnancy Discrimination Act in the United States.

Paid employment globally[edit]

Women still contribute to their communities in many regions mainly through agricultural work. In Southern Asia, Western Asia, and Africa, only 20% of women work at paid non-agricultural jobs. Worldwide, women's rate of paid employment outside of agriculture grew to 41% by 2008.[10]

One of the main forms of paid employment for women worldwide is actually a traditional one, that of the market "hawker". Women have worked outside the home as vendors at markets since ancient times in many parts of the world, such as Central America, South Asia, and Africa.

During the 20th century, the most significant global shift in women's paid employment came from the spread of global travel and the development of a large migrant workforce of women domestic workers seeking jobs outside of their native country. The Philippines is a major source of female domestic workers. Before the 1990s, the majority of Filipinos working outside the Philippines were male, but by 2012, an estimated 63% of Filipinos working overseas were female.[11]

Estimates of Filipino women working overseas are in the millions. Over 138,000 new domestic workers gained permission to work overseas in 2012, a number that grew 12% from the previous year.[11] Overseas employment often results in the women leaving their own children behind in the Philippines to be cared for by relatives. Domestic employees from the Philippines and other countries have also been subject to exploitation and sex and money extreme abuse, for example in several countries in the Middle East, where they are often employed. It is estimated that remittances from overseas workers (both male and female) bring $1 billion (USD) per month to the Philippines.[12]

Workforce participation by sector[edit]

Women and men often participate in economic sectors in sharply different proportions, a result of gender clustering in occupations. Reasons for this may include a traditional association of certain types of work with a particular gender. There is a wide range of other possible economic, social and cultural variables that impact the gender distribution in different occupations, including within a region or country. An averaging of statistics gathered by the United Nations for 2004 through 2007 reflects these differences (totals may not add up to 100% due to rounding):

Sectoral distribution of employed persons, by sector and sex (2004 through 2007)[13]

Africa43% women / 42% men11% women / 20% men46% women / 39% men
Asia (excluding China)32% women / 26% men12% women / 25% men56% women / 49% men
Latin America and the Caribbean7% women / 22% men13% women / 27% men80% women / 51% men
Europe and other more developed regions6% women / 8% men15% women / 36% men79% women / 55% men

More detailed statistics show large differences even within these regions. For example, 11% of employed women in East Asia are employed in agriculture, a number that rises to 55% in South Asia; 70% of women in Southern Africa are employed in the service sector, while in Eastern, Middle, and Western Africa this number is 26%.[13]

Occupational Dissimilarity Index[edit]

Choice of occupation is considered to be one of the key factors contributing to the male-female wage differential. In other words, careers with a majority of female employees tend to pay less than careers that employ a majority of males. This is different from direct wage discrimination within occupations, as males in the female dominated professions will also make lower than average wages and the women in the male dominated occupations usually make higher than average wages. The occupational dissimilarity index is a measure from 0 to 100;it measures the percent of laborers that would need to be rearranged into a job typically done by the opposite sex in order for the wage differential to disappear. In 1960, the dissimilarity index for the United States was measured at 62. It has dropped since then, but at 47 in 2000, is still one of the highest of any developed nation.[14][15]

Organizations formed by Women for rights[edit]

In the nineteenth century women became involved in organizations dedicated to social reform.[16] In 1903 The National Women's Trade Union League (WTUL) is established to advocate for improved wages and working conditions for women. In 1920 The Women’s Bureau of the Department of Labor was formed to create equal rights and a safe workplace for women.[17] In 1956 a group called Financial Women’s Association (FWA), was formed. It is an organization established by a group of Wall Street women. The goal was: to advance professionalism in finance and in the financial services industry with special emphasis on the role and development of women, to attain greater recognition for women’s achievements in business, and to encourage women to seek career opportunities in finance and business.[18] In 1966 the National Organization for Women (NOW) was founded by a group of feminists including Betty Friedan. The largest women's rights group in the U.S., NOW seeks to end sexual discrimination, especially in the workplace, by means of legislative lobbying, litigation, and public demonstrations. NOW has 500,000 contributing members and 550 chapters in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.[19] Founded in 1972, the National Association of Female Executives (NAFE) provides education, networking and public advocacy to empower its members to achieve career success and financial security. Members are women executives, business owners, entrepreneurs and others who are committed to NAFE’s mission: the advancement of women in the workplace.[18] Many of these organizations led to legal action and protecting women's rights as workers and empowered women in the workplace.

Laws protecting women's rights as workers[edit]

International laws protecting women's rights as workers exist through the efforts of various international bodies. On June 16, 2011, the International Labour Organization (ILO) passed C189 Domestic Workers Convention, 2011, binding signatories to regulations intended to end abuses of migrant domestic workers. It was anticipated that the Convention would put pressure on non-ratifying countries to support changes to their own laws to meet the change in international standards protecting domestic workers.[20] Also in 2011, Hong Kong's High Court struck down a law preventing domestic workers from having residency rights granted to other foreign workers, a move that affected an estimated 100,000 domestic workers in Hong Kong.[21]

The ILO has previously ratified the Equal Remuneration Convention in 1951, which came into force in 1953, the Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention, which went into force in 1960 and the Maternity Protection Convention, 2000, which went into force in 2002. In 1966, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which went into force in 1976. UNESCO also adopted the Convention against Discrimination in Education in 1960, which came into force in 1962.[22] The International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly, went into force in 2003. The Home Work Convention, adopted by the ILO, went into force in 2000;the Convention protects the rights of persons doing paid work out of their home, which is frequently women workers. It offers equal protection regarding working conditions, safety, remuneration, social security protection, access to training, minimum age of employment, and maternity protection.[23]

Human trafficking often targets young women who are abducted and sent outside their own country to work as domestic workers, often in conditions of extreme exploitation. A number of international laws have been ratified to address human trafficking of women and children.

But these laws are not being put in effect.

Maternity Rights and Child- Care- The Maternity protection measures are put in place to insure that women will not be discriminated against in the work place environment once they return from having a child. They should also not be exposed to any health hazards while they are pregnant and at work. They are allowed time off for maternity leave as well, which allows them to bond with their child and this aspect of development is crucial for infants to gain proper attachment skills. Employers are expected to hold to these policies. Yet many women on maternity leave receive very small amounts of time off to allow for their health along with their babies health. The amount of time allowed for maternity leave as well as the pay for maternity leave varies by country, with Sweden having the longest amount off with 68 weeks and The United States being one of the worst with the typical being 12 weeks without pay. (Burn, S. M. (2005). Women across cultures: A global perspective. New York: McGraw-Hill.)

Women in workforce leadership[edit]

Female decision-makers from around Europe are organized in several national and European wide networks. The networks aim to promote women in decision-making positions in politics and the economy across Europe. These networks were founded in the 1980s and are often very different from the "service clubs" founded in the early days of the century, like Soroptimist and Zontas.

"Women in Management" is about women in business in usually male-dominated areas. Their motivation, their ideas and leadership styles and their ability to enter into leadership positions is the subject of most of the different networks.

As of 2009, women represented 20.9% of parliament in Europe (both houses) and 18.4% world average.[24]

As of 2009, 90 women serve in the U.S. Congress: 18 women serve in the Senate, and 73 women serve in the House Women hold about three percent of executive positions.[25]

In the private sector, men still represent 9 out of 10 board members in European blue-chip companies, The discrepancy is widest at the very top: only 3% of these companies have a woman presiding over the highest decision-making body.[citation needed]

List of members of the European Network of Women in Decision-making in Politics and the Economy:

The European Union Commission has created a platform for all these networks. It also funded the Women to the Top program in 2003–2005 to bring more women into top management.[26]

Some organizations have been created to promote the presence of women in top responsibilities, in politics and business. One example is EWMD European Women's Management Development (cited above), a European and international network of individual and corporate members, drawn from professional organisations. Members are from all areas of business, education, politics and culture.

Women who are born into the upper class rather than the middle or lower class have a much better chance at holding higher positions of power in the work force if they choose to enter it.

Barriers to equal participation[edit]

As gender roles have followed the formation of agricultural and then industrial societies, newly developed professions and fields of occupation have been frequently inflected by gender. Some examples of the ways in which gender affects a field include:

  • Prohibitions or restrictions on members of a particular gender entering a field or studying a field;
  • Discrimination within a field, including wage, management, and prestige hierarchies;
  • Expectation that mothers, rather than fathers, should be the primary childcare providers.

Note that these gender restrictions may not be universal in time and place, and that they operate to restrict both men and women. However, in practice, norms and laws have historically restricted women's access to particular occupations;civil rights laws and cases have thus primarily focused on equal access to and participation by women in the workforce. These barriers may also be manifested in hidden bias and by means of many microinequities.

Many women face issues with sexual abuse while working in agriculture fields as well. Many of the women who work in these fields are undocumented and so supervisors or other male workers may take advantage of that. These women may suffer sexual abuse in order to keep their jobs and they cannot report the incident to the police because the fact that they are documented will be brought up and may be deported.

Access to education and training[edit]

A number of occupations became "professionalized" through the 19th and 20th centuries, gaining regulatory bodies, and passing laws or regulations requiring particular higher educational requirements. As women's access to higher education was often limited, this effectively restricted women's participation in these professionalizing occupations. For instance, women were completely forbidden access to Cambridge University until 1868, and were encumbered with a variety of restrictions until 1987 when the university adopted an equal opportunity policy.[27] Numerous other institutions in the United States and Western Europe began opening their doors to women over the same period of time, but access to higher education remains a significant barrier to women's full participation in the workforce in developing countries. Even where access to higher education is formally available, women's access to the full range of occupational choices is significantly limited where access to primary education is limited through social custom.[28]

Access to capital[edit]

Women's access to occupations requiring capital outlays is also hindered by their unequal access (statistically) to capital;this affects occupations such as entrepreneur and small business owner, farm ownership, and investor.[29] Numerous microloan programs attempt to redress this imbalance, targeting women for loans or grants to establish start-up businesses or farms, having determined that aid targeted to women can disproportionately benefit a nation's economy.[30] While research has shown that women cultivate more than half the world's food — in sub-Saharan Africa and the Caribbean, women are responsible for up to 80% of food production — most such work is family subsistence labor, and often the family property is legally owned by the men in the family.[30]

Discrimination within occupations[edit]

See also: Gender pay gap, Glass ceiling, and Sexual harassment

The idea that men and women are naturally suited for different occupations is known as horizontal segregation.[14]

Statistical discrimination in the workplace is unintentional discrimination based on the presumed probability that a worker will or will not remain with the company for a long period of time. Specific to women, since employers believe that women are more likely to drop out of the labor force to have kids, or work part-time while they are raising kids, this tends to hurt their chances for job advancement. They are passed up for promotions because of the possibility that they may leave, and are in some cases placed in positions with little opportunity for upward mobility to begin with based on these same stereotypes.[31]

Women continue to earn less money than men, despite establishing equal pay laws.[28][32]

According to textbook Race, Class, and Gender:An Anthology, women are at a higher risk of financial disadvantage in modern day society than men. Statistical findings suggest that women are under paid for similar jobs men complete despite having the same qualifications. The statistical data collected by the U.S. Department of Labor suggests that women are discriminated against in the workforce based on gender. The textbook reads, “Women’s wages are also more volatile than men’s wages, and women face a much higher risk of seeing large drops in income than do men” (Kennedy 2008). Anderson clearly demonstrates a significant difference between men and women in the workforce in regards to pay. Women are left more exposed to financial devastation and unemployment. The textbook also mentions that women are often give public positions versus private or leadership positions despite having appropriate work experience, higher education, or necessary skills to qualify. According to the Joint Economic Committee, “Among women heading families, the unemployment rate has grown and is higher than the national unemployment rate and twice as high as that for either married men or married women” (Joint Economic Committee, 2009). In other words, unmarried women who are the head of household are more vulnerable to financial disadvantage than married men or women. The unemployment rate of women compared to men suggests that single women are discriminated against based on gender. Anderson writes, “All women are disproportionately at risk in the current foreclosure crisis, since women are 32% more likely than men to have subprime mortgages (One-third of women, compared to one-fourth of men, have subprime mortgages; and, the disparity between women and men increases in higher income brackets)” (Anderson 265). The statistical information illustrates the dramatic difference between men and women in regards to finances. It can be inferred that men are favored in the workforce over women. Women are discriminated against based on their gender and thus are more likely to struggle financially because of discriminatory employers.

Actions and inactions of women themselves[edit]

Through a process known as "employee clustering", employees tend to be grouped throughout the workplace both spatially and socially with those of a similar status job. Women are no exception and tend to be grouped with other women making comparable amounts of money. They compare wages with the women around them and believe their salaries are fair because they are average. Some women are content with their lack of wage equality with men in the same positions because they are unaware of just how vast the inequality is.

Furthermore, women as a whole tend to be less assertive and confrontational. One of the factors contributing to the higher proportion of raises going to men is the simple fact that men tend to ask for raises more often than women, and are more aggressive when doing so.[33] Women, and men, are socialized at young ages into these roles. School-age boys and girls have been noted as enacting the same aggressive and passive characteristics, respectively, in educational settings that we see in adults in the workplace. Boys are more likely to be pushed competitively in school, and sports, to be dominant. The idea that “winning is everything” is not emphasized to the same extent for girls and therefore they are less likely to seek recognition for their work. [34]

An additional issue that contributes to income inequality by gender is that women are much more likely than men to take "breaks" in their careers to have children, often remaining out of the workforce for extended periods of time, while men in the same role or occupation (or other women who do not leave the workforce) most likely are continuing to earn promotions and/or merit-based salary increases. When a woman in this scenario re-enters the workforce, she may be offered a smaller salary or a lower position than she might have merited had she remained in the workforce alongside her colleagues (both male and female) who have not interrupted their careers.

Gender inequality by social class[edit]

In the last 50 years there have been great changes toward gender equality in industrialised nations such as the United States of America. With the feminist movement of the 1960s, women began to enter the workforce in great numbers. Women also had high labor market participation during World War II as so many male soldiers were away, women had to take up jobs to support their family and keep their local economy on track. Many of these women dropped right back out of the labor force when the men returned home from war to raise children born in the generation of the baby boomers. In the late 1960s when women began entering the labor force in record numbers, they were entering in addition to all of the men, as opposed to substituting for men during the war. This dynamic shift from the one-earner household to the two-earner household dramatically changed the socioeconomic class system of industrialised nations in the post-war period.

Effects on the middle and upper classes[edit]

The addition of women into the workforce was one of the key factors that has increased social mobility over the last 50 years, although this has stalled in recent decades for both genders. Female children of the middle and upper classes had increased access to higher education, and thanks to job equality, were able to attain higher-paying and higher-prestige jobs than ever before. Due to the dramatic increase in availability of birth control, these high status women were able to delay marriage and child-bearing until they had completed their education and advanced their careers to their desired positions. In 2001, the survey on sexual harassment at workplace conducted by women's nonprofit organisation Sakshi among 2,410 respondents in government and non-government sectors, in five States recorded 53 per cent saying that both sexes don't get equal opportunities, 50 per cent women are treated unfairly by employers and co-workers, 59 per cent have heard sexist remarks or jokes, 32 per cent have been exposed to pornography or literature degrading women.

In comparison with other sectors, IT organisations may be offering equal salaries to women and the density of women in technology companies may be relatively high but this does not necessarily ensure a level playing field. For example, Microsoft (US ) was sued because of the conduct of one of its supervisors over e-mail. The supervisor allegedly made sexually offensive comments via e-mail, such as referring to himself as "president of the amateur gynecology club." He also allegedly referred to the plaintiff as the "Spandex Queen. E-harassment is not the sole form of harassment. In 1999, Juno Online faced two separate suits from former employees who alleged that they were told that they would be fired if they broke off their ongoing relationships with senior executives. Pseudo Programs, a Manhattan-based Internet TV network, was sued in January 2000 after male employees referred to female employees as "bimbos" and forced them to look at sexually explicit material on the Internet. In India HR managers admit that women are discriminated against for senior Board positions and pregnant women are rarely given jobs but only in private. In addition to this, it has been suggested that there are less women in the IT sector due to existing stereotypes that depict the sector as male-orientated. In a recent book, Own It: Leadership Lessons From Women Who Do, author Aparna Jain interviewed 200 women in senior management and leadership positions in India about the problems they face at the workplace and noted that 86% of the women she spoke to experienced harassment in one form or the other.[35] Among the issues she notes are bias, bullying, sexual harassment and the impact of motherhood on women’s career.[36] Recently a sexual harassment suit against a senior member shocked the Indian IT sector, as was the sexual harassment case against the Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces' (Taj Group) CEO, Rakesh Sarna .[37] A startling example of institutional mechanisms that allow for an unfettered environment for sexual harassment to fester is the Rajendra K. Pachauri scandal at The Energy and Resources Institute in India.[38] Improvements in the education system could be the key to encouraging women to take up roles in this sector.

Recognizing the invisible nature of power structures that marginalize women at the workplace, the Supreme Court in the landmark Vaishaka versus High Court of Rajasthan (1997) identified sexual harassment as violative of the women's right to equality in the workplace and enlarged the ambit of its definition. The judgment equates a hostile work environment on the same plane as a direct request for sexual favors. To quote: "Sexual harassment includes such unwelcome sexually determined behaviour (whether directly or by implication) as: physical contact and advances; a demand or request for sexual favours; sexually coloured remarks; showing pornography; any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature". The judgement mandates appropriate work conditions should be provided for work, leisure, health, and hygiene to further ensure that there is no hostile environment towards women at the workplace and no woman employee should have reasonable grounds to believe that she is disadvantaged in connection with her employment.

This law thus squarely shifts the onus onto the employer to ensure employee safety but most mid-sized Indian service technology companies are yet to enact sexual harassment policies. Admits K Chandan, an advocate from Chandan Associates, "I have a few IT clients. When I point to the need for a sexual harassment policy, most tend to overlook or ignore it. It's not high on the agenda." An HR Manager of India's premier technology companies rues: "I am going to use the recent case to push the policy through. Earlier the draft proposal was rejected by the company." Yet another HR manager from a flagship company of India's leading business house, oblivious to the irony of her statement, admitted that the company had a grievance redressal mechanism but no sexual harassment policy in place. The lax attitudes transgress the Supreme Court judgment wherein the Court not only defined sexual harassment, but also laid down a code of conduct for workplaces to prevent and punish it, "Employers or other responsible authorities in public or private sectors must comply with the following guidelines: Express prohibition of sexual harassment should be notified and circulated;private employers should include prohibition of sexual harassment in the standing orders under the Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act, 1946." As for the complaint procedure, not less than half of its members should be women. The complaint committee should include an NGO or other organization that is familiar with the issue of sexual harassment. When the offense amounts to misconduct under service rules, appropriate disciplinary action should be initiated. When such conduct amounts to an offense under the Indian Penal Code, the employer shall initiate action by making a complaint with the appropriate authority. However, the survey by Sakshi revealed 58 per cent of women were not aware of the Supreme Court guidelines on the subject. A random survey by AssureConsulting.com among hundred employees working in the IT industry revealed startling results: Less than 10 per cent were familiar with the law or the company's sexual harassment policy. Surprisingly, certain HR managers were also ignorant of the Supreme Court guidelines or the Draft Bill by the National Commission of Women against sexual harassment at the workplace.

Not surprisingly many cases go unreported. However, given the complexities involved, company policy is the first step and cannot wish away the problem. Says Savita HR Manager at Icelerate Technologies, "We have a sexual harassment policy that is circulated among employees. Also the company will not tolerate any case that comes to its notice. But the man at home is no different from the person at the office," thus implying the social mindset that discriminates against women is responsible for the problem. Considering sexual censorship and conservative social attitudes emphasizing " woman's purity," the victim dare not draw attention for fear of being branded a woman with "loose morals". Women would rather brush away the problem or leave jobs quietly rather than speak up, even in organizations that have a zero tolerance policy. Says Chandan, "I do not have exact statistics but from my experience as an advocate one in 1,500 cases are reported." The problem cannot be resolved till more women speak up but the social set-up browbeats women into silence. The social stigma against the victim and the prolonged litigation process for justice thwarts most women from raising their voice. Purports K Chandan "It may take between three and five years to settle a case, and in a situation where the harassment is covert, evidence is hard to gather and there is no guarantee that the ruling would be in favour of the victim. In one of the rare cases I handled a Country Manager was accused and the plaintiff opted for an out of court settlement."

Effects on the working class[edit]

Women in lower wage jobs are more likely to be subject to wage discrimination. They are more likely to bring home far less than their male counterparts with equal job status, and get far less help with housework from their husbands than the high-earning women. Women with low educational attainment entering the workforce in mass quantity lowered earnings for some men, as the women brought about a lot more job competition. The lowered relative earnings of the men and increase in birth control made marriage prospects harder for lower income women.[39]

For the first time in the history of this country,[which?] there were distinctive socioeconomic stratification among women as there has been among men for centuries. This deepened the inequality between the upper/middle and lower/working classes. Prior to the feminist movement, the socioeconomic status of a family was based almost solely on the husband/father's occupation. Women who were now attaining high status jobs were attractive partners to men with high status jobs, so the high earners married the high earners and the low earners married the low earners. In other words, the rich got richer and the poor stayed the same, and have had increased difficulty competing in the economy.[14]

Impact issues of female participation in the workforce[edit]

A 2008 study published in the British Medical Journal found that women were 46% more likely to call in sick for short time periods than men and a third more likely than men to take short term sick leave. At 60 days or more, men and women were equal in terms of sick leave.[40] Women in the workforce have tripled and as their numbers increase it has been hard for both mothers and fathers to be able to take care of their own newborn child or a sick family member. The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 has allowed for workers to have up to 12 weeks a year to leave work.[41]


Increased participation of women in the workforce is associated with decreased fertility. A cross-country panel study found this fertility factor effect to be strongest among women aged 20–39, but with a less strong but persistent effect among older women as well.[42] International United Nations data suggests that women who work because of economic necessity have higher fertility than those who work because they want to do so.[43]

However, for countries in the OECD area, increased female labor participation has been associated with an increased fertility.[44]

Causality analyses indicate that fertility rate influences female labor participation and not as much the other way around.[45]

Regarding types of jobs, women who work in nurturing professions such as teaching and health generally have children at an earlier age.[45] It is theorized that women often self-select themselves into jobs with a favorable work–life balance in order to combine motherhood and employment.[45]


19th century[edit]

Women have worked at agricultural tasks since ancient times, and continue to do so around the world. The Industrial Revolution of the late 18th and early 19th centuries changed the nature of work in Europe and other countries of the Western world. Working for a wage, and eventually a salary, became part of urban life. Initially, women were to be found doing even the hardest physical labor, including working as "hurriers" hauling heavy coal carts through mine shafts in Great Britain, a job that also employed many children. This ended after government intervention and the passing of the Mines and Collieries Act 1842, an early attempt at regulating the workplace.

During the 19th century, an increasing number of women in Western countries took jobs in factories, such as textile mills, or on assembly lines for machinery or other goods. Women also worked as "hawkers" of produce, flowers, and other market goods, and bred small animals in the working-class areas of London. Piecework, which involved needlework (weaving, embroidery, winding wool or silk) that paid by the piece completed, was the most common employment for women in 19th century Great Britain. It was poorly paid, and involved long hours, up to 14 hours per day to earn enough wages to survive.

A woman employee demonstrates a hospital information management system, Tanzania
Percent of women in the workforce among all women aged 20–64 years in the European Union in 2011.[1]
This chart depicts the change in the percentage of women in three professional occupations (dentist, physician, lawyer), from 1970 to 2007
Attendees at a computer business networking event for potential entrepreneurs, United States.
An information technology networking social for potential entrepreneurs. New Delhi, India.
Governor of Bahia, Brazil, attending the first state women's business conference.
Women operating a cabinet manufacturing business, India.
Mechanic working on a motorcycle, United States.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *