Women and Equal Rights
Women and Equal Rights
On August 26, 2011 women celebrated the 91st anniversary of a victory that took more than 70 years of political struggle to achieve, the right to vote. After this victory was achieved, socialist feminist Crystal Eastman stated “that although suffrage was an important first step what women really wanted was freedom” and she actually laid out a plan that is still relevant today. She outlined a four point program of what women need to achieve in order to have the same freedoms and equality as men.
1. Economic independence for women, including the freedom to choose an occupation and receive pay equal to a ...view middle of the document...
In 2011 women working full time, year round, were typically paid just 77 cents for every dollar paid to their male counterparts. Although, women have narrowed the gap by 18 cents over the past five decades, the wage gap still stands at 23 cents. Opponents of the Equal Pay Act argued that the legislation was unnecessary, that it would be detrimental to women and to businesses, and that employers would respond to the law by refusing to hire women. Some attempted to justify the pay differences between men and women, claiming that women were less skilled, had higher rates of absenteeism, and were “more prone to homemaking and motherhood.” Fifty years later women are still paid less than men in nearly every occupation. One study examining wage gaps within occupations found that out of 265 major occupations, men’s median salaries exceeded women’s in all but one. This is true whether women work in predominately female occupations, predominantly male occupations, or occupations with a more even mix of men and women (NWLC, 2013). In my personal interview with Gloria Mitchell she states “long gone are the days when the “man of the house is the breadwinner” today there are many factors that affect the family size and number of women who are the breadwinners. Yet the old stereotype that families do not rely on women’s income and that women do not need higher pay often causes employer decisions to pay men more than women and to offer career-track, family-supporting jobs to men only” (G.Mitchell, Personal communication, December 9,2013). It does not have to be this way. When President Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act into law, he stated it was only a “first step” and emphasized that “much work remains to be done to achieve full equality of economic opportunity” (NWLC, 2013). Fifty years later it is past time to finally put in place the set of policies we need to close the wage gap. It is difficult for women, who account for more than 40 percent of primary breadwinners in families with children and nearly 50 percent of the labor force, to provide for themselves and their families because of the wage gap. Closing this gap requires a serious and continued commitment at both the federal and state levels to overcoming all of the barriers standing in the way of women achieving fair pay. It necessitates strengthening our equal pay laws so that women have the tools they need to challenge pay discrimination; removing the roadblocks to women’s access to higher-paying nontraditional jobs and job training, including harassment and discrimination; increasing the pay for women in the lowest-paid jobs, many of which have historically been devalued because they are done by women; and guaranteeing that women with caregiving responsibilities do not face workplace discrimination and economic hardship simply for fulfilling these responsibilities. It is past time to finish America’s unfinished business of achieving fair pay.
One of the most challenging roles of the women’s...