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It is no secret that women too can contribute to the development of society. The role of women in development and society has always been undermined by male chauvinists. Gender equality is one of the issues that has always caused struggle between the two sexes. Gender, class, race and ethnicity are the issues the modern woman continues to navigate away. Women are struggling to move away from these issues, and contribute positively to sectors such as education, health, business and to the development of the whole society in general.
The same as men, women can be useful in teaching and also acquire knowledge to apply it positively in society. In the field of education, women have generally not contributed much. However, during the twentieth century they have been more assertive in contributing to education and every field in general. Women have made significant strides in entering occupations that are male dominated. They have ventured into fields such as engineering, aeronautics and even medicine, which were formerly male, dominated.
Women have an educational role to play in the family. They have an influence on the family members ranging from children to her husband. They can use the influence, achieved through spending time with their children to educate them of critical issues in life. The areas they teach their children could range from mannerisms to sex education. The knowledge acquired will be beneficial to the children in future undertakings. She also has an influence on her husband. She can also serve the purpose of influencing her husband and any male individual in her life, such as a brother or father. She can advise them on any issue that may arise. Therefore, women have a significant educational role in the family and society as a whole.
The 1950s was a considerable period for women as there was an increase in the number of women joining the labor force. The number of married women participating in providing labor increased; However, there was still a gap between the incomes earned by the man in the economy. The average working woman earned only 63% of what the average working man was earning. This was the period of awakening for the woman, as she was exposed to the massive inequalities between man and woman. They started to agitate for new roles and responsibilities other than the one they were assigned by society of finding a husband and rearing children. They decided to achieve professional and personal identity other than leave it to be defined by a male inclined society.
The 1960s and 1970s also saw the birth of women movements aimed at achieving gender equality. The members were mainly middle class women who were geared towards change. The movements agitated against the issues that were affecting the women at the time. The issues included objectification of women, gender inequality, feminism and lack of equal opportunities between women and men. The movements were mainly sparked by the sexual revolution of the 1960s and also drew their inspiration from the civil rights movements.
The participation of women in education and society, in general was also encouraged by the reform legislations in the 1960s. The civil rights bill of 1964 outlawed discrimination on the basis of gender or race. This bill placed women on an equal playing ground with the men. The women now could be able to secure the rights they were agitating for. It meant that women could join any college that the men were joining. They could also work in any profession including those that were considered to for men only. This was the main reason why the number of women joining the labor force increased during these two decades.
Apart from the women movements, women were too realizing the need for improvement and change. They started grouping themselves to encourage, sensitize and educate other women on the rights and obligations to the society in general. Professional women, who had already made it in a male dominated professions, grouped themselves to advice and sensitize other women. They launched organizations such as the National Organization for Women (NOW). The organizations mandate was to increase women’s input into the American society. They sensitized women on the opportunities available to them, how they could best use them and finally taught them on how to increase the opportunities available to women. The organization saw a rapid increase in the number of members over two decades. Within the first year, the organization had a membership of around 1000, and within the next four years the membership had increased to 15,000. This indicates the awakening of women to agitate for their rights and also take on new responsibilities and roles in society.
There was also sensitization of women through the media. Magazine, newspapers and shows through either the radio or television stations helped to educate women on their rights and opportunities available to them. A magazine called Ms. by Gloria Steinem; a reputable journalist in conjunction with other women published its first copies in the 1972. The information they published was able to reach a wide audience as they sold around 850,000 copies from 1971 and 1976. The articles the magazines were aimed at sensitizing the women on issues such health, educational opportunities, career opportunities and also on their rights and roles in the development of the society as a whole.
Gender equality in the two decades was also promoted by activists. They agitated for equal rights and obligations between women and men. They were for the effective implementation of a 1972 bill Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). The bill was such that it outlawed discrimination or denial of equity of any individual in the United States on the basis of his or her sex. The activists wanted the bill to apply in every state in the US. They advocated for equal treatment and also equal resources and opportunities for both sexes. 35 of the required 38 states accepted the bill. This marked a crucial step towards achieving gender equality in the United States.
The 1970s also saw reforms in the judicial system. The courts in the United States enforced the bills passed by congress. In a landmark ruling in Roe vs. Wade at the Supreme Court in 1973, it ruled against abortion within the early pregnancy stages. This was crucial as it marked a significant achievement by the women movement towards achieving its course. It also showed the powerfulness of the movement. It also showed the goodwill of the government and the judiciary in particular towards promoting gender equality in the United States.
However, the women movement was not able to appeal to other groups beyond the middle class. This led to its failure as it failed to gain the acceptance of the 38 states needed to continue operating. The other reasons for the failure were massive divisions in the organization, and it also faced opposition from the conservationists. The steps taken by the women movement cannot be retracted. They made gainful benefits towards promoting gender equality, equal resources and opportunities of both genders and promoting the general dignity of women.
During the 1950s through to the 1970s women made a significant contribution in education. Firstly, the women became aware of their role in society to disseminate information and knowledge. They realized that they too had a role in promoting education just like the men. The 1960s saw a general increase in the women joining the labor force due to the women taking their educational opportunities. The women also contributed to disseminating of information by publishing of literature in every field ranging from health, business, engineering and even on the sensitization of women on their rights, roles and responsibilities.
The 1960s witnessed an increase in the number of women authors such as the Betty Friedan who published books like “The Feminine Mystique”. The women were taking an active role in the writing of literature. Many more women authors published their literature on many forums. These literatures were able to reach a wide range of women all over the world. The women authors also served as role models that women could do anything if they decided to, generating a new sense of believe in the women.
The women have also witnessed a massive transformation from the female dominated occupations such as social work and teaching in the 1950s to male dominated occupations such as medicine and engineering. The women started aiming at having careers and not mere jobs. The college entrants were also able to limit pregnancy cases, therefore, increasing the completion rate from college. This was unlike the college entrants of the 1950s who constantly dropped out due to teenage pregnancy. This drop in teenage pregnancy cases helped to increase the completion rate of women from college to fulfill their targets of achieving a career.
Another reason for the increase in learning opportunities for the female child is due to delayed marriages. Women of the 1950s used to rush into early marriages derailing their educational needs. In the 1970s, the age for marriage was increased by around two and half years. This allowed the females to go through the educational system fully without issues like marriage getting in the way. The number of women graduating increased during the 1970s mainly due to this and other reasons.
The other reason for the increase in women taking their education seriously was due to the government commitment to achieving gender equality. The government was committed to removing the wage differences between women and men workers. They devised strategies to remove the wage differentials and promote fair compensation for work done. The government was against discrimination at the work place by using sex. There were legislations to promote equality. They proposed equal chances for every worker at the work place with equal opportunities for promotion and increase in wages. This commitment by the government was able to increase the motivation of women to pursue careers. The hope of a level playing field encouraged the women to go through with their education and pursue their career paths.
The number women pursuing education increased in the 1970s due to the attitude change. Parents who had earlier believed that education was only to the male child changed their opinions and granted the female child the opportunity to pursue education. The number of females enrolling to school increased relatively during the period. The change in attitude was due to sensitization and the girl child showing high capability levels. Studies have shown that generally the girl child is more committed at school than the boy child. Girls have shown high cognitive skills than the boys of the same age. The girls also take more time to complete their homework than the boys. The boy is also vulnerable to suspensions and other mischief at school compared to the girls. These and many more researches have promoted believe in the capability of the girl child performing just as well as the boy.
The number of women and men in colleges is relatively the same today in developed nations. Women have filled the massive gap existed between men and women over the years. The positive environment which nurtures the goals and ambitions of women has contributed to equality in number of women and men joining college to pursue careers in different fields. The women have also been able to succeed into male dominated professions. The level playing fields availed by relevant stakeholders has encouraged the women workers to venture into careers believed to be for men. The number of women seeking jobs in teaching and social work has relatively decreased over the years.
The woman has created a gender identity. They have been so far to establish a psychological system with the society’s social system. The society is more aware of the needs of women and has generally shown the goodwill to achieve this equality. Vices like objectification of women to a certain degree have reduced. Objectification of women is where women are taken as objects with no consideration for their feelings. The women movements and other factors have positively contributed to the achievement of gender equality. It has contributed to the women recognizing their rights and using the opportunities availed to them. The women have been to achieve educational and professional success. The number of women going through the American system of education has increased over the years to level to that of the men. However, there are more steps that need to be taken to ensure continued success in achieving gender equality. Continuous sensitization should be employed to ensure that the women continue to contribute positively to society just as the men.