Over the years women have been considered to be the soft and submissive partners of their male counterparts. This notion got its roots from the unequal treatment of boys and girls by the society. Both economically and socially, the society expected a lot from their boys compared to the girls. However, this situation has been fading with time. Phrases like feminism wave, female billionaires and sexual revolution are becoming common terms within and outside the United States. Most of the today’s women were brought up with persuasion to believe that they have power and equal opportunity to change the world’s perception about women.
The Architects of Revolution
The contribution of famous women such as Mother Teresa, Dorothy Day, Eunice Kennedy Shriver and Clare Booth Luce stimulated the sensitization of American women to work harder for their economic and social independence and freedom. The evaluation of women’s progress in the United States started by President John F. Kennedy’s formation of the very first Commission on the Status of Women (Shriver 4). This commission was put in place with the main goal of assessing the progress towards practical equality of women with their male counterparts.
Among other findings, commission reported that people’s opinion had already started to change from the idea that women’s achievement could only be gauged on their homemaking ability. This finding was in reference to the traditional consideration of women as nothing other than homemaking (Davidson, 65). To some extent, the society still expects men to provide for their families even if the woman is economically stable. Men are therefore forced to exploit all the economic and political opportunities to express their domineering powers.
Even though there is high possibility of women to head families, there are still some aspects of women subordination in the United States’ families. The report revealed that half of those women who are likely to be primary breadwinners are also single mothers (Maloney, 74). This finding adds to the fact that most of the married women were depending on their husbands as the family breadwinners even if they were economically stable. However, this situation has tremendously changed. By 2009, most of the mothers had become breadwinners. The statistics shows that in four out of every ten American families women are the breadwinners (Shriver, 7).
The current recession has partly contributed to this change. The affirmative action and activism towards gender equality have seen employers more likely to lay off their male employees than the female ones. The recession has therefore worked positively towards economic stability of women compared to men (Davidson, 218).
Politically, women have learnt to take part fully in politics, which was previously viewed to be men’s affairs. In the 2008’s general election, two women ran for the senior most seats within the States. As Hillary Clinton was running for the Democrats presidential candidacy, Sarah Palin got the Republicans’ nomination for the Vice President’s slot. This was a major boost and sign of great political progress in the part of American women. This move was not just an indicator towards the realization of women’s full leadership potential but also a motivation for the younger women.
Previously, the political consideration of women was disappointingly low. The highest elective positions held by a woman were the senate and congress seats. By the time of the above report, there were only two female senators and eleven congressional representatives. This condition was further blurred by the negative fact that only two women had ever been appointed to a cabinet position since the United States’ independence (Chamberlain, 94).
The challenge is therefore thrown back to the today’s women to rise from comfort of their political back seat and bring the desired change to reality. Borrowing from 2008’s presidential campaign agenda: Change we want, Shriver (5) seeks to transform the thoughts of American women through the Women’s Conference, of which she is the head. The conference provides the best platform where women have been able to share ideas, experiences and information in addition to being a motivational meeting for all the women (Shriver 5).
Women have also taken a bold step towards elimination of discrimination of any form. Through the Women’s Conference, women have encouraged respect and fellowship of all women. The participants in this conference come together and share their ideas regardless of their professional background, age, ethnic group, political affiliation, social class, education level and even race. This is a great progress and achievement for the American woman. She can now talk of her achievement not only as a homemaker but more so as a nation builder. The environment created by such women conferences’ acts as the pillars on which the national peace, democracy and political stability are built (Davidson, 78).
Economically, women have made several steps in an effort to move from the traditionally dependent part of the American population. As opposed to 1967, where women accounted for only one-third of all the American workers, today women make almost half or more of all the American paid workers (Dimin, 489).
Some of these economically well-off women have developed several initiatives to uplift the disadvantaged members of the society. The Women Conference, for instance, supports several women empowerment programs such as investing in micro lending to women, granting scholarships to needy girls, activism towards eradication of all forms of abuse and violence against women (Shriver 5).
According to the 1963’s report titled American Women, most of the American women, by the time of the report release, were working in low paid jobs such as clerical jobs (Shriver, 8). This low profile of women was greatly attributed to the traditional norms where men were heavily hardened by the high pressure under which the society put them. Parents raised their sons with strict and rigid gender roles that made them believe that they were meant for the perceived hard or technical professions (Chamberlain, 239). The Council on Women and Girls reported that female students are underrepresented compared to the male students in mathematics and science classes. The report points at this underrepresentation as one of the factors that have led men to higher paying professions than women.
In retrospect, this difference can be traced from the boys and girls’ early life. Boys are shaped to be mechanics, engineers and other heavy machine-related jobs by giving them such toys as trucks and machines. Girls, on the other hand, are shaped for the care-giving related professions such as nursing and hospitality. Mostly, a girl’s birthday present would be a doll while the boys would be given trucks or guns. For this reason, girls got the wrong impression that some subjects such as mathematics, physics and technology were not meant for them.
Eventually, women found themselves outside all the professions related to these fields. The first professional option for the average woman would therefore be clerical, nursing, teaching and hospitality. However, a positive progress has been witnessed compared to the past. A progress report entitled Women in physics in the United States: a progress report reported that a number of women earning Ph.D. in physics rose from 11.3% in 1994 to 18% in 2003 (Budil 1).
Women’s progress in the legal system can be traced from 1920 when the United States Constitution underwent the 19th amendment. This amendment gave the American women the right to vote. Later, in 1964, the Civil Rights Act worked for women by its prohibition of sex discrimination in employment (Morse, 1). For the reasons of facilitating women’s rights, several other amendments have been made. In 1973 the law introduced greater freedom in reproductive choices. The law prohibiting discrimination against pregnant women in employment was introduced in 1978. Other laws supporting women’s professional competitions include the 1984’s child support and widows/divorced women Act, 1990’s Federal Child care’s fund, 1993’s Workers’ family care Act and the 1994’s protection against violence (Morse, 1).
Despite these progresses, there are some laxities in the judicial system. According to the United States’ Justice Department, only 40% of the rape cases are reported to the police. The pathetic state of the United States’ legal system is further illustrated by the fact that only a fraction of the reported 40% rape cases ends in the conviction of the criminals (Melnick 1). It is therefore clear that women are yet to receive satisfactory deal from the judicial system.
Challenges facing women development
Despite the numerous developments and progresses that women have made, some issues and challenges are still standing on the way to realization of women’s full potential. Topping the list of these issues is the maternal health issue. Shriver (8) notes that professional women have opted for late childbearing in which 70% of the women are becoming first-time mothers at 40 to 44 years old. The issue in this case is the high health risks associated with the advanced maternal age. Women are therefore faced with challenge of coincidence of fertility age range with the period when employees are most likely to develop their careers and education (Shriver, 8).
It is also noted that however much women may deliver in their workplace they are more likely to be paid less than the male employees would. This is partly attributed to the less technical professions that are associated with women. In addition to these challenges is the issue of family-work balance. Women, as mothers and wives, are still expected to be closer to their families compared to men. Their biologically assigned responsibilities such breastfeeding complicate their family-work schedule.
However, these challenges to women’s progress may be outweighed by the numerous opportunities that are now available to the American woman. Through the government instituted Council on Women and Girls, there has been active advocacy for women-friendly work and education environment (Morse, 1). The affirmative action has secured women’s appointments and employments in both government and private organizations. Technology has also presented other opportunities, such as virtual universities and online job opportunities. Women can therefore develop their careers and make money within the comfort of their maternity beds.
In order for women to facilitate rapid and healthy progress, the following recommendations should be considered. Both men and women should embrace the idea of family planning. It is only through the all-accepted family planning practice that women can enhance their professional careers without jeopardizing their God-given responsibilities as mothers and wives. The government should also facilitate these developments by instituting better legal systems that would protect women against family and employment exploitation. Ultimately, the political arena should be well leveled to accommodate female aspirants.
It would be better to conclude by observation that bondage that women have been struggling to break from was majorly a construction of our minds. All members of the society should therefore seek for the full redemption of their minds and adopt new perspective of life for a better society for all.