In its short, 20-year history, the business sphere has been largely dominated by men. The chaotic transition years that gave birth to the country’s market economy in the 1990’s were ruled over by masculine tribal warfare, and the ensuing oligarch club which rules over the business world today is very much “men only.” Even linguistics don’t present many opportunities for women in business, the term “businesswoman” not having followed its masculine counterpart.
From the beginning of time, women have worked at home, as well as outside of the home, to contribute to the greater economic well-being of family. Even in colonial America, characterized by rural and self-sufficient communities, women assumed roles in the manufacture and sale of goods. Beginning with the textile mills and the shoemaking industry of postrevolutionary America, the first real explosion of women into business appeared at the turn of the century in secretarial and take-home work situations. By World War I, women were poised to enter the workforce in great numbers and spurred into the workplace by the absence of men on the homefront. As men returned from the war and the economy gradually worsened into the Great Depression, women suffered displacement from the business world. World War II created a similar growth of women in business. Without a serious economic depression and as a result of changing societal norms, women's roles and functions in business have steadily increased in the years since World War II. In 1991 women represented 45 percent of the U.S. workforce.
“There is a Russian saying that behind any successful man there is a strong woman,” said Elena Panfilova, director-general of the Russian office of Transparency International, who herself came in 67th on the list. “The 24 businesswomen in this rating represent only those women who are visible, but behind the scenes, women are also playing a significant role because half of the chief lawyers and half of the senior accountants and financial directors in big businesses in Russia are women.”
Blue-collar workers traditionally evoke images of trades and manufacturing employees. White-collar employees hold positions of professional and managerial importance. Women in business, while represented in both, create a third category called pink-collar workers. Pink-collar workers are commonly associated with clerical, sales, and service positions. In each of these roles, women participate and create a presence. In trade and manufacturing jobs particularly, the relationship between women and labor unions has been noteworthy. In professional and managerial jobs, women are directly exposed to ideas and conceptions of power and control. And, in service jobs, women, as the dominant labor force, deal with effects of technology daily in a compelling way.
The sum total of this historical record and increasing participation in the workforce brings to light the controversial matter of a woman's work and worth. In particular, gender discrimination and pay inequity demonstrate the difficult transition of women into the business world. Protective legislation is one demonstration of governmental attempts to prevent and discourage sex discrimination on the job. Legal redress for salary inequities is another method of controlling pay discrimination. Other contributing concerns that women bring to business include issues about benefits.
During World War II, women again entered the workforce in great numbers. In response to a need for new workers and new production, six million women went to work during the war. Society's approval of this phenomena was reflected in posters of Rosie the Riveter and other cultural signals. Magazines and movies and other media all reinforced a woman's patriotic duty to work. Again, however, at the end of the war, women were encouraged to leave the workplace and return to the family environment. While half the women in the workplace left between 1945 and 1946, by 1947 the employment rate of women had regained its wartime levels. And, by 1950, almost one third of all women worked outside the home.
Women work in the trades and labor jobs, in professional and managerial jobs, and in the service industry. Although women's work is as varied as the women themselves, these traditional categories of workplace employment serve as a useful framework to evaluate women in business. In trade and labor employment, women find themselves at particular odds with male-dominated occupational patterns.
In 1998 more than 30 million married women worked outside the home and women represented 49 percent of the professional, managerial, and administrative workforce. In the coming years, women of color will compose the fastest growing segment of the labor force. Because of their dual role in the home and at work, women bring to the job new and previously unconsidered issues in employment. Some of these issues include child care, elder care, scheduling, and financial considerations.
As more and more single female parents enter the business world, the need for child care increases. From a business perspective, this is imperative to ensure the continued supply of female workers. In the early 19th century, women were normally left to their own devices to arrange for child care. Neighbors and relatives filled this need and, when unavailable, children were simply left home alone. Dormant until the 1970s, the lack of available child care reflected society's preference for women to stay at home rather than work.
As a result of conflicting family roles and responsibilities, women embrace the idea of flexible scheduling. Flexible scheduling allows women to set their own hours within limits set by corporate policy or practice. While companies must bear the costs of complicated schedules, they reap the benefits of increased productivity as women arrange schedules to meet their familial responsibilities. Almost 60 percent of all women would prefer a job with flexible hours. Other arrangements, such as job sharing, allow women to share jobs with other women in order to accommodate home demands. The process of getting a loan is no easier if you’re a woman or a minority. For instance, certainly the number of women in business today is much higher than in previous generations. But obtaining financial support isn’t viewed by bankers any differently than it is for male entrepreneurs. Women in business has to work twice as hard for half the recognition and pay. But, ladies, statistics show we’ll outlive our male counterparts. We know that women in business could do the job of two air traffic controllers without breaking a sweat even as the airport burns to the ground. For example, so-called feminists stress the importance of gender divisions in society. They portray these divisions as working to the overall advantage of men. Their beliefs are based on the Patriarchy myth.
The Patriarchy has conspired in the oppression of women for millennia of human civilization. But, on the other hand, the so-called “gender feminism” doesn’t believe in the gender gap.
The definition of feminism for the last one is as follows:
Feminism is about advocating equal rights for women and ensuring they have the opportunities to succeed in the society.
Although our views on feminism differ, there’s a pretty solid consensus that feminism is not about shifting the power so that women are on top.
It’s about recognizing the inherent disadvantages and the levels of violence women face and about trying to find a balance. And we work towards that goal: finding balance.
Bullock, Susan. Women and Work. London: Zed Books, 1994.
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