During the First World War attitudes towards women's capabilities in the workplace changed. With men being conscripted, Britain had no choice but to employ women, and many employers soon favoured the women workforce, as they would accept lower wages than the men. When the men returned home they went back to their jobs and women went back to their homes. This happened all over again after the Second World War. Then in 1945 the Family Allowance Act was introduced which meant the state paid benefit directly to the woman.
Also in 1955 equal pay was awarded within the teaching profession, civil service and local government offices. Still women were largely financially dependent on their husbands for the next twenty years, as the pattern of women working and then leaving their job to have a family continued. Nevertheless it has only been in the last forty years that great changes have been scene in the opportunities open to women in the workplace. In 1958 Britain saw it's first female bank manager, and in 1962 Dame Barbara Salt became the first female ambassador.
The seventies allowed even more drastic changes to women's role and status with the first women being allowed on the floor on the stock exchange in 1973 and undoubtedly the most major advance in women's status, since being given the right to vote, was Margaret Thatcher becoming the first women prime minister in 1979. Yet, even with all these changes women were still being discriminated against within the pay structure. Legislation in 1970 stipulated that within the next five years men and women should have equal wages for equal jobs.
Many employers avoided this by giving men and women's jobs different titles although they were doing the same work. Due to this the Equal Value Amendment to the Equal Pay Act was introduced in 1984, which allowed women to claim equal pay for doing different jobs they considered to be of the same value. In 1975 another important piece of legislation was introduced, the Sex Discrimination Act, which banned sex discrimination from not only employment but also education and advertising.
However even today, women's roles are similar to before being given the vote, as many women do prefer to stay at home with the children if financially possible, but some women enjoy the freedom of getting away from the house and children and this option is now open to them. Women's status on the other hand has changed completely; women are now considered equal to men and can work in any profession they choose.
The twentieth century saw many new pieces of legislation, which had an important impact on the role, and status of women. However in my opinion the legislation only reflected the increasing social power of women in most cases. Most legislation followed a change in society rather than creating one. The only exception was giving women the right to vote, which was the first major step to improve the social standing of women, and was the cornerstone of enhancing and improving their role and status in the twentieth century.