The State of the US Workforce

Access to contraception and abortion continued to be major issues for women's rights advocates. (Wikipedia, 2006). While this may not seem to have any direct bearing on the topic of gender equality, it does have some indirect bearing – one wonders whether, had this been a male health related issue – it would have been discussed and mulled over for so long. I feel it would have been over a lot quicker, and may not even have been a major issue. Women did, however, eventually achieve some sort of victory in the fight.

The birth control pill technologically revolutionized control over reproduction, while laws restricting access to birth control and abortion were rolled back, by legislative action and judicial decisions such as Griswold v. Connecticut (contraception, 1965) and Roe v. Wade (abortion, 1973). Numerous women's health collectives, women-run reproductive health clinics and several clandestine abortion services (most notably Jane, organized by members of the Chicago Women's Liberation Union) were organized prior to these rulings, providing immediate access and increasing pressure for legalization.

(Wikipedia, 2006). Finally women were beginning to achieve the same right to health as their male counterparts. And how do things look for women on the political side? Women's participation in national political life remained low long after the right to vote was gained in 1920. No more than two women served in the Senate at any time until 1994, and less than a dozen were Congressional Representatives until 1955. Current representation is 14 senators and 67 representatives, around 15% of the United States Congress.

One quarter of women in Congress are people of color, which reflects the American population, but bucks the trend of the Congress. No woman has been a major party presidential nominee, although several have run for the position of Vice President or sought their party's nomination. (Center for American Women and Politics, Women in Elected Office 2006) Still, the past generation has seen a remarkable shift in American's stated willingness to vote for a woman as president, according to polls more than 80% of Americans would vote for a female candidate (Wikipedia, 2006)

Meanwhile, more women have entered the workplace. While the percentage of men participating in the workforce has declined slightly in recent decades, from 77. 9 percent in 1975 to 74. 2 percent in 2005, women’s participation rate has surged over the same 30 years, from 46. 3 percent to 61. 6 percent. However, women’s participation rate appears to be leveling off; it’s projected to increase only 0. 9 percent from 2001 to 2008, to 61. 9 percent. (Rossheim, 2006).

While women may seem to have achieved something close to equality in this field, there is one major related aspect which needs to be looked at in detail: Do women in the American workforce earn equal pay to the men in the same jobs? No. Although the Equal Pay Act was signed in 1963, making it illegal for employers to pay unequal wages to men and women who hold the same job and do the same work. At the time of the EPA's passage, women earned just 58 cents for every dollar earned by men. By 2004, that rate had only increased to 74 cents, an improvement of less than half a penny a year.

Minority women fare the worst. African-American women earn just 68 cents to every dollar earned by white men, and for Hispanic women that figure drops to merely 57 cents per dollar. (Infoplease 2006) The wage gap between women and men cuts across a wide spectrum of occupations. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that in 2004 female physicians and surgeons earned 52. 2% of the median weekly wages of male physicians, and women in sales occupations earned just 62. 1% of men's wages in equivalent positions. (Infoplease 2006)

If working women earned the same as men (those who work the same number of hours; have the same education, age, and union status; and live in the same region of the country), their annual family incomes would rise by $4,000 and poverty rates would be cut in half. (Infoplease 2006). There are some sources that try to rationalize the fact that men earn more than women, even going so far as to say that men deserve to earn more than women, citing reasons such as married men pay more tax than their female counterparts. This argument of course holds no water.

Married men have chosen to be married, and therefore do have some sort of say over this. They can also structure their salaries in ways which counteract this. The simple fact of the matter is that if a woman is doing the same job as a man, then she should receive the same pay. In conclusion, based on the above information, the answer to the question of whether there is true gender equality in the United States of America is no. Even though we have come a long way over the past century, there is still some way to go.

I believe that the first pioneers of women’s liberation in America would have hoped that by the year 2006 we would have been somewhat closer to true gender equality than we actually are.

Works Cited

Infoplease, (2006) “The Wage Gap” retrieved 11 Oct 2006 from the website http://www. infoplease. com/ipa/A0763170. html Rossheim, John (2006), “The State of the US Workforce as it Moves towards this Milestone”, retrieved 11 Oct 2006 from the website http://featuredreports. monster. com/150M/changes/ Think and Ask (2005), “Men Only: The USA falls behind progress to Build Gender Equality” retrieved 11 Oct 2006 from the website http://www.thinkandask.com/2005/20050522gender.html