Increase in American Women’s Wages and the Immigration of Foreign Workers
In the history of almost any country, women have been deemed as the source of human life. Their most significant professions were to be wives and mothers. However, for so many years, women were thought to be intellectually inferior to men. Thus, women did not enjoy the same legal rights and career opportunities as men did. Economics, politics, and philosophy were controlled by men. The households and the children were the women’s turf. This tradition, however, changed in the 20th century, when women in most nations were granted the right to vote.
They were also allowed to attain higher levels of education, giving them the opportunity to have better jobs. In recent years, there has been a large degree of reevaluation of the traditional views of women’s roles in the society. Then again, as we look at the reality, women still hold greater responsibility on household chores and child rearing. They are still pressured by the cultural norm that they should become wives and mothers. This has prevented many talented women from finishing college or pursuing careers.
For women who are employed, their participation in the labor force has become an additional workload for them. Then again, in developed countries such as the United States, working women have started holding work positions that receive relatively high wages. Thus, many working women have resorted to employing domestic helpers who take over the household chores and taking care of the children. Recent trends show that these domestic helpers are immigrants to the United States. American Women at Work
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In colonial America, women commonly earned a living by accepting sewing jobs (seamstresses) or by being boardinghouse caretakers. There were a few women doctors, lawyers, preachers, teachers, writers, and singers, but by the early 19th century, women were restricted to factory labor or domestic work (Women’s International Center). Also in the beginning of 19th century, most professional careers required more extensive educational preparation. Women who married early and had children were thus unable to participate in such educational preparations, and were consequently not able to hold professional degrees.
Women were pursuing a career in the medical field suffered further discrimination when the American Medical Association, founded in 1846, disallowed them from membership in the said organization. Women were also not allowed to attend “men’s” medical colleges. Therefore, women enrolled in their own school. For example, in 1850 the Female Medical College of Pennsylvania was established. By the year 1910, many leading medical schools have accepted female students.
In 1915, the American Medical Association began accepting women members (Women’s International Center). During World War II, about 300,000 American women served in the Army and Navy. They were tasked to perform jobs such as secretaries, typists, and nurses. After the war, the number of women in the US work force continued to increase. Indeed, significant changes in the women’s role in the world of work took place over the past 50 years (Fullerton, 1999). Table 1 shows the number of women in the labor force from 1950 until 2005.
In spite of the increase in the number of women who have joined the labor force throughout the years, in the late 1980s, women had only a small share of the decision-making jobs. Although there were already some women holding various higher positions such as managers, officials, and administrators, The work force, especially in the high-skilled division, was still dominated by men. In the increasing trend of American women’s participation in the labor force, their age group showed differences in their rates of participation.
Table 2 presents these variations. Table 2. Labor Force Participation Rates of Women by Age, 1950 and 1998 In 1950, 33. 9 percent of women age 16 and over were already working or were looking for work. In 1998, this jumped up to 59. 8 percent. The dramatic changes in the labor force participation of women are noticeable in the age groups 25 to 34, 35 to 44, and 45 to 54 — the age groups of married women. This is despite the prejudices that plagued women during those times because most employers thought they would not be permanent workers.
This is based on the assumption that married women will still have to take care of their children and be responsible for housework. However, as statistics showed, “married women generally continued on their jobs for many years and were not a transient, temporary, or undependable work force” (Women’s International Center). As a matter of fact, the influx of married women workers in the 1960s to the early 1970s contributed to almost half of the increase in the total labor force.