This report extensively covers various gender related issues that have been addressed through various pieces of legislation in the United States of America for the past four decades. The report covers sex harassment and employment rights and equalities legislations that have been achieved by the female gender over the years. Moreover, the report also focuses on democratic and political milestone that has been achieved by women in the American society. The report also goes an extra mile to analyze the ineffectiveness of each piece of legislation that addresses gender matters in the United States. The report concludes by offering suggestions for future progress in addressing the gender equality issues in United States of America.
Gender Based Discrimination in the Workplace
The fight for gender equality in the United States of America has gone through a bumpy and long road. Women in the United States had to endure long spells of struggle to achieve the rights that they are currently enjoying today. The fight for gender equality in the United States began way back in the 19th century when women agitated for a change in the marriage property rights (Mollin, 2004). In mid 20th century, general movement for gender equality was embarked on that was supposed to address gender rights through legislation and cultural shifts that had to recognize gender issues. Gender equality was then finally agreed through legislative undiscriminatory laws that addressed equal access to job opportunities across the gender, sexual harassment, wage discrimination, education, and other gender balance issues (Mollin, 2004).
Protection and gains women have received through laws
The unending debate on gender equality has resulted in achievement of varied protection of women rights largely in Europe and the United States of America. The protection of these rights results has at the same time translated in substantial gains to the female gender in the United States (Mollin, 2004). These gains have been facilitated through various pieces of legislations enacted by the United States Congress back in early 1960s. The issues of gender disparities in the United States of America are legislated through the federal Equal Pay Act of 1963, Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Education Amendments of the passage of Tittle VII and XII of 1970s (Mollin, 2004).
One of the most substantial areas of gender equality that has lead to protection of women rights and consequent gains is political representation of women in legislative arms of the government in the United States (Paxton, Hughes & Painter, 2010). Over the past decades, after the legislations that paved way for gender equality, the number of women representatives holding political elective posts has gradually increased. This is attributed to the impacts on gender reforms that have greatly changed and altered the democracy and electoral system in the United States. The women’s big stride towards political representation has been protected and enshrined in the constitution and electoral laws (Paxton, Hughes & Painter, 2010).
The democratic autonomy in the United States of America guarantees fair election and encourage fair competition. Furthermore, the political rules and pieces of legislations are clear, well-detailed and consistent (Paxton, Hughes & Painter, 2010). These factors have significantly created a more conducive political environment for women to enter into politics and gain political power. Though the number of women politically elected is below the number of men, the number has significantly increased over the years. The exponential growth in the number of women representative has also helped to trigger the level of gender activism in the United States of America that are out to address more of gender inequalities that are still prevalent (Paxton, Hughes & Painter, 2010).
Sexual harassment is also an important women rights issue that has been fought at length by gender activists in the United States. In the past decades, United States has developed raft of legislations on sexual harassment especially through the Supreme Court (Applen & Kleiner, 2001). This movement has led to the understanding of employee liberty at the workplace. Female employees have been the focus of the legislation since they have traditionally been the victims of sexual harassment at the workplace and public places. Through the legislation, employers are made to understand their liability for any sexual harassment offense at the workplace. The legislation also provides a clear framework on how to effectively prosecute sexual harassment cases. The formulation of anti-harassment policy has effectively protected women employees who have been the target at the workplace. Women employees who are sexually harassed can adequately seek legal redress on sexual matters without any obstacle and with absolute ease as compared to earlier legal redress impasse. This has gradually resulted in decline in the number of sexual harassment at the workplace and public places (Applen & Kleiner, 2001).
Despite the progress made by the United States legislation in addressing the sexual harassment, a number of challenges are still persistent (Cohen, & Vincelette, 1985). The term sexual harassment is not clearly defined thereby resulting in difficulties in addressing complex sexual harassment cases. Moreover, the inefficiencies in the legislation are further created by the fact that the sexually harassed victim has to first give notice to the employer rather than directly report to Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) puts employees in inappropriate position. Additionally, the policy framework does not encourage employers to take preventive measures to curb the whole issue of sexual harassment (Cohen, & Vincelette, 1985; Schmidt, Shelley & Bardes, 2011).
Wage discrimination and equal pay
The passage of Equal Pay Act in 1963 officially denounced sex discrimination with regard to wage and pay by the employer without bias of either gender. This legislation required that no employer shall establish any basis of gender discrimination in paying wages to the employees (Schmidt, Shelley & Bardes, 2011). The Act further stipulated the equalities at the workplace whereby workers of both genders are subjected to equal job opportunities, similar working conditions, and equal pay for the same job group for all employees. This legislation came as a result of gender discriminative act of paying different wages to female employees as compared to the male counterparts.
Furthermore, the legislation covers the recruitment, working terms and conditions, pay and benefits, promotions, job dismissal, transfers, and training. The legislation outlaws employer discrimination of employees on the basis of sex with regard to the above dimensions (Schmidt, Shelley & Bardes, 2011). These laws are enforced through Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). EEOC ensures that the gender policies on employment are strictly adhered to by all employers. From time to time, there have been varied amendments and changes to the Acts so as to address more current gender based issues with regard to employment and pay (Schmidt, Shelley & Bardes, 2011; Bisping, &Fain, 2000).
Through the legislation women, employment rights have been guaranteed and protected. Women today have greatly benefited from the legislation. Since the enactment of the Act, there has been an exponential increase in the number of female gender employed in different sectors both in private and public (Bisping, & Fain, 2000). At the same time, the salaries of women employed have significantly risen. The legislation has also resulted in women in the same employment position as men to have equal pay for a similar work performed. Another positive gain from the legislation is that women have are now aware of their employment rights and the available channels of legal redress that they can utilize in the event of discrimination. Women in the United States of America enjoy equal rights as the male counterparts at the workplace. Women are now of equal status with men at the workplace. Currently, women constitute almost forty-eight percent of the overall workforces in the United States (Bisping, & Fain, 2000). The legislation has also enhanced the role of women in families due to their increased economic power. It is estimated that eighteen percent of United States household are headed by women who are primary breadwinners. Lastly, the Civil Rights Act of 1991 enables women who face work related discrimination to be entitled to monetary damages. The legislation also guarantees women consultation from lawyers who offer free or small charge for their services (Bisping, & Fain, 2000).
Despite the progress that has been made to address employment and work-related discrimination, there are substantial inefficiencies that have not been addressed by the legislations (Equal pay task force, 2012). The gender gap on equal payment continues to persist. The total women earnings are only seventy-seven percent of the male annual total earning. Furthermore, the gap is even greater among the African-American and Latina women. African-American and Latina women earn sixty-four percent and fifty percent respectively of the total earnings of Caucasian man. The weaknesses in the laws are also brought to fore due to the sharply divided Supreme Court rulings that interpret the legislations (Equal pay task force, 2012).
The glass ceiling legislation was initiated through the Civil Rights Act of 1991 by the United States Congress as a tool of ensuring that more women take up top management in organizations and organizations (Chaffins, & Forbes, 1995; Bisping, & Fain, 2000). This was brought about by the fact that women were unevenly represented in top management positions in different organizations and corporations. By the year 1987, only two percent of top management jobs were held by women. Women only held five percent of women were represented in corporation boards in the United States. Glass ceiling was a blame for this mess since it blocked women from rising and taking up management positions (Chaffins, & Forbes, 1995; Bisping, & Fain, 2000).
The glass ceiling breaking strategies were pursued through the Civil Rights Act 1991 that encouraged women to seek top management jobs in corporations and organizations. Landmark glass breaking initiative was to voice employment equity across the genders. The ceiling breaking initiative did also outlined the problems women face in job ascendancy, provided formula for achieving gender parity outcomes, and described future progress in breaking the women barriers to achievement of top management position in organizations (Bisping, & Fain, 2000). The glass ceiling commission was established to develop recommendations that were aimed at breaking the barriers of women and other minorities’ progress at the workplace. When the agreements were finally agreed upon, affirmative action was clearly entrenched in early employment legislations that provided a chance that everyone, regardless of gender of cultural affiliation, had an equal chance to ascend according to their abilities and efforts in the employment. The affirmative action encouraged retraining of women and minority groups so as to be able to compete favorably for the top management position with male counterparts (Bisping, & Fain, 2000).
Affirmative action has had differentiated impact on women in the United States of America. The advent of affirmative action in the United States has significantly increased the number of women manager in the last fifteen years. The number of female executives serving in the top management positions has more than doubled (Ledeen, 1997). Affirmative action also has been able increase the number of women participation in economic activities in the economy. The move has greatly empowered the women in society. The number of women owned enterprises have greatly increased over the years thereby increasing the number of self-employed women. Another positive move of affirmative action is that it has enabled a large number of women to take up corporate jobs which have seen an increase in the number of women in the top management strata (Monroe, 1986).
However, affirmative action is weakened by the fact that it tends to encourage or rather promote more of white women to take up management (Monroe, 1986). The white women seem to have major step in reaching top level managements. On contrast, black and Hispanic women are slower and reluctant to take up management jobs. They are only taking up lower and middle level management jobs (Monroe, 1986).
The struggle for gender equality and affirmative action has been a long battle for women in the United States. It is quite commendable that the fight for equal rights in employment, democracy, and gender balance has been tremendously successful in the United States of America. However, there are still quite clear inequalities that need to address solved the issue of gender parity conclusively. It is also important to acknowledge weaknesses of the present legislation on gender parity so as to draw proper policy framework on gender equity and equality.
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