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What factors have brought the changing role of women in the economy since 1945? To what extent have they achieved equality in the workplace?

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Introduction

What factors have brought the changing role of women in the economy since 1945? To what extent have they achieved equality in the workplace? The factors that have caused the changing role of women in the economy since 1945 can be divided into two groups; economic factors and social factors. What is interesting is the causal link between these two groups. Was the change economically driven or socially driven, and are these factors prevalent in the workplace? If so how do they affect equality within the workplace? The Second World War was both a social and economic disaster. During the war, work for women had become compulsory and by June 1943, a total of 7.75 million women were in paid employment. Different structures of work had become more common; bi-modal work (allowing women to take a break to have children) and part-time work both increased greatly and were particularly accommodating for women. Not only were more women in work after the war, but they had shown during it that they were fully capable of working full or part-time jobs, jobs that had been typically occupied by men. Economically the war had created a huge labour shortage. As the economy began to rebuild, changes to the structure of the labour force were necessary to fill the jobs previously filled by those killed in the war. ...read more.

Middle

This new legislation helped change the role of women in society as it made working a more attractive option (previously the cost of childcare was too expensive and was not covered by the poor wages on offer to women). This resulted in a huge increase in the amount of part-time work. Bruley says 'the increase in married women's employment was almost entirely accounted for by the growth of part-time work'.4 The Equal Pay Act did not produce equal pay but it did mean that women received better pay which resulted in many returning or starting some form of work. The shortage of labour also posed a major problem for employers who were not as quick to change their attitudes as the government but in the end were resigned to accepting the 'new way' of things. In fact 'some employers were very happy with part-time female workers as they tended to be more productive than full-timers, more reliable in terms of attendance and cost less in terms of bonuses and benefits such as holiday pay'.5 The economic benefits of employing women soon became evident to employers. A period of prosperity in the 1950s/60s further emphasized the need of extra labour in the economy. Demand for domestic goods and consumer durables increased dramatically during this period and magazines and advertising continued to generate this demand. ...read more.

Conclusion

The male exclusion theorists would argue that women are prevented from obtaining these jobs by a patriarchal system, but another possibility is that they lack the drive and ambition to do so. Steven Goldberg certainly thinks that women do not naturally have the aspirations to reach the top. He says that 'men are not better able just more motivated to seek top positions'.8 It is a biological fact that typically men are more competitive than women and this is the underlying cause as to why women cannot and will not achieve equality in the workplace. An example of this can be seen in America where many of the most successful women actually have to take courses in 'being feminine' because in being successful they have adopted male characteristics. In summary, the majority of factors that have led to the changing role of women, since 1945, have been based upon an economic necessity. There have been social factors that have assisted the change, in particular collective bargaining, but even these are closely connected with economics. We go on to conclude that it is the economic environment that prevents women from gaining equality in the workplace. This is because they are not as naturally suited to the fiercely competitive nature of a male dominated workplace. They are possibly restricted in some ways by the men that occupy the top jobs but they are also restricted by their own lack of ambition. ...read more.

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