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Women Equality: History, Discrimination And Challenges

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Over the centuries, women have been subjected to a social injustice in regards to their employment. The social-constructs of societies worldwide have allowed for women to become subservient to men by means of unpaid work, gender biases, gender inequalities, and discrimination. These biases have long placed women in a position whereas they must carry a double burden as they are expected to care for the household and raise children while attempting to thrive in their jobs. Globalization was intended to be a means to an end for many of the inequalities that women faced around the world. Unions promised fair pay and equal rights for all workers. Despite the creation of unions in the last century, women are often still seen as inferior to men in terms of pay, unions, and rights as they continue to fight for equity in the workforce and equality in the home.

History of Women and the Pay Gap

Historically, the majority of women did not work outside the home. Only recently has this changed. This rings especially true for Caucasian women. Before the 1960’s, women were highly discriminated against in the workforce. It was believed that women did not have the physical strength or mental capacity to handle the same careers as men. That being said they were not granted the same opportunities in education. That gendered job classification was relevant on every economic level. Gender segregated job opportunities, lower education rates, the creation of traditionally female industries of work, and the reduced expectations of women’s work prolonged the gender pay gap. A multitude of factors influenced the women’s movements of the 1960’s. The 1960’s followed the powerful civil rights movements of African American people which fuelled the fire that the younger generation of women was experiencing. Mixed with the change in women’s socio-cultural beliefs that followed the war, young women were raised and exposed to different ideas and social change. Following the liberating revolution, women across parts of the world began to excel in both academics and jobs that had previously been reserved for the male population. Women became lawyers, academics, engineers, scientists, and doctors. The increase in available jobs, equality, and education for women allowed for a major decrease in the gender pay gap.

Relations Between Paid and Unpaid Work

Although social change altered the pay gap, there was one thing that women couldn’t escape: childbearing. Because women are biologically engineered to bear children, they have historically been primary the primary caregivers. This biological engineering fed into a social expectation that women should be the ones who play the primary caregiving role in the life of their children. Generally, women will be expected to make the children their priority while other many aspects of their lives suffer. The role of a caregiver goes beyond basic care of an infant or a child. It includes appointments, schooling or school meetings, feedings, cleaning, and most other forms of domestic work. Although the care or duties seem basic to most, it is a major time-consuming responsibility. Studies have shown that based on many social constructs, women are habitually expected to stay in the home and take on the housework as well, for which there is no financial compensation. Any multitude of hours that are put in to housework or raising children remain unpaid. Not by governments, or any person will the woman receive any sort of financial compensation. And the repercussions can be harsh.

Unpaid work refers to domestic duties and responsibilities, including by not exclusive to child rearing, household shopping, cleaning, and cooking. Unpaid work is a necessary and important part of the greater economic image. The responsibilities that revolve around raising children and managing a household relate to needs that include both basic survival and comfort. All of the basic household tasks can amount to a substantial amount of time. The issue is not that it takes time though, it’s what it takes time away from. The time allocated to the second duties take away time that a woman can put towards self-care, rest, furthering education, socializing, hobbies, and anything else a woman could use to further herself, her work, or her social life. All these aspects that are replaced by domestic duties can affect her work ethics, attitude at work, overall health, and the chances she will get a raise or a promotion. It is what fuels the gender pay gap. It fuels the male hierarchy, the standards set for women, the gender stereotypes, the gender expectation, and the social construct that has been a social reproduction for centuries.

Social Reproduction

The social reproduction that involves women’s work is the result of centuries of politics, economies, needs, and social formations. Many have used the biological basis as an explanation for gender inequalities. The interpretation of various religious texts and teachings have also caused social reproductions. The traditions and cultures around the world have often emphasised the importance of the male which has led to a lack of empowerment for women. With many cultures holding women in an obvious or subconscious state of gender inferiority, women have fallen victim to a system that is failing them.

History of Unions

Unions were created out of a disparity between the rights of people in two distinct social-economic classes. During this time, workers from the lower class were often left to the mercy of their employers. Workers did not have many of the same rights as they do today. The creation of unions was a result of the industrial revolution in the 19th century. Companies and employers had been putting profits before people. Workers could have their employment terminated for taking any sick leave, breaks, and for injuries they sustained while on the job. A person injured at work could be fired with no compensation. During the industrial revolution, some workers joined in unity to demand that employers be held to a standard. These workers demanded sick leave, fair wages, safer working conditions, and pensions. This was the beginning of labor unions. It was these unions that created a new social-economic category, were workers became what is now known as the middle class. The middle-class allowed for people to make better lives for themselves which in turn created a stronger economy.

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Women worked hard to ensure that there would be gender equality in unions. As men returned home following WWII, women lost the high paying jobs and professions they held throughout the years of war. Women had to find different employment and were pushed back into the female-dominated fields of work. They were forced to return to long hours and low wages in positions that were regarded as non-important. These women were repressed and continued to be subjected to sexual harassment and discriminatory job opportunities. The greed of industrial capitalism led to the suffering and deaths of many women throughout the 20th century. The success of women’s movements that occurred in the 1960s’ and 1970s allowed for women to have the same opportunities as men and equal pay. Women were effectively given what they had long been fighting for: the opportunity to work in the same industries as men, with the opportunity for the same jobs as their gender counterparts. However, the social perceptions continued to leave women vulnerable to the confines of the social constructs.

Relations between women and other equity-seeking groups

Women have many commonalities with equity-seeking groups. Visible minorities, Aboriginal peoples, and people with disabilities are all amongst those who share the plight of women as they fight for equity in the working world. People with disabilities have faced many objections by potential employers. Those objections include employers fearing that they will have to make adjustments in order to accommodate a disabled employee. Visible minorities and aboriginal people have historically always taken a backseat to a potential white, male employee. The similarities do not solely involve their fights against the injustices. They also share in the benefits that have been brought forth with unions. The plight of women is similar to those of the other equity-seeking groups as these unions are intended to represent the collective bargaining that supports the most vulnerable people.

Unions have brought forward a sense of equality for all equity-seeking groups, including women. This has allowed for them to gain access to more opportunities, higher pay, and equal rights matching those of the average white male standard. Unions have been found to help close the pay gap in order to have equal work for equal pay across all people. The unions have also allowed better access to health care for all workers, as well as the opportunity for paid time off. The gender pay gap that has impacted the lives and futures of women across all continents was created from many of the problems that unions address. The reproduction rights, the rights in regards to leave, health care, wage, and work as well as career advancement that all impact women and member of vulnerable labor groups drastically. They promote an inclusive workforce for everyone. Each of these standards can have a life altering affect on the lives of women worldwide.

Challenges that equity-seeking women face in paid work and unions

In spite of their positive intentions, there are issues and challenges that unions and the idea of unions impose on women as well. Unions have been seen as political entities and some have caused issues for many workers. Unions support the premise of seniority which creates a hierarchy that is difficult for other potential or current employees to penetrate. Many hard-working people are at the mercy of the unions and employers when it comes to advancement. This is due largely to the fact that it can be difficult to demote or fire a long-time employee who may not perform well, solely due to aspects of seniority. This closes doors for hard working employees who are qualified and or over qualified for higher positions. Unions are comprised of their own internal leaderships that can include favoritism whereas employees may be subjected to the same problems they face in non-unionised sectors. Similar to any company or persons in power when it comes to employers, cronyism can also affect employees whereas their union leaders may put friends and personal associates in positions of authority before other qualified workers. Women and persons from other equity-seeking groups are subjected to the same problems but with different leadership. Unions can have their own cultures that include a strong sense of solidarity between union employees and their leaders whereas they protect each other in order to cover up union member misconduct. This can make it difficult for minorities, disabled people, and women to become part and feel like they belong in unionized settings. These same unions have also been known to lead to hostile relationships between employers and employees as a result of the higher cost for employers. Unionised employees are generally entitled to higher pay which in turn drives up the cost for management and companies. With that in mind, unions also require fees to be paid. Many people do not want to pay fees towards the union. The idea of unions being unbiased and serving the people is balanced out with the knowledge that unions, like any other managing party, are subjected to the views and opinions of their leaders.


Globalization should in theory have benefitted women. By definition it is the freer movement of people, money, and goods across borders. It should have been aided by the newfound equalization of opportunity for women as it tore down many boundaries that restrained certain economies. Technology has allowed great advancements for women in many job sectors by reducing the disparity that was created by physical work demands as machinery was created to do much of the physical labor. The flow of capital and goods in and out of countries around the world, the free sharing of information, commodities, and increase in work should have propelled the need for gender equality in work to higher modern standards. The true impact of globalization on people and women has become a debate as there are many positive and negative factors to balance out. On one hand, globalization has allowed women to have increased independence as a result of women being able to get better jobs and subsequently having a better income. The economic empowerment that women have received as a result of globalization has created a power shift in many families and communities. The ability for a woman to gain meaningful employment allows women to become independent from men. They can create and sustain a life without depending on a man for security, housing, food, or necessities, which is a far cry from what was once the reality for women everywhere. Women have gained more rights, more positions of power, and overall more opportunity. That being said, women are still at the mercy of the patriarchal attitudes that have are prominent in most every society. The unions that were created to represent the vulnerable sectors of women in work are run by a multitude of people, who can be comprised of men with a misogynistic and patriarchal attitude. Globalization has also pushed forward an increase in need for goods, resulting in the need for cheaper labor. While unions can help their own employees, women worldwide do not have the choice to be unionised. The need for cheap labor to stabilize the increasing competition of the market for goods and services has pushed for the creation of sweat shops. Sweat shops allow companies to take advantage of people in countries with poor economies in order to compete with the cost of goods. Women, children, and minorities are often employed in these shops that work long hours for a wage that is not livable. They often violate human rights and labor rights in many countries.

Various groups that operate around the world are working towards the elimination of forced labor, child labor, and discrimination in the workplace. These groups are working against many factors in the global economic empire. The complications reside in the individual countries as they are all governed by their own laws, politics, cultures, economies, religions, and social-norms. These factors have an incredible influence on the need for jobs, cheap labor, and the ever-increasing economic competition for goods and services.


Despite all the social movements, unions and advancements that have occurred over the last century, women continue to struggle for equality. Social reproductions have paved the way for women to be burdened with unpaid work as it continues to affect their ability to achieve a global sense of gender equality. Globalization has both benefited women and failed them on many fronts. Women and other equity-seeking groups are still fighting to achieve a true equality as it confronts a patriarchal society. The unions are meant to support the nation-wide incentives to increase and allow women to have the same opportunities and rights as men in the workforce. The challenges that vulnerable groups face are an uphill battle against a patriarchal societies and cultures around the world. Change for women in the global workforce will depend on the globalization of unions and the worldwide support of human rights, labor rights, women’s rights, and the creation of organizations that have legal standing in order to fight for the rights of all employees. The search for equity on a global scale would likely take years to enforce as it attempts to counteract the centuries of social-constructs that created the inequality in the first place.

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Women Equality: History, Discrimination And Challenges. (2021, August 25). Edubirdie. Retrieved September 22, 2023, from
“Women Equality: History, Discrimination And Challenges.” Edubirdie, 25 Aug. 2021,
Women Equality: History, Discrimination And Challenges. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 22 Sept. 2023].
Women Equality: History, Discrimination And Challenges [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2021 Aug 25 [cited 2023 Sept 22]. Available from:
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