History of working women
The history of working women in the West, especially in the United States of America, started when women entered the workforce in large numbers during World War II. Actually, women belonging to the minorities and the lower and middle classes of society had always worked, but women in the upper and upper middle classes were not encouraged to join the workforce. When the Great Depression of the 1930s set in, once again, women were again discouraged as it was felt that it would lead to far fewer jobs for men.
World War II was important in the history of working women, as the requirement for increased labor force in war-related industries led to the government even starting a sort of propaganda campaign to lure women into the workforce. Again, half the women who responded to this call were women who were in the minorities or lower classes, who already had a history of working; the only difference being that from the traditional female-oriented lower paying jobs, they were promoted to higher paying jobs in factories. The government next started recruiting women who were high school graduates. This still did not close the large gap in the work force and the only remaining demographic was married women, whose husbands were largely not supportive of them working outside of the household. But still, unable to resist the intense government campaigns, which labeled working women as being loyal and patriotic, more and more women took to the workforce, with a different perspective from their husbands also taking shape.
Once women, who were housewives, got a taste of what it was like to be a working woman, with the benefits and skill sets and increased self esteem and spending power it entailed, the history of working women changed, and there emerged a whole new generation of women with different outlooks and attitudes to working was born. This in turn led to the next generation of female children, who had working mothers, too being supported in their ambitions to work. Thus it would be safe to say that, in the history of working women, the changes which were initiated during World War II snowballed into a huge change in the workforce and academic life of the majority of women in the United States, and the results can be seen to this day!
Unlike in the West where women were traditionally discouraged from pursuing mathematics and science streams, in the history of working women in Asian countries, like India for instance, they were never limited in their choices of academic streams. In fact, article 15 (3) of the Constitution states that the state can even make affirmative decisions in favour of women, which is an important landmark in the history of working women. In employment, women in Asian countries have stood head-to-head with men in various professional capacities, in diverse streams. There are more women heads of states in Asian countries than in the West, for example. There are still large urban-rural divides amongst working women, with rural women probably not being aware of their rights as much as urban women are. Still, in the history of working women, women are on the forefront of many professions and jobs, both blue and white collar, and are contributing to the economic progress of not just their families but also the country.
Article by Karishma J. Anand
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