Discrimination against women began with women simply being considered the weaker sex while men provided for the family and these traditions are deep rooted in some family traditions still today. In the past century some major legislation has been passed in attempts to equal the field between men and women in every aspect of life. Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony formed the National Woman Suffrage Association in 1869, and their efforts led to Colorado signing an amendment that allowed women's suffrage in 1893. The Federal Woman Suffrage Amendment, which was introduced to congress in 1878, was passed in 1920. This was one of the first major achievements by feminists in the United States and helped grant women the rights we have today. Mary McLeod Bethune organized the National Council of Negro Women in 1935, which was a joining of women's groups that lobbied against job discrimination, racism, and sexism, among other issues. In 1961, President Kennedy established the President's Commission on the Status of Women and appointed Eleanor Roosevelt as Chairwoman of this organization. In 1963, Roosevelt's organization reported vast discrimination against women in the workplace and made recommendation for improvements.
Early stereotypes grew into unspoken policies being exacted against women such as unequal pay given to men and women for the same work. The passage of the Equal Pay Act in 1963 made it illegal for women to be paid less than a man would for the same job, and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act barred discrimination in employment on the basis of race and sex in 1964. President Lyndon Johnson's affirmative action policy was expanded in 1967 to cover discrimination on the basis of gender. The next year in the controversial court case Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court established the right to safe abortion for all women. Sexual Harassment was recognized as a form of illegal job discrimination in Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson in 1986. Finally, in 1994 the Violence Against Women Act made more extreme federal penalties for sexual offenders, including those crimes committed in the workplace, (“Glass Ceiling,” 1-4).
Women in the corporate world face many obstacles that bar their advancement. The “glass ceiling” is invisible barrier that prevents women from excelling in the workplace. In 2005, surveys of the top Fortune 1000 industrial and 500 service companies by In Motion Magazine showed that 95% of senior level positions are held by men and 97% of these men are white. Of the remaining 5% of women who hold senior level positions, only 5% are minorities. In a survey performed by Women International, it was concluded that 73% of men didn't think a glass ceiling exists, while 71% of women believe the ceiling does exist.
Along with the glass ceiling, sexual harassment in the workplace also hinders one's ability to move up the corporate ladder. There are two types of sexual harassment in the workplace: quid-pro-quo, also known as this-or-that, and hostile environment harassment. Quid-pro-quo is an illegal trade on the basis of sex, for example: “sleep with me or you're fired.” Situations like these do not always exist in sexual harassment cases. A hostile work environment is established when a co-worker or supervisor creates an intimidating environment by engaging in inappropriate sexual behavior. These cases are often based on he-said, she-said evidence, and many sexual offenders in the corporate world get away unpunished. Because sexual harassment is often times overlooked some fault women themselves for the missing rungs in the corporate ladder. On the other hand, some believe that men are blamed too often for acts that were done willingly. Men also file a small number of sexual harassment charges each year, and because harassment is mostly thought to happen to a woman, many of these cases are overlooked.
The educational system is another aspect that has led to gender discrimination. For a period of history women were dumbed down and not even allowed to step foot in a school. There are obvious links between taking a woman's educational rights early on and the assumption that women are undereducated in comparison to men that still exists today. Throughout history this has been a man's world. School curriculums always reflect upon Columbus finding America and men writing the Constitution, while women's history is not taught. The Women's Studies department and UWL is close to non-existent. Women's studies classes are offered to “refine women” and “educate men,” and by not enrolling in these classes men may be very unaware of gender discrimination against women. In 1972, Title IX of the Education Amendments banned sex discrimination in schools, and as a result the number of women in professional schools increased dramatically. According to Julianne Malveaux, former president of the National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women's Clubs, the United States now has the highest percentage of women going on to higher education in history, but women's history is not being taught in these institutions, (“The Many Faces of Bias,” 3). Once again, there are always people who uphold traditional societal roles where women merely attended finishing and etiquette school, but the overall consensus is that women's rights must still improve further.
Unsatisfactory education can be directly related to a lack of women's political participation. Women's political participation has never been anywhere near that of men. We have yet to see a woman sitting in the oval office, and women are extremely under-represented in every governmental structure throughout the world. According to a survey found in The Economist, in 2002, women were represented by only 14% of parliamentary structures and the numbers have not gotten much better in the past couple of years. With a lack of elected women as public officials there also comes a lack of representation of women's issues. Quotas have greatly increased women's participation in government—some even believe these quotas are discriminating against men when while they still hold the majority of parliamentary positions. Recent efforts in the past century have helped establish privileges for women, and amidst these efforts some believe that men have been reversely discriminated against. The UNDP summed this situation best when it reported, “Women are nowhere near half the decision-making power in government. The 30% quota developed by the UNDP's Human Development Report is still a dream for most women and will be for years to come,” (“Women in Business,” 7).