In the United States, in government, business, the professions and many areas of culture, the path is still easier for a man than it is for a woman. Decade after decade, however, women have worked to break free from stereotypes and discrimination. Part of this involves establishing women’s legal right to fair treatment. This has been a long and hard battle. The American women’s movement began to have impact in the 1840’s and struggled for generations. American women only won the right to vote in 1920. These legal rights saw a great expansion in the second half of the 20th century, and into the new millennium.
Legal rights are only half the real issue. Millions of American women today struggle to establish themselves in what is still a man’s world. The United States is not yet at a point of equality between the genders, but the progression toward better opportunities for women is ongoing.
Not every American woman wants to be an achiever in the world of work, of course. Many decide voluntarily to become wives and mothers. Others fall into this role because of family pressures or simple lack of self-belief. Many other women do not have the choice; they must work to support themselves, provide for their children, or supplement their husbands’ income when a single income is insufficient, a common situation in today’s economy.
Whether the woman is working to make ends meet or whether she is following a defined career path, she expects equal pay for equal work. The law requires it, but she does not always get it without struggle. Women are also more and more likely to demand entry into professions and jobs previously open only to men. A few set the example, while many others follow. A young women growing up in the United States today sees true opportunity, supported by millions of women who have already created their own opportunities. This mindset is pervasive, and is a basic fact of American life.
When a woman arrives as an immigrant to the United States, she may often have difficulty understanding the scope of the opportunity she has in a new society. Despite discrimination against women, the United States is a veritable paradise compared with most other countries in the world, including many that oppress women on an absolute basis. Male family members who arrive alongside immigrant women often have difficulty adjusting to the new rules. Immigrant women have to deal with their own men first before they can get out into the marketplace to deal with male-dominated society as a whole. They do not do this alone, however. Organizations exist in every community to help women achieve their full potential in American society.
Next Section:“Honorary Men”: The Role of Women in America
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