An Issue of Women’s International Rights
The percentage of female CEOs of Fortune 500 companies has dropped 25 percent in the last year (Miller). The struggle to gain access to higher paid jobs for females has been notoriously difficult, so why are these women leaving their positions? The challenges they face are not a result of individual choices. That’s because evidence shows there are larger forces at work, rooted in biases against women in power (Miller). Similarly, this number of women in power is declining because there are less women in line for these positions in comparison to men. In the case of a female stepping down, retiring, or leaving the company, a man is selected to replace her. The term that best describes this phenomenon is called the glass ceiling. Many women hit this point at some time in their career in which they can no longer move forward and gain higher positions within a company.
A women’s worth in the workplace should not be defined on basis of her gender but as the qualifications she possesses. The ability to prosper and aid economic development should be equal to a man’s ability to do so. Women’s rights are basic human rights. To exemplify this discretion, a better but still mediocre state for women’s equality, the United States plays a major role in influencing what will set a standard for what women’s rights should look like in a first world country. Following this, the rise of feminism in Saudi Arabia is bringing an overall better setting to the Middle East; although, there is a long and hard-fought battle ahead towards gaining equality.
According to the Business Insider, income inequality is one of the challenges still faced by the US. However, the North American powerhouse manages to be highly progressive with a decent gender equality score. These statistics have recently come out as showing the US as lackluster, yet forward moving in their view on women’s rights. The United States has a bumpy history in regard to the women’s rights movement. Until the 1920s, women still could not vote, were often considered property of their husbands, and could not function independently of a man. It was not until WW II that women became recognized as being able to work alongside men, as they took over the jobs men left behind whilst at war. This number has since declined, being that currently women make up only 26.1% of the government and administrative positions (United Nations). Currently, the United States is ranked 16 out of 21 countries in gender equality (Millington). With a history of laws with gender neutral language, many question whether or not those promises by legislation were actually enforced.
Title Nine and the Equal Pay Act were both passed within a year of each other in the 60s. In 1963, President John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act. The law made it illegal for companies to pay women less than men for doing the same jobs. There are a few states within the US that have caveats to these statistics. For example, two states, Mississippi and Alabama, still don’t have equal pay protections (Covert). Although, on the overall scale the pay gap has narrowed, but women’s pay is still far from being equal. Part of the issue is that it is difficult for women to prove that they are being paid less than their male counterpart. For every dollar a white man makes, women make “87 cents (Asian), 79 cents (white), 63 cents (black), 54 cents (Hispanic). Source: AAUW; Georgetown and NYU Stern” (Covert). As seen, it is indicative of that a female’s race also plays a huge factor in whether or not their pay is equal to a man’s.
In contrast to the United States, the Middle East has been forced into a state of questioning gender equality. Specifically, Saudi Arabia has been called upon to engage in a long battle of women gaining independence of their male counterparts. In Saudi Arabia, this gap is much wider. Females are a minute percentage of the labor force in Saudi Arabia, 16.18% to be exact; whereas the United States is just under half at 45.82% (Data World Bank). In 2017, women were allowed to obtain a driver’s license. This was a giant leap in gaining female rights; however, there are still a few major things that Saudi Arabia needs to adjust. As of 2018, women still cannot make major decisions for themselves, as all women must have a male “wali”. This official guardian is typically a father, brother, uncle or husband (The Week). These guardians must be consulted before anything can be done for a woman. This system makes any cases on domestic abuse virtually impossible to report. Although, because of the feminist movement in the state, in May 2017, activists won a significant victory when King Salman issued an order specifying that women did not need permission from their “wali” to enter university, take a job and undergo surgery (The Week). In addition to this, there was a growth in women participating in their national parliament, with women making up 19.87% of the government (United Nations). Nevertheless, Saudi Arabia has more rules, both cultural and lawful bans, that are being overlooked. Women can only have limited contact with men, other than their “wali”, cannot wear clothes or makeup that are at all revealing, go for a swim in public, or even try on clothes when shopping. These may seem small but are noteworthy to a women’s equity and feeling of self-worth.
On an international level, a small but important example of female participation in Saudi Arabia is the Olympic games. In 2015, Saudi Arabia proposed hosting an Olympic Games without women. “‘Our society can be very conservative,'” said Prince Fahad bin Jalawi al-Saud, a consultant to the Saudi Olympic Committee. When Saudi Arabia had female athletes participate in the Olympics for the first time at London games of 2012, more conservatives in the country “denounced the two competitors as ‘prostitutes'” (The Week). The women also had to be accompanied by a male guardian and cover their hair.
As previously mentioned, women in Saudi Arabia no longer need a man’s permission to go to university. In a study conducted by Fawziah Al-bakr Elizabeth Bruce, Petrina Davidson, et al, results from a questionnaire distributed among 4,455 male and female students indicate students are confident and optimistic about improving gender equity, however resistance from those holding traditional views still exist. The journal states that the consensus is “female respondents are more optimistic than male respondents, seeing changes in gender roles as advantageous to their personal and professional lives. Representing a group of allies, a majority of male students regard changing gender roles positively” (Al-bakr, Bruce, Davidson, et al). Men and women reported that they feel a personal responsibility to address these challenges, like those previously mentioned, which is a huge asset moving forward. Gender equity is only possible through increased societal acceptance of women’s freedom in their everyday lives.
As of 2017, women around the world in the workplace made up 39.29% of the population. Many believe this number to be low because of the culture in not just third world countries where women are still considered chattel to their husband. But in larger countries, like the US, where women are looked at as homemakers, mothers, and wives before CEOs, congresswomen, doctors, and engineers. The implicit bias of governments is leveling the aforementioned number. The Inequality Index is an international account of women’s rights. Many countries shortchange women and make it harder for them to not only obtain jobs; but to be productive in them as well. No person should be categorized by their gender and be sectioned off into norms because of how they identify. However, 18 countries still require women to have their husband’s permission to work outside the home. 59 countries provide no legal protection whatsoever against sexual harassment in the workplace. 75 countries restrict women’s property rights. 104 countries restrict the kinds of jobs women can hold (Women’s Workplace Equality Index). These are just a few of the restrictions placed on women. Legal reform is possible worldwide and would benefit not only women. Entire economies would see a growth in production value if women were given an equal chance. Governments should tackle the unfair laws and policies biased against women.
There are many organizations working to do just that. The Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund helps pay legal costs and connects people to help pay for media and storytelling process. The Women’s National Law Center backs this program and has worked for over 40 years in the United States, Kenya, and Kuwait, and has received 1700 requests from around the world (Rossen). Similarly, Equality Now pushes to use the law to change the world. Since 1992, they have been working to end legal inequality, sex trafficking, and sexual violence. They call for gender equality for a fairer society, claiming “Social change often begins with legal change. We help advancing women’s and girls’ rights, because when women and girls, men and boys are treated equally, everyone wins” (Equality Now).
On the whole, women’s rights has been on the forefront of today’s progressive movements. 143 out 195 countries guarantee equality between women and men in their constitutions as of 2014 (United Nations).