SOC 402 Contemporary Social
History of Wage and Gender Disparity in America
The idea that women earn less than men in the work place is no longer a subject for debate. Study after study has shown that women earn less than their male counterparts. In 1998, for every dollar a man makes, a woman earns .73 cents (CNN, 2000). Since then it has gotten better but not by much. As of 2010 women earned .79 cents to every dollar earned by men. The gender wage gap is a statistical indicator used to show the status of women's earnings relative to men's. This nation, unfortunately, has a history of making gender inequality legal. Laws pass early in the 20th century showed that the view that many in the country did not believe that women could not do the same amount of work that men did. This gave way to wage disparity.
One of the first shows of making gender finical disparity legal was in 1908. In 1908 the US Supreme Court found in favor of the state of Oregon in Muller verses Oregon (Cornell, n.d.). This ruling allowed that the state could limit women’s workdays to no more than ten hours per day. It meant that women could not work as many hours as men in the same jobs. It in many ways made the point to state that women were not as able to perform equal to men. It attempted to show that they were somehow weaker and needed to be protected from over working (Cornell, n.d). This is one of the first instances of the legalization of a gender wage gap. Another Supreme Court ruling only made things worse for gender equality. In 1924 the Supreme Court found in favor of the state of New York in the case of Radice verses New York (FindLaw, n.d.). The plaintiff in the case was found guilty of violating a law in New York that did allow women over the age of sixteen from working waitress jobs for more than fifty hours per week. The law also stated that they could not work any earlier than six in the morning or later than ten in the evening (FindLaw, n.d.). Supreme Court believed that it was protecting the health and welfare of women and that working late or to many hours would be bad for them. Again this was a way of showing that women were not as capable as men when it came to labor. In 1932 the National Recovery Act was passed. The act was part of the new deal and had the intention of protecting the rights of workers of any gender or race. The act did have one weakness, it allowed for only one member of each family to be employed by the federal government (U.S. News & World Report, n.d.). At the time men were seen as the bread winners and when the choice on whom to fire came down to a man or a woman the government chose to keep the man employed. This provision essentially cost women their jobs in the federal government (Supplee & Willson, n.d.). Another way this act cost women their job was by punishing them unintentionally for being married. Married women who were employed with husbands that were also employed were first on the chopping block (Weir, Orloff, Skocpol, 1988). In 1942 the issue of wage disparity began to be looked at. The National War Labor Board during World War II issued rules that male and female workers should earn equal wages. Sadly it yielded very few changes in the gender wage gap (Evans, 1989). The declaration from the War Labor board did help women find jobs. They also became a strong force in the growing union movement in the United States. Unions started to see organizing women as a way to protect jobs and wage rates in previously male work settings (Evans, 1989). Also because the War Labor Board protected labor's right to organize, women unionizing with their male counterparts made enormous strides during the war. The number of organized women grew drastically. In fact between 1940 and 1944 the number of women went from 800,000 to about 3,000,000. The percentage of females in organized labor went...