The last thirty years have brought tumultuous change for American women for the men who love them and for the families they cherish. That change has caused a roiling national debate about the status of women in our society; specifically, about the social, economic and political forces that hold them subordinate to men.
Using recent history as a lookout over an immense landscape, we can view women’s present and future participation in American life; where they are now, and where they want to be. We can see the historical and psychological obstacles that impede them from reaching their goals—daunting barriers to equal participation in American life.
This paper looks at the progress women have made since 1975 until the present, their experiences and how they have coped with the challenges that have been presented to them. It shall also study articles about women who have pursued higher education and who are seeking employment.
Forces capable of creating such baffling confusion are powerful indeed. In her opinion-shaping book Backlash, Susan Faludi argues that the political and evangelical Right unleashed a virulent antifeminist propaganda campaign in the 1980s that frightened women into questioning whether they really wanted—or could afford—equality, after all. To roll back the gains of the women’s movement, these distorting, repressive voices succeeded in convincing women that liberation was the source of their unhappiness rather than their salvation, and that the competing demands of hearth and marketplace were incompatible.
Understanding the role of women in development for the past 30 years adapt various approaches that respond to the changes in time. There is a need to come up with approaches that address various problems and concerns that women, in particular, are encountering. Usually these approaches entail activities that promote women empowerment which spring from the idea that women have important roles in the development of society and the world.
(1) Formal Policy Approaches. These approaches are aimed at incorporating women into development activities that “are the basis of experience, review, and reformulation of strategies and objectives through several stages from welfare-oriented, equity, antipoverty, and mainstreaming approaches” (Gender and Development: From WID to GAD, 2006, pars. 1 and 2). These are done to integrate all aspects of development that women today aspire to attain locally and/or internationally.
The activities under this approach cater to the conduct of reviews, analysis and drawing conclusions on whether or not problems detected are solved focusing exclusively on women. However, there are certain activities, such as population programs that protect the women’s health from frequent pregnancies, that are not successful primarily because the solutions like the use of contraceptives, involve men’s consent, which suggested solution may not be acceptable to the latter unless they are sensitized to the dangers of the consequences of frequent pregnancies of women, their wives or their partners.
Another form of activity may be related to education projects, which target participants are girls in exclusive all-girl schools. Although this idea is aimed at focusing in providing girls with adequate education for them to mature socio-culturally, yet the set goals and objectives for the establishment of this activity may not be achieved because the male population may not yet be sensitized to accept the important of educating girls.
(2) Relying on women as the analytical category for addressing gender inequalities. This approach caters to the idea that women must be held accountable for protecting their rights and for fighting against the perpetration of the inequalities of women with men. This move provides a major shift “from women as the key focus of analysis to a focus on gender relations, i.e., the social relations between men and women that generate and perpetuate gender inequalities (Gender and Development: From WID to GAD, 2006, par. 44).
(3) The Change in Approach from “Women need development” to “Development needs women”. This approach is justified by the fact that isolating women from the mainstream of development process may eventually cause economic problems and thus hamper economic growth of society in general. Under this approach, women, instead are enjoined to participate increasingly viable economic and decision-making opportunities that do not only promote economic efficiency but also promote their interests and address their concerns.
This shift from “Women need development approach” to “Development needs women” also led women to take a new strategic move with emphasis on “women’s empowerment within the development process… It aims to support measures that empower women to contribute to setting development agenda, and to challenge socioeconomic systems that place them at a relative disadvantage to men” (Gender and Development: From WID to GAD, 2006, par. 46).
(4) Dynamic Approach of Gender and Development. The dynamic GAD approach involves strategies that are “widened to include women’s rights, women’s role as active participants and agents in development, and their role as actors with a specific agenda for development” (Gender and Development: From WID to GAD, 2006, par 47).
Under GAD approach, women’s role and status in society recognize their analysis on the relations between men and women relationship, and encourage men to cooperate with women and not be against them. By understanding the ways in which unequal relations occur is a way to find solutions for eliminating inequality.
Using the gender and development approach focuses action towards facilitating “strategic, broad-based and multi-faceted solutions to gender inequality”, thus finds ways to redress gender inequality not only among women but also with the cooperation of men (Gender and Development: From WID to GAD, 2006, par. 49).
(5) A strategic or agenda-setting approach. This approach provides the “structures that generate and maintain the gender disparities that place constraints on development” (Gender and Development: From WID to GAD, 2006, par. 50). This is a “proactive approach to gender issues in project identification and design, and includes gender analysis and diagnosis in the definition of project beneficiaries” (Gender and Development: From WID to GAD, 2006, par. 51).
This approach addresses the gender needs of women “such as health care, water supply, education, laborsaving technologies, etc., and the strategic gender needs ensuring that the project assists women to increase their benefits and to overcome structural constraints (Gender and Development: From WID to GAP, 2006, par. 51). Moreover, under this approach, strategic needs of women are met, such as their right to own land, to participate in decision-making bodies, to improve access to better sources of income, etc.
Today, as globalization and information technology advancement have captured the attention of people all over the world, there are always available opportunities to use to inform people of new and innovative ideas to approach problems and worldwide concerns. This does not discount the idea the issues concerning women or gender and development would also be taken into consideration.
To propagate the ends of women empowerment and by providing them the machineries to advance their interests throughout the world, there are numerous innovative ways to resort to in order to attain their agenda:
(1) The great organization development work by doing tasks and pursuing development intellectually, physically, emotionally and spiritually (Whitney, et. al., 2006, par. 1). Work globally with women and live globally, work closely with colleagues, clients, friends and lovers from across the world to share different perspectives yet address common interests.
(2) Recognize the interconnectedness of people around the world. Create efficient energy that will elevate the people’s morale, especially of women, who may still be in the situations where inequality of women with men is still heavily encountered and unresolved.
(3) Propagate the potential of globalization to achieve harmony with the “natural creative energies of the planet” (Whitney, et. al., 2006, par. 7). This can further be achieved if the men and women of the world establish a shifting of culture where society and institutions welcome the “regeneration of relationships, liberty, community, and ethics such as the world has never known, and a harmony with nature, with one another, and with the divine intelligence such as the world has never dreamed” (Whitney, et. al., 2006, par. 8).
(4) By acknowledging the participation of women in nation building, and by valuing their worth in bringing economic growth and development, and such other societal contributions being known to all, time will come when women’s efforts and contributions will be integrated as among those contributions made by any human race, regardless of gender. What is important is their contribution to bring change in the world. Such change will create a great life in the future.
Time must come when issues are no longer about women trying to find their place in society or in the world, but women becoming partners of men for worldwide progress and development, for promoting peace and harmony, for seeking justice and equality of the human race.
Women today are well educated and very well informed about evolving concerns of society or societies. They are confident people who know how to play their roles in every situation they are involved with. They play vital roles in the economic, social and political development processes, and they find their place worthy in producing results of their initiatives and actions to attain notable developments in every field of interests.
Gendered approach to development is now being promoted as a means to achieve greater understanding of the unequal impact of development efforts on men and women. Through gender approach both men and women can work together as partners to progress.
The same principle also applies to the people-centered or human needs-driven approach to development. In this scenario, men and women also promote equitable participation in the economic and developmental processes.
There are a number of outstanding women in the world that have proven their worth in their efforts to take their place in helping their countries, in realizing their visions, in facing the challenges that bring about social change. For some of these successful women, they say that they are able to support women’s leadership because of the following needs:
“(1) Building an enabling environment for the articulation of women’s visions of development and rights at a global level;
(2) Supporting coalition building within the women’s movement and across women’s organizations as well as coalitions between the women’s movement and other social change movements;
(3) Challenging power structures and resource control in the political, economic and social arenas and in all types of organizations that keep women and women’s interests out;
(4) Supporting the emergence and sustenance of women leaders at all levels for a transformative social change agenda;
(5) Building accountability mechanisms across institutional arenas for women’s interests”(Roa, et. al. 2006, p.2).
The role of women today has evolved tremendously in terms of asserting their rights and their rightful place in society towards nation building. What used to be passive, meek, and fragile women figures at home and in society have been transformed to become more responsive, sensitive and proactive women who know what their rights, their capabilities and abilities are, to make a difference.
Today, women have proven themselves worthy partners of men towards total economic and developmental transformations. Their roles are not limited to giving birth to children, to rearing children until full grown adults, to staying home and taking care of household chores and their families. Their roles have become more robust with productive responsibilities that are contributory to economic development as well as in the enhancement of the quality of lives of the people, not only among women but also among men.
The challenge now does not lie on how much women have done to assert their role in society, or to be recognized as effective leaders that bring change to humanity. What lies most importantly among women today is for them to focus their energies towards building a society where everyone is respected and treated with dignity for his or her worth, for his or her contribution in making this world a better place to live for everyone, regardless of race and gender.
Idea of Success for Men and Women
There are deep-seated concepts women hold in terms of their concept of success and pursuance of higher education. This can be traced to a suggestion of an answer as to why women are so inhibited about exercising their talent, which came from Ann Arbor, Michigan, in the late sixties. Struck by the peculiar panic she herself had experienced during her long haul to a doctorate in psychology, Marina Horner began to suspect that success—the idea of success—meant something quite different for women than it did for men.
Women do not seem to go after success the way men do. They feel just as anxious when things go well as they do when rejection or failure seems imminent. Doing well—getting really good at something, succeeding—seems to scare most women who have what it takes to produce something substantial in the course of their lives. (Horner, 1969).
Related work – The High Price of Squelching Ambition
Some ambitious, academically gifted women can be so willing to give up on themselves. They want to escape Gender Panic. The potential loss of their feminine value should they do what they are capable of doing makes then so apprehensive they begin looking for options that are less threatening.
Surely, when these women realize that men prefer women they can dominate or who are less educated than them, then, all the more their fears can be enhanced. But the effort backfires. Success-anxious women may succeed in keeping themselves more or less ordinary, more or less in line with the acceptable image of the Girl Next Door, but they will soon find themselves prey to a host of other problems. “Aggression, bitterness and confusion,” says Horner, are the lot of women who squelch their potential. (Horner, 1969).
What some people do not understand is that women pay a high price for their anxiety about succeeding. Horner and her co-researchers concluded that able young women often inhibit themselves from seeking success. In mixed-sex competitive situations, they will do more poorly than they could, and many who end up succeeding inspite of themselves try to downgrade their performance afterwards.
These women are not comfortably experiencing their own power and excellence, Confused and anxious, they will lower their career aspirations rather than feel that discomfort. Some, withdrawing from anything that smacks of competition, sabotage their entire futures. The worst part is that they have no idea that Gender Panic is ruling their lives. (Horner, 1969).
The Famous Female ‘Achievement Gap’
Consider, to begin with, the history of the economic progress over the past twenty years. In spite of the consciousness-raising of the Sixties and Seventies, women are worse off today than they were in the past. Women earn less money (compared with men) than they did two decades ago.
In 1956, the income figure for females constituted 63 percent of the money earned by males. Now, women earn less than 60 percent of what men earn. Women ‘s studies courses and political action notwithstanding, most of us still enter the work force with low-salaried jobs and creep upward—or sideways—like crabs on a string.
Even as women are at a disadvantage in marriage because of what they have attained, still, there is a waste of women’s talent called, the brain drain, and psychiatrists have begun to look closely at the problem. Struck by the number of achievement-conflicted women who have come to help in recent years, Dr. Alexandra Symonds noted that talented women are often loath to move ahead to positions of real self-sufficiency.
The balk at or become unduly anxious about promotions. Many gravitate towards mentors, preferring to work as the brilliant but unrecognized back up for men in power—refusing both the credit and the responsibility for their own contributions. In therapy, they cling to their backwardness. (Symonds, 1974). According to these researchers, these findings provide empirical support for the widespread belief that powerful women are at a disadvantage in the marriage market because men may prefer to marry less accomplished women.”
Bagby, Wesley (1981). Contemporary American Social Problems. Nelson-Hall, Inc. Publishers Chicago, Illinois.
Bagley, C., G. Verma, K. Mallick and L. Young, “Personality, Self-Esteem and Prejudice.” Farnborough, U.K: Saxon House, 1979; and C. Bagley and G. Verma, “Racial Prejudice: The Individual and Society.” Farnborough, U.K: Saxon House, 1979.