Did I actually say that? Ladies, please don’t shut me down until you read this. Sure, women are on an upswing in the business world, but they only started to come out of the kitchen over the last 50 years.
Women are still finding their way in a workforce that has been dominated by men for a long time. If anything, the content of this article should bring insight into what happened to cause women to fall so far behind, and the progress we’ve made thus far.
History says: Women, Care for the Home and Children
For thousands of years, a woman’s role in life was to get married, have children and care for them, while men were the breadwinners. In early Roman law, women were described as children, forever inferior to men. In Hinduism, which evolved in India in around 500 B.C., women were to be obedient to men and had to walk behind their husbands. At that time, women could not own their own property, and widows could not remarry.
In both the East and the West, male children were always preferred over females, since males were considered more profitable. Another pervasive truth for centuries has been women considered as the weaker sex, due to the fact that men were physically stronger and able to endure more hardship.
There were women who became rulers during the 16th and 17th centuries: Queen Elizabeth of England, Catherine the Great of Russia, and Queen Victoria of England in the 19th century. But their rise to power was a result of hierarchical customs, not hard work. Each of them inherited the throne by default.
Believe it or not, the release of the 1950s guide book for housewives wasn’t so long ago, clearly positioning women as subservient to their husbands and children. And surprisingly, many women still follow the teachings within today, albeit for religious reasons. (The Striving Wife)
So when looking at this subject from a historical view, the opportunity for women to spread their wings into the workforce is a fairly recent event, and having the tools to excel as a professional have only recently become available to them. Taken at face value, that’s the reason why men are better than women at earning money.
Cultural Norms Have Made Progress a Slow Process
Since the United States is a young country, the historical standard of a woman being subservient to her husband and children became part of our culture. Although the Declaration of Independence of 1776 clearly speaks of the equality of all men, it was during the first women’s right convention in 1848 that Elizabeth Cady Stanton presented a re-written Declaration stating “all men and women are created equal.” Changing a perception held in such historic magnitude was painstakingly slow.
- The American Medical Administration formed in 1846, and women were barred from becoming members. It took 65 years for the AMA to finally admit women as members.
- In divorce, men kept control of all legal content, property and children. It wasn’t until the mid-1800’s that laws were changed to allow married women to own their own property. Very few communities allowed women to sue their husbands in divorce.
- Referred to as women’s suffrage, women began to rally together to fight for the right to vote in elections. It took roughly 60-70 years for women to finally get a law passed for this liberty in 1920.
- It wasn’t until the 1960’s that laws were created to require equal pay for women.
See what I mean by this change being slow? Well, at least we obtained the right to vote in 1920. The women in Bahrain just obtained that right in 2002.
It has taken decades for women to be valued and viewed as professionals (Mad Men, anyone?). Many women, if married or likely to get married, were not perceived as permanent workers, creating a preference for their stable male counterparts. Then there enters the issue of maternity leave after childbirth to complicate matters. State and Federal legislation regarding provisions for maternity are still evolving from its meager beginnings in the 1960s.
Quite a few countries are far ahead of us in this, requiring employers grant women 12 weeks of paid maternity leave–period. Perhaps one day, we’ll get there.
Ultimately, women have grown to become educated, inspired, and proven successful businesswomen, but centuries of repression have affected their progression. Isn’t there a saying somewhere that good things take time?
Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus
I’m not one to remember jokes but I do remember the one about a saintly guy who was about to die.
God appeared to him to ask him if there was one thing he would like before crossing over into eternity to which the man replied, “I’ve always wanted to go to Hawaii but don’t like flying. Could you build a bridge from California to Hawaii for me?” “That’s a tall order,” God said. “Isn’t there something else you’d like?” “As a matter of fact there is,” the man said. “Can you help me understand women?” to which God replied, “How many lanes do you want that bridge to be?”
We’ve been trying to find out about the differences between how men and women think and communicate for centuries. Do you remember that book Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus, written by John Gray in the 1990’s? It sold more than 50 million copies, yet we still couldn’t find the answer.
With the advancement of technology and scientific research, we have come a long way in understanding the biological differences between the brains of men and women. Scientifically verified data is overwhelming online, but I think it is a worthy subject with regards to the fact of men being able to make more money than women. Here is what I discovered while researching scientific studies:
- Israeli researchers found distinct differences in the development of male and female brains as early as 26 weeks into the development of the fetus. The bridge of nerve tissue that connect the right and left sides of the brain, had a thicker measurement in female fetuses than in male.
- Researchers used brain imaging technology to observe the blood flow to “working” parts of the brain. They studied and analyzed how men and women process language. Subjects listened to a novel and the researchers observed that, in males, only the left hemisphere of the brain was activated, but in the females, there was activity on both the left and right, indicating stronger language skills.
- Other research has revealed that boys generally have superior skills in areas of the brain related to math and geometry.
- To say someone has ‘a big head’ takes on new meaning when you know that a male brain is 10% larger than a female brain.
- The male brain contains 6.5 time more gray matter, referred to as “thinking matter” while a female brain has 9.5 times more white matter, which connects various parts of the brain. This gives females a distinct advantage when it comes to language skills.
- On an emotional level, women are better at identifying emotions and encoding facial differences and noticing changing vocal intonations. Studies have concluded that women are better than men at containing their emotions. Ruben Gur PhD, a neurologist at the University of Pennsylvania, discovered that a part of the brain used to control aggression and anger responses are larger in women than men. (WebMD)
There are researchers who believe that understanding these differences can enable us to enhance our abilities. There are hypothesis out there that we can adjust these differences and ‘go against the grain’ as it were, to develop the areas of our brain that are less developed.
Women Have Faced Their Fair Share of Educational Setbacks
Due to the chronic belief that a woman’s place is in the home, there has been a long history of limited access to continued education available for women. Take, for instance, the medical field. Interestingly enough, prior to the 1800’s there were virtually no medical schools and just about anyone could practice medicine.
As we entered into the 19th century, educational preparation to practice medicine became prevalent. However, women were prohibited from attending such schools and it wasn’t until 1850 that the Female Medical College of Pennsylvania was established. The 90s drama Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman was set during this time, and you’ll remember that the lead spent a good amount of time trying to convince the townsfolk that a female doctor could practice medicine as well as a male. Appropriately, and with the fortitude of determined females over the course of 60 years, women were finally able to attend many of the leading medical schools by 1910.
Ironically, as women moved into the workplace, teaching became a female dominated profession. By the late 1980’s, there were twice as many women as men teaching in elementary and high schools. Yet in higher education, women held only one-third of such positions.
It was actually by the end of the 19th century that the number of women pursuing further education began to increase. For example, in 1870 it was estimated that one-fifth of college students in the United States were women, but by 1900, it had increased to more than one-third. Since that time, it has continued to grow, rising to 49% by 1984 and up to 53% in 1985. According to the U.S. Census Bureau data, as of 2014, women constitute 72% of college students.
It is a historical fact that women have been withheld from educational opportunities for a long time. The tide is turning but, suffice it to say, if a woman is going to succeed in the business world, education is a must.
Finally, Women Are Pulling Ahead in Business
Women are making great strides in being successful businesswomen and executives in the workplace. The long time adversity to their evolvement has slowed down the progress of their financial success, but that is clearly changing as women apply themselves to learning what men have known about the mechanics of the business world for a very long time.
We recently explored the question, “Are Women Entrepreneurs More Successful Than Men?” and found that answer to be yes. While men are more willing to take risks in business, women are often more successful in their efforts and with less capital to boot. Not only that, they’re better at getting money for their entrepreneurial projects through crowdfunding, angel investors, and help from business partners. “Although they are still behind male entrepreneurs, the number of women-owned businesses grew by 44% between 1997 and 2007, twice as fast as businesses owned by men. (Department of Labor)”
What does this tell us? Women are using their hard-earned talents, going against the grain and coming out on top. And while the struggle to truly be considered equal, to earn similar pay and opportunities for advancement, is still be something women are working towards, we know it isn’t far off.