Equal Opportunity and Women

EmpowHER celebrates Women’s History Month because it is a reflection of pioneering women who made history by confronting unlawful discrimination.

Women have worked in some capacity in the U.S. since its inception, but only in menial jobs for very low pay. During World War I, women entered the work force in higher numbers due to the shortage of men. It wasn’t until World War II that they went to work in force. During this period, women took positions formerly open only to men; 7 million women entered the workforce, 2 million of those in heavy industry. They still had no formal workplace rights until the passage of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This act states that employers may not discriminate against people on the basis of race, color, religion, sex and/or national origin.

Title VII makes it illegal for employers to exclude qualified women from any available position. Employers would often hire less qualified men for positions to which women had applied. This law empowers women to sue if they feel a potential employer has excluded them from a position based on gender.

President John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act in 1963, which states that employers must pay women the same amount they would pay a man in the same position. In the past, companies paid women far less than their male counterparts for the same position. Women can sue their employers if they can prove that a male in the same position earns higher wages. Both of these laws significantly increase the status of women in the workforce.

In many ways, we have come a long way since these overtly discriminatory policies, but our work remains unfinished.

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