The Role of Women

Term Paper, 2001

12 Pages, Grade: 1,3


Table of Contents:

1. Introduction

2. The Situation of Women in the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century

3. Achievements in the Emancipation of Women

4. Women in Europe
4.1 Women in the South of Europe
4.2 Women in the East of Europe

5. Present Trends
5.1 The Glass Ceiling – A Barrier in the Way of Women
5.2 The Glass Escalator – A Chance for Men

6. Future Challenges

7. Conclusion

8. List of References

1. Introduction

As a women entering into the full-time work life within the next couple of years, I was wondering how far we really got in the often-cited process of emancipation. Surely, life has changed since my grandmother was born. The number of female attorneys, managers, and doctors has increased and when walking into a grocery store, you will see several men shopping for their families. But how equal are men and women, when it comes to bonuses, promotions, and acknowledgement? Or, put differently,does gender matter ?

In order to answer this question, this paper will proceed as follows. First, the historical situation of women will be outlined. Then, past efforts and achievements will be recapitulated in order to provide a basis for the following description of the current situation of European women concerning their professional lifes. Thereafter, two general theories, the glass ceiling and the glass escalator, will be introduced and evidence for their existence will be searched. If the answer to the above-stated question turns out to be positive, areas of further endeavors will be suggested, before the main points of the research will be restated and a final answer to the question at hand will be offered.

2. The Situation of Women in the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century

The problem of gender differentiation can be traced back for centuries, if not for millennia, but one point where one can see this difference very clearly is the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America in 1776. The Declaration of Independence proclaimed that all men are created equal; the mentioning of women being equal was non-existent. The document was even drafted by a man for at the time, the men held all the power. Women on the other hand were confined to the home to take care of the domestic housekeeping duties.

The depiction of women’s situation in the middle of the nineteenth century would be anything but colorful. In general, life was not easy during this time period, in addition the life of a woman was disproportionately harder than the life of a man. Women did not have many rights. A woman had to obey her husband or father, was less protected by the law then men, was not allowed to vote, to file a for divorce, or to speak freely. Her role was to work on the fields, take care of the household, raise the children, and serve her husband. The average married woman bore six children in the middle of the nineteenth century,[1] however, many women were constantly pregnant, bearing up to twelve, fifteen, sometimes even more children during their lives. Refusing to live sexuality was not an option, not only was this assured by law, but the woman herself agreed to it verbally: written into the marriage ceremony was a vow to obey her husband, which every woman had to swear before God as well as earthly witnesses. Marital rape happened to be a usual phenomenon, where abuse was something normal in a relationship. Altogether, many women, if they did not marry rich, had to live a life not much from one in slavery.

In the beginning of the twentieth century, the industrial evolution required many women to start working in the plants, but there was little change in their everyday life. Instead of working in the fields they worked with machines, but when the couple got home from work, it was still solely the woman’s job to take care of the household, the husband, and the children. The job had changed, but the wife’s position had not.

But latest by the turn of the nineteenth to the twentieth century, the women’s liberation movement was obviously on its way and its achievements till today are remarkable.

3. Achievements in the Emancipation of Women

Three waves of feminism have occurred over the last 100 years and have been viewed by feminists as representing crucial forward movements, despite periods of setback and stagnation. The first wave can briefly be described as the suffragette movement in the early twentieth century in which the main aim was to obtain voting rights. In 1920 the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the USA granted nationwide suffrage to women. Europe started a couple of years earlier (Finland in 1906, Norway in 1913, Germany in 1918), Latin America followed from the 1930s on (Brazil in 1934, Argentina and Mexico in 1946), while women – and men for that matter – in Africa had to wait till the middle of the twentieth century (Liberia in 1947, Uganda in 1958, Nigeria in 1960).[2] There were, however, examples of areas, which did not consider women voting rights as important. Appenzell, a Swiss canton, introduced suffrage not before 1990.[3]

Women achieved several other rights during the 1940s and 1950s. In 1946 the United Nation Commission on the Status of Women was established to secure equal political rights, economic rights, and educational opportunities for women throughout the world.[4] Furthermore, Germany abolished in 1957 the right of the husband to determine the place of residence and the life style of the family. Along with this came the elimination of the legal right of a husband to abrogate the wife’s employment.[5]


[1], 07.12.2001

[2], 06.12.2001

[3], 06.12.2001

[4], 06.12.2001

[5], 06.12.2001

Excerpt out of 12 pages


The Role of Women
Maastricht University
Comparative Management
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
File size
491 KB
The paper gives an overview not only about the development of the legal situation of women, but more importantly about the societal hurdles men and women have to face
Role, Women, Comparative, Management
Quote paper
Maria Kimme (Author), 2001, The Role of Women, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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