Chapter 1: Introduction
The last century has seen phenomenal advances in women’s societal position, both from an educational as well as an economic perspective. At the turn of the previous century, women’s position was dominated by ‘feminine’ characteristics, which resulted in their being ‘gendered’ and primed in their roles as wives, mothers, caretakers – albeit women. These characteristics were displayed in various facets as housewives, unequal partners in a home setting and often as an unpaid employee, or as an under-rewarded partner if they assisted in the operation of a business alongside their husbands. Since the 1900s, there have been a number of historical events that have reconfigured the landscape for women’s position from a societal or labor market perspective. Specifically, the Depression Era of the 1930s and the follow-up World War II period forced women’s initial entry into the labor market arena. In the former case, the purpose was to supplement the family’s income and improve the chances of basic survival of the members. In the latter case, the purpose was to replace their male counterparts who were absent from the labor market because they were fighting a prolonged and extensive war. Later, revolutionary actions such as the Civil Rights Movement, the Labor Movement and the Women’s Movement that were instigated in the United States, but whose influence mushroomed in other parts of the world, led to women engaging in mass numbers in the educational, political, societal and labor market arenas.