Monday, 14 February 2011

Women and Work in America

My chosen article for representation of women in work during the 1980's is about Sally Ride, the first American woman to travel in space, which I combined with another site with details about her life. and
She attended Stanford University and after gaining her masters degree, saw that NASA were looking for astronauts and applied.
"More than 8,000 men and women applied to the space program that year. 35 were accepted, six of whom were women. One was Sally Ride."
Ride became the first American woman in space in 1983 on board the Challenger STS-7. (A Russian woman had been in space before her.)

She returned to space the following year, again aboard a Challenger and has a total of more than 343 flight hours in space. Since then (And all in the 80's) she has been:
  • "Assistant to the NASA administrator for long-range planning. Ride created NASA's 'Office of Exploration'"
  • "Science Fellow at the Center for International Security and Arms Control at Stanford University."
  • "Named Director of the California Space Institute and Professor of Physics at the University of California, San Diego where she pursued one of her heartfelt crusades, encouraging young women to study science and math."
What we can learn from these sites is that the 1980's was a period of change because more women were in higher education and gaining degrees and that women were starting to infiltrate all fields. However we can also see that the media is to blame for a lot of the problems because at the time she was asked questions such as. "Will space flight affect your reproductive organs" and "do you weep when things go wrong?" Very much implying that men are the stronger sex, that women cannot cope with certain jobs and that they were all expecting her to give up or to fail.
Chat show host Johnny Carson, in fact said “the shuttle launch was being postponed until Sally Ride could find the purse to match her shoes.”

The most recent example of women in work that I've chosen is from the following website:
It is a list comprising the 50 most powerful Women in Business, the list itself being started in 1998.
In 1998 when the Most Powerful Women in Business list premiered, just two of our honorees ran Fortune 500 companies. This year 13 do."
There are a few notable entries on this list, which stand out from the rest and some of which are examples of how America is changing in regards to its workforce and power players.
  • Number 4 - Angela Braly, CEO and President of Wellpoint. "A Texan who started out as a waitress, Braly now runs a $61 billion health insurer with 34 million members -- more than any competitor."
  • Number 5 - Andrea Jung, Chairman and CEO of Avon Products. (Also on the board for Apple) "She enables millions of women worldwide to work for themselves. Headcount rose 200,000 in the U.S. alone during the first quarter." However, it should be noted that Avon are appealing to the insecurities of women, which is counter-feminist.
  • 4 out of the top 10 are women from ethnic backgrounds, although may have been born in the United States.
  • Some of the highest paid women are on the site, but they do not make up the top 50 and are therefore less well known or heard of and it could mean that powerful and high earning women are under-represented.
Something that did strike me as odd was that none of these women have a hair out of place or look stressed or even that old. (Despite the youngest being 34 and the majority being in their 50's) This makes me believe that the pressure on women to continue to look perfect all of the time (and in this day and age) is immense. Surely in such a position of power, it matters less what you look like and more about how capable or suitable you are for the job?

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