Young women today have a lot to thank their mothers, grandmothers and great grandmothers for. It's been a hundred years since the British Parliament passed an act in 1918 granting the vote to women over the age of 30 who owned property and to graduates of British universities. But the struggle continues.
With the World Economic Forum's 2017 Global Gender Gap Report findings telling us that gender parity is over 200 years away, there has never been a more important time to keep motivated and #PressforProgress. And with global activism for women's equality fuelled by movements like #MeToo, #TimesUp and more, there is a strong global momentum striving for gender parity.
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Origins of the women's rights movement
The women's rights movement began in the nineteenth century with the demand by women reformers for the right to vote, known as suffrage, and for the same legal rights as men. These early suffragettes strove to secure equal rights for women and to remove gender discrimination from laws, institutions and behavioural patterns, often at immense personal cost.
But women's lib peaked in the 60s and 70s
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The women's liberation movement was a loose agreement of women and feminist thinking that emerged in the United States, United Kingdom, Ireland, and other developed countries during the late 1960s and persisted throughout the 1970s.
In South Africa in the 70s girls on university campuses weren't allowed to wear pants - denim jeans, hipster bell bottoms or slacks. Short mini skirt dresses were the height of fashion and severely frowned upon so ingenious, rebellious students wore them as tops over their pants.
Women who had graduated alongside men, often with far higher marks, were appointed in subordinate positions. The same degree for instance, garnered a managerial position for a man and a secretarial one for a woman.
What The Pill did for women
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In 2010 in the US women overtook men in professional roles in the workplace for the first time. That's a far cry from 1967, when women made up only one third of all US workers.
So what brought about the mass movement of women into the workplace?
A generation of college-educated women rejected the prospect of following in the footsteps of their mothers, spending their lives as housewives.
But it was also due to a tiny powerful enabler - the birth control pill. The pill gave women the opportunity to delay having children and pursue the careers of their dreams. Women were now able to plan when they wanted children. The advent of the birth control pill coincided with the second wave of feminism and the fight for equal rights. It gave women a tool to level the playing field with men. They no longer had to be mothers first and professionals in the workplace second.
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