Women in the Workforce
The proportion of women in the workforce rose during the 20th century. In 1900 the British workforce included five million women, about a third of the total. By the end of the century it was over half - seven million women.
There had also been a transformation in the sort of jobs undertaken by women. In 1900 most jobs were domestic service or other 'semi-skilled' activities. By the end of the century women had entered the professions and one had even risen to the highest political office: in 1979 Margaret Thatcher became Britain's first woman Prime Minister.
During both world wars women entered industry in larger numbers than ever before. At Woolwich Arsenal, London's main armaments factory, the number of women employed before 1914 was negligible. Numbers rose to 9,400 in 1916 and 24,719 by 1917. Between 1914 and 1918 the number of women employed by the London and General Omnibus Company rose from 226 to 2,832.
At the end of the war many women objected to being ousted from their new jobs, which were supposed to be 'returned' to men.
The Sex Disqualification Act of 1919 removed barriers to women in certain professions, notably the law. In 1922 Miss Ivy Williams became the first woman to be called to the bar. By this time women had already begun to replace men, or boys, as clerical workers. The London County Council (L.C.C) appointed its first women clerk in 1894, and by 1914 had 40 'lady typists'. The office boom of the 1960s increased the number of women in offices.
The marriage bar
Until the last half of the 20th century, married women faced particular discrimination in the workplace due to the assumption that a mother could not devote time to both a job and a family. The 1919 Act had legislated against women being barred from work for being married, but the Civil Service kept the bar in place, as did the L.C.C. Even teachers had to retire from their jobs if they chose to marry. During the Second World War, labour shortages forced the L.C.C. to suspend the marriage bar, and it was finally abolished in 1945.
In 1910 fewer than 10% of married women worked. By 1990 this had increased to 60%.
Before the Sex Discrimination and Equal Pay Acts of 1975, women could be treated as cheap labour. Women could be paid less than men on the assumption that a woman was not the main wage earner in the household and would be supported by her husband.
Even after 1975, attitudes to women in the workplace did not change overnight. The year-long Grunwick dispute at a photo-processing plant in Brent began in 1976 with the assumption, on the part of the employer, that the largely Asian women in the workforce would accept poor working conditions.
What are these?
Social Bookmarking allows users to save and categorise a personal collection of bookmarks and share them with others. This is different to using your own browser bookmarks which are available using the menus within your web browser. Use the links below to share this article on the social bookmarking site of your choice. Read more about social bookmarking at Wikipedia - Social Bookmarking.