Feminist Activism - Education & Job Opportunities

The Social Context

Before the 1970s, women’s place in the labour market was very different from today. Fewer women were in paid work and in many occupations women had to leave when they got married e.g. teaching and the Civil Service. Twice as many boy school-leavers as girls entered jobs providing recognised forms of training in 1971, with five times as many men as women in government training schemes. The main training for women was in hairdressing and short-hand typing, both being less well-paid than the trade apprenticeships available to men.


Employed women were mostly in low paid caring, clerical or service jobs, while the minority of women in the professions were earning less than their male counterparts. There was no maternity leave, and virtually no childcare provision, so most women left employment on starting a family. The cartoon on the right illustrates prevailing attitudes.


The 1970s was a time of great social upheaval. Women’s position in society began to change. There were more one-parent families, usually headed by the mother. There was a big increase in part-time jobs, mainly taken by married women returning to employment when their family responsibilities lessened. At the same time, the Women’s Liberation Movement emerged to press for radical action to achieve gender equality and women’s independence.


Look at the graph above which shows the historical imbalance between women and men at different grades in the civil service. Use the worksheet on The Social Context to learn more about differences in life opportunities.


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