Toward Gender Equality: Affirmative Action, Comparable Worth, and the Women’s Movement


Affirmative action  seems to have become the most recognized strategy for integrating the sexes in the workplace. In fact, according to some scholars and activists, women are “widely assumed… [to] have been the primary beneficiaries of affirmative action in employment.” However, a study of the evidence indicates that “the actual results of affirmative action [for women] belie the rhetoric.” Moreover, the assumption that affirmative action was a major part of modern anti-discrimination policy and that women could not be without it is not clearly reflected in feminist practice. In addition to affirmative action, the women’s movement has focused on a wide range of issues pertaining to employment rights, including the concept of comparable worth, or “equal pay for work of equivalent value.” This concept addressed the disparity in wages through a system of job evaluations that would require employers to pay female employees in female-dominated jobs the same salaries as males in male-dominated jobs of comparable value, and was used as part of a strategy aimed at broadening the feminist base by taking on the problem of the gender-based wage gap. This Article will address these two issues together, constituting a historical, legal, and sociological study of the actual and rhetorical roles of affirmative action on behalf of women, and an assessment of the controversial concept of comparable worth.

Suggested Reading