In many prehistoric cultures, women assumed a particular cultural role. In hunter-gatherer societies, women were generally the gatherers of plant foods, small animal foods and fish, while men hunted meat from large animals.
In more recent history, gender roles have changed greatly. Originally, starting at a young age, aspirations occupationally are typically veered towards specific directions according to gender.Traditionally, middle class women were involved in domestic tasks emphasizing child care. For poorer women, especially working class women, although this often remained an ideal,[specify] economic necessity compelled them to seek employment outside the home. Many of the occupations that were available to them were lower in pay than those available to men.
As changes in the labor market for women came about, availability of employment changed from only "dirty", long hour factory jobs to "cleaner", more respectable office jobs where more education was demanded, women's participation in the U.S. labor force rose from 6% in 1900 to 23% in 1923. These shifts in the labor force led to changes in the attitudes of women at work, allowing for the revolution which resulted in women becoming career and education oriented.
During World War II, some women performed roles which would otherwise have been considered male jobs by the culture of the time
In the 1970s, many female academics, including scientists, avoided having children. However, throughout the 1980s, institutions tried to equalize conditions for men and women in the workplace. Even so, the inequalities at home stumped women's opportunities to succeed as far as men. Professional women are still generally considered responsible for domestic labor and child care. As people would say, they have a "double burden" which does not allow them the time and energy to succeed in their careers. Furthermore, though there has been an increase in the endorsement of egalitarian gender roles in the home by both women and men, a recent research study showed that women focused on issues of morality, fairness, and well-being, while men focused on social conventions. Until the early 20th century, U.S. women's colleges required their women faculty members to remain single, on the grounds that a woman could not carry on two full-time professions at once. According to Schiebinger, "Being a scientist and a wife and a mother is a burden in society that expects women more often than men to put family ahead of career."
Movements advocate equality of opportunity for both sexes and equal rights irrespective of gender. Through a combination of economic changes and the efforts of the feminist movement,[specify] in recent decades women in many societies now have access to careers beyond the traditional homemaker.
Although a greater number of women are seeking higher education, their salaries are often less than those of men. CBS News claimed in 2005 that in the United States women who are ages 30 to 44 and hold a university degree make 62 percent of what similarly qualified men do, a lower rate than in all but three of the 19 countries for which numbers are available. Some Western nations with greater inequity in pay are Germany, New Zealand and Switzerland.