CoastLine: Third Wave Feminism Still Struggles with Wage Gap, Glass Ceiling

Jun 5, 2015

This broadcast of CoastLine originally aired on March 18, 2015. 

March is Womens’ History Month.  

This month doesn’t share the longevity of, say, Black History Month. 

It wasn’t until 1981 that Congress passed a resolution asking the President to proclaim one week in March as “Women’s History Week."  Over the next five years, Congress passed annual resolutions designating "Women’s History Week." 

It was 1987 when the National Women’s History Project petitioned Congress to establish the entire month of March as Women’s History Month.   And that continues today… each year, Congress asks the President to issue a proclamation. 

On today’s edition of CoastLine, we explore why there is a month set aside for Women’s History.  We also find out what third-wave feminism is -- how it’s different from the first and second waves – and how feminists might say the culture is doing in terms of moving past gender stereotypes to equality.    

In-studio guest:  Dr. Katie Peel, Director of the Women’s Studies and Resource Center at UNCW; Associate Professor of English.   

For a listing of Women's History Month events at UNCW, follow this link:


A large part of women's history necessarily includes first, second, and third-wave feminism. 

But even though the struggle for gender fairness has been around for centuries, in 2015, women are still fighting for the most basic of equal rights:  equal pay.    

The first wave of feminism galvanized around a woman’s right to vote, spanning the late 18th to the early 20th centuries.  The second wave ignited in the 1950s lasting into the 70s.  Women fought inequality on more fronts – economic, social, and cultural. 

Current third-wave feminism broadened the focus to become more inclusive based on the premise that freedom for one must mean freedom for all – regardless of race, gender, sexual or religious orientation. 

But the glass ceiling still exists and the wage gap is a gender issue – and a surprisingly prevalent one, says Dr. Katie Peel, Director of UNCW’s Women’s Studies and Resource Center. 

"I think the Chronicle of Higher Education just published yesterday that – I want to say – only 4% of university presidents are women.  So when we’re talking about the glass ceiling – I mean, that’s job Number One right there in terms of the higher education ladder."

Bridging the gap, says Peel, requires effort from individuals, companies, and policymakers.    

"Change has to happen on a lot of levels.  We’ve got companies needing to actively monitor and address these issues within their own practices.  We’ve got policymakers.  The Equal Pay Act hasn’t been updated, I think, since 1963.  And then on an individual level, again going back to that socialization, men are socialized to negotiate those job offers in ways that women aren’t."

Women, on average, says Peel, make about 78 cents on the dollar compared to men of equal experience and education.