Although American culture is traditionally paternal, women are usually regarded as equal to men in the United States. Women are expected to marry and have children, but there is little surprise or stigma when they choose to assume different roles.
Women and girls are normally treated very well in the United States. The US is not a class-conscious society, and most women have similar opportunities available to them. But lack of education and early pregnancy remain problems for the poorest women in America.
In day-to-day life, women usually receive equal treatment, and this has been the case for some time. In politics, seventeen percent of senators and just over 16 percent of congressional representatives are female. In the legal profession, studies show that although women make up half of incoming law students, they occupy only about 15 percent of high-profile positions (equity partners in law firms and chief legal officers). Almost half of new medical students are female. Few women achieve top-level management positions. In 2012, the Fortune 500 list included a record number of companies with female CEOs—only 18 companies.
There is a tendency for rural areas to be a little more conservative, but for the most part, women play similar roles in urban and rural areas.
The United States has ethnic groups from all over the world, and expectations about women’s roles and behavior do vary from group to group.
There are no dress code restrictions on women in the US Women wear what they choose, from the latest styles to clothes that suit their work to the traditional clothes of their ethnic groups.
Women have the same legal rights as men in the US. They have had the right to vote since 1920 and can own and inherit property.
In 1973, the US Supreme Court ruled that states could not place "undue" restrictions on women seeking abortions. The law does vary from state to state, and some restrictions do exist. More than 20 states require parental consent for underage girls, and one, South Dakota, recently passed a statewide ban on abortion except in cases where the woman’s life is in danger. Women who have the resources can travel to states with less restrictive laws if needed.
Women can initiate divorce. Divorce law varies from state to state, but women have the same right to initiate divorce and seek custody of their children as men in the US.
Women have the same rights and access to education as men. Most people, both boys and girls, complete elementary school, and the majority go on to complete secondary school; almost three-quarters of female students graduate from high school, compared to around 65 percent of boys. Women and men complete higher education at similar rates. The literacy rate for women in the US is 99 percent, the same as for men. The public school system in the US is co-educational.
Women make up about half the workforce in the US, and work in most fields, including those traditionally dominated by men. Far fewer women than men achieve high-level, prestigious positions, though percentages are increasing slightly every year.
Dating, Marriage, and Family
Women choose their own partners in the United States, except in cases where recent immigrant families may still hold on to traditions from their home countries. Dating is common practice, and most women start dating as teenagers. Women meet men in a wide variety of settings, including school, work, through family and friends, or at social events. On average, women marry in their mid-20s, though this varies by region. In the northeast, for example, most women marry later. Many women on both coasts don’t marry until their 30s. Utah has the youngest marriage age, with the average woman marrying at a little over 21. Polygamy is neither legal nor socially acceptable in the United States.
Most women assume their husbands’ names after marriage, though this is not a requirement. On the east and west coasts, it’s common for women to retain their maiden names or use a hyphenated name. In divorce, it’s up to the woman to decide whether she wants to keep her married name or revert to her maiden name.
Women are in charge of their own households in the US. Important decisions are usually made jointly with their husbands, but women have full autonomy.
Generally, childlessness is not an issue in the US. Women are free to choose whether or not to have children or when to have them without drawing any stigma. This does not mean that mothers have stopped asking for grandchildren, particularly in the Hispanic tradition.
Women can hold property separately from their husbands, but property and laws vary from state to state, and what may be a woman’s personal property in one state may be considered part of community property in another. Law on division of marital property in divorce also varies, but women can normally expect to get about half, depending on her circumstances and state law. Child custody can be decided by mutual agreement or in court. Unless there are unusual circumstances, women stand a good chance of receiving at least partial custody of their children.
Women have equal access to medical care in the US. Standards of care are good; maternal mortality is estimated at 12 deaths per 100,000 live births, and infant mortality is estimated at five deaths per 1,000 live births. Most births are supervised by a healthcare professional. American women make their own health care decisions. Birth control is available and widely used, and most sexually-active women in the United States use some form of contraceptive if they want to avoid getting pregnant.