On DovBear's blog, LadyKaye wrote a post on whether women can lain from the Torah in public and discussed the reason given in the Talmud against it, that of "Kavod HaTzibur" (respect to the congregation). She discusses the 2 explanations generally given for Kavod HaTzibur. One is that women were simply held in lower regard. The other was a convoluted apologetic that involved women's educational opportunities (see her post for a full explanation.)
I thin there's no question that it's the lower regard for women that accounted for Kavod HaTzibur. Women were deemed inferior. That's OK, since most of the world deemed women inferior at the time the halachot were written & codified. (Mishna & Talmud.)
Actually, Judaism was more respectful of women's rights and status than the surrounding society. They were deemed inferior, but not property. Since the episode of B'not Zelafchad in the Torah, Judaism has had a tradition of working within the halachic system to make things better for women as times demanded.
Unfortunately most of the Orthodox community today has forgotten the elasticity of halacha. Women who can be CEO's, doctors, lawyers, and college professors in the outside world are relegated to sitting behind the mechitza and taking no public role in tefilla.
It is no longer OK to treat women as inferior by appealing to outmoded ways of thinking that happened to find its way to some halachic standards.
Shuls like Shira Chadasha & Darkhei Noam have taken up the ancient tradition of stretching (not breaking) halacha to enable women to expand their roles. It's a shame that most of the Orthodox world has created only one innovation - the concept that halacha cannot change.