It can be easy as business women to get caught up in all the things we perceive as unfair in the workplace. While ten percent of Fortune 500 companies employ zero women on their boards and we haven’t seen an increase of female CEOs over the past few years, we still have a lot to celebrate too.
It’s no secret that women make a great contribution to the workforce. Motherhood teaches many valuable lessons that can be implemented in the workplace and our unique multi-tasking abilities are certainly an asset. Whether discussing equal pay, policies or empowerment, there is certainly some positive dialogue. Focusing on what needs to be accomplished will encourage progress, but celebrating how far we have come while looking forward has the dual effect of pushing for further advancement and inspiring others.
1963. President Kennedy signed the equal pay act aimed at abolishing wage disparity based on employee gender. This was a time when women earned around 59 cents to every dollar compared to their male counterpart. While the battle to narrow the pay gap is far from over, the Department of Labor does continue to keep tabs on the amount earned by women every June on National Equal Pay Day (it’s about 20 cents higher today).
1971. Phillips versus Martin Marietta Corp. sees a courtroom. Ida Phillips found herself in a situation where she was unable to get a job at The Martine Marietta Corporation due to their formal policy about hiring women with young children as they were assumed to be unreliable – while men were hired and promoted with children the same age. This case made great improvements for women when it ruled that an employer may not refuse to hire women with preschool age children while hiring men with children of the same age. While discrimination does occur all too often, the legal outlook for working mothers has greatly improved as a result of this case.
2009. President Obama signs the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act into law. The act restores protection for equal pay for women, minorities, and other groups that are victims of marginalization. Too often, employers hide their discrimination and aren’t held accountable for their actions. Lilly Ledbetter was one of many who experienced unfair pay based on her gender. The law was signed in an effort to make it easier for women and other groups dealing with discrimination to file a lawsuit based on unfair practices. The Obama administration believed that by signing the bill into law, other women and victims like Lilly Ledbetter would more effectively challenge unequal pay.
Employees at all levels on the corporate ladder and both genders should be provided the ability to work hard, excel, and receive promotions. Think about Marissa Mayer – she’s a great example of how working successfully while pregnant and leading a Fortune 500 company is very possible. She stood up for what she believed in. Having the right tools won’t make you an expert, but skill will – especially when paired with hard work.
While there are still battles to pick, there are many gains that have been made. Luckily, we have seen significant progress in the way women are treated in the workplace and hopefully the momentum can continue into the next generation of women workers.
What positive changes have you seen in the workplace for women?
Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for ChamberofCommerce.com. She specializes on the topic of small business tips and resources. ChamberofCommerce.com helps small businesses grow their business on the web and facilitates connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide.
Photo via Flickr on Creative Common