On March 8, we celebrate International Women’s Day to recognize the accomplishments of women around the world and acknowledge existing issues. However, before we dive into women in the workplace, let’s take a look at a brief history of the women’s movement.
The history of International Women’s Day
Many countries around the world celebrate International Women’s Day; however, the first celebration of women took place in the United States. This day of recognition, known as National Woman’s Day, was organized by the Socialist Party of America to honor the 1908 garment workers’ strike in New York where women protested against working conditions.
This national movement was just the start. The day of observation gained traction and in 1910 the Socialist International Convention in Copenhagen established International Women’s Day. Years after, the United Nations would celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8, 1975. This later became the official day of celebration that we continue to observe today.
Thereafter, women around the world organized to achieve similar goals. One issue that has withstood the test of time and that we are still tackling today is women at work. There has long been a battle for more opportunity, better working conditions, and equal pay.
Continue reading to learn about a few milestones women have made to improve their place in the workplace.
Women At Work from the 1900s to Today
Before the World Wars took place women largely took the role of wife and homemaker. Likewise, the jobs that were available to working women were low-tier jobs that paid little in comparison to their male counterparts. Women found their place in the workplace during the World War when women enlisted and drafted to into the military. While men and female nurses were off at war, homemakers took initiative and filled factory jobs normally performed by men.
Equal Pay Act
The Equal Pay Act of 1963 is an amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. The act prohibits gender-based wage discrimination between men and women in the same establishment who perform jobs that require equivalent skill, effort, and responsibility. This milestone in the women’s movement was monumental because of the previous unethical compensation practices.
Bowe v. Colgate-Palmolive
The fight for workplace equal opportunity extended to the types of jobs women were allowed to perform. In 1969, the Supreme Court ruled that women meeting the physical requirements can work in previously male-only jobs. This increased women’s access to work opportunities that extended beyond designated female jobs.
Family and Medical Leave Act
In 1993, Congress passed the Family and Medical Leave Act that required large employers to provide their employees up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave for pregnancy or family illness. At that time, it was lawful for an employer to fire women for reasons related to pregnancy. The popular notion is that pregnant women can not adequately perform once they’ve conceived. In some cases, women would hide or terminate their pregnancy for fear of being fired.
Persistent civil rights and feminist movements have brought about radical change for women trying to establish themselves in the workplace. To emphasize, 100 years ago women were not welcome in the workplace. Today there are various opportunities for women to thrive in the workplace. Most recently, the #MeToo Movement brought international attention to sexual harassment and assault in and out of the workplace. Despite this, one international management consulting firm reaffirms that we still have a long way to go.
According to a study conducted by McKinsey & Company, women are underrepresented at every level especially senior level positions. McKinsey stresses that adjustments to the hiring and promotion process are the only way to increase representation.
Companies have acknowledged these requests and are taking appropriate action to create a more diverse workplace. For example, GoDaddy has reinvented its messaging to include more females hires. Likewise, Schwab has created a mentoring program within its Employee Resource Groups that help women achieve success in the workplace.
These are only a few of the amazing milestones achieved by women in the workplace. Correspondingly, International Women’s Day celebrates these achievements and advancements that woman have made through decades of hard work and more.