Equal pay for women is a must

I’m encouraged with the news that women in the movie industry are questioning why they are paid less that their male counterparts. Jennifer Lawrence wrote an essay about it in October when it was revealed she made considerably less than her male counterparts in the film American Hustle. Now Cate Blanchett is praising Lawrence. Blanchett says: ”I applaud her for saying that because, forget the film industry for a second, it encourages women in other industries to say, ‘You know what, I’m not receiving equal pay for equal work here.’


In 2005 I received a Women of Achievement (WOA) award from the aerospace company I worked for. The following year I was asked to speak at the WOA awards luncheon about the changing roles of women over the last few decades I guess the committee knew I was old enough to have witnessed these changes personally. The speech focused on inequality in my workplace.

Since I retired in 2010, I can’t speak for the situation now. I only hope that the younger generation has taken my advice to speak up and ask for equality both in what they are paid and how they are treated on the job.

Here’s the speech:

I hired into this company for the first time in 1963, the dark ages, a few months before Oswald killed President Kennedy.

Just to set the stage: there was no such thing as a women’s history month and Women of Achievement award, no such thing as a bring your daughter and son to work day no such thing as a day care center in fact after a questionnaire went around in the 70s it was determined there wasn’t enough need for one.

In the early days admins were called secretaries and answered their boss’s phones. Documents were produced only in hard paper copies on typewriters with an all woman-typing pool, managed by a man, typing our reports and proposals. And, there was no such thing as a color copy.

Every desk had an ashtray. Women were required to wear skirts or dresses. And most of us wore girdles, nylon hose, and 3-inch heels. In the late 60s, when pants finally were allowed they had to be a part of a suit. No jeans, t-shirts, or flip-flops showed up in our workspace.

I, a college graduate, was hired in non-exempt working side by side a group of lazy men with exempt status and salaries to match. The women did all the work. The men got the money and the recognition. Three years later I was a part of a class action suit, winning exempt status, but not equal pay. Instead we got a $10 a week token bump to make up for no more overtime pay.

I'm in the top row, second from the right.

I’m in the top row, second from the right.

Early on I decided my family came before my career. I worked part-time after my first son was born and, said no without batting an eye to a management position offer when I was pregnant with my second. Finally, I decided I had to leave permanently because of the inflexible hours of my part-time job and, my discomfort in having a Nanny raise my children.

During those 10 years away from the company I sold real estate, wrote grant proposals, raised money for non profits, things I could do in between the demands of my family. I got off the corporate ladder by choice and never looked back.

In the 60s and 70s there were very few women engineers and scientists, an occasional section and department manager, and no women VPs though no statistics are available. Most women were secretaries, typists, factory workers, key punchers, and in lower level jobs like mine, producing reports and proposals. Later on, programming became a popular job choice for women. I even learned COBOL and FORTRAN and worked as a programmer for a time.


  • Women are 29% of the our workforce
  • They are 18% of the member of the technical staff population
  • 18% of the VPs
  • 24% of the managers
  • 24% of the professionals
  • and 51% of our U.S. population.

I’m impressed that there are  many young women professionals these days. However, those with families have to juggle their careers with carpooling, staying home with a sick child, attending a game or school meeting, and preparing family dinners. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard my women colleagues say they need a wife.

And, though we’ve come a long way since 1963, on the most recent proposal I worked the management team organization chart showed only two women out of 42. The rest were white males.

So, my challenge to you young women is: continue to make a difference in doing the important company work, continue to act as role models for your younger female colleagues, continue to encourage others to excel, and continue to strive for equality throughout the workplace.

In the last 40 years we’ve raised the glass ceiling a bit. We still have a long way to go.


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