Friday, 11 March 2011 00:00
The Glass Ceiling was all about women not being able to rise to leadership ranks in the corporate world. Thirty years ago there were few, if any, African-Americans or women in top management positions or in the boardrooms. Today, that has changed for the good.
The challenge for women, over the years, has been a tough road, and I want to outline some of the United States landmarks for you in this piece.
Even if you go to jury trials, until 1701 in Albany, NY, women could not serve on juries. Albany broke the ground. Then, in 1777 every state passed a law, which took away the right of women to vote in elections.
Then in 1839, Mississippi allowed women to own property with their husband’s permission. And interestingly the territory of Wyoming, in 1869, was the first area of the country to give women voting rights.
In 1875, the U.S. Supreme Court actually ruled that women are “persons” that held a “special category of nonvoting citizens.” But, the state of Wyoming, in 1890, followed up the territorial approval for women to vote and was the first state to give women voting rights.
Next, in 1900, all states had followed New York’s 1848 law allowing women to be property owners.
But, it took until the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution to declare, “the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State on account of sex.” Can you imagine that most of our mothers and grandmothers could not vote before 1920!
Then, in 1938 The Fair Labor Standards Act established minimum wages without regard to whether the worker was a male or female. Another milestone in the way to equality in the workplace for women was the 1963 Equal Pay Act, which required equal pay for the same work without regard to race, color or sex of the workers. In my judgment, that law started to chip away at the glass ceiling.
And believe it or not, it was in 1971 that the Supreme Court struck down laws which allowed employers to refuse to hire women with pre-school children.
1984 saw another unique Supreme Court decision. The court ruled that membership organizations such as Jaycees, Kiwanis, Rotary and Lions could not exclude women as members. That ruling opened up business related organization across the country for women.
Then, as late as 1997, the Supreme Court ruled that college athletic programs have to involve roughly the same number of males and females to qualify for federal funding.
While the county and certainly parts of the world are not perfect for women, we have come along way since the time of male total dominance of the business world. Next, it will be interesting to see when the United States will elect the first woman president?