Women, work and money. We take for granted nowadays that a woman can manage her own finances. She can get a loan in her own name, a credit card, work a full time job, and invest however she wishes. She can work full time outside the house, or still decide to stay home/work part time. She can even be the breadwinner and sole income earner with a stay at home dad husband, like me. We’re frustrated with all the things still present in today’s world that hold us back – the gender pay gap, the fact that we’re still not represented equally in executive boardrooms, all the harassment we still must endure, and so on.
You know, though, it wasn’t so long ago that our fore-mothers were fighting for these rights we take for granted today. At times it can be tempting to focus solely on how far we have left to go – so I wanted to kick off this week with a reflection of just how far we’ve come. At the end, I have some inspiring words for you, and a call to help others – whether you’re a man or a woman.
I hope today you’ll also learn something interesting you didn’t know before, and can go share a new tidbit with friends and co-workers. And that I’ll inspire you – whatever your gender – to step up and do something differently to help change the world.
Women, Work And Our Money – A Look Through The Ages
Here’s a look at major milestones for women in their money – and work, which is closely related – history.
1862: The first loan to a woman in the US occurred in California, by the San Francisco Savings Union
1880: A woman named Mary Gage opened a stock exchange for women who want to use their own money to speculate on railroad stocks. Check out the 1889 Wall Street Journal article about how “Female Speculators Rattle Wall Street Traditions“.
1908: Oregon limits the workday for women to 10 hours – with the implication that women are too fragile to work much longer than that, or they are needed at home. This occurred in the case Muller Vs. Oregon.
1963: The US passes the first legislation requiring equal pay for equal work. So it was only a little over 50 years ago that it was perfectly legal to pay people differently depending on gender.
1968: Did you know that it used to be perfectly acceptable to advertise jobs as only for women, or only for men? It was common practice only fifty years ago. Protests in 1967 against the New York times led to them finally ending the practice.
1969: Colgate-Palmolive lays women off rather then letting them do physical labor. This is of course “to protect our ladies” and their delicate sensibilities (uggghhhhhh). In Bowe v Colgate-Palmolive, an appeals court rules physical labor cannot be limited to men.
1970: Schultz v Wheaton Glass came about after a company had a “brilliant” (read – not brilliant) way to get around that pesky equal pay act. Simply have different job title for the same work! Men were “selector-packer-stackers,” while women were the much different “selector-packers.” Fortunately a federal appeals court saw right through that one..
1972: Katharine Graham becomes the first woman to become CEO of a Fortune 500 company – the Washington Post.
1974: This year saw the passage of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, which made it illegal to discriminate against someone based on their gender, race, religion and national origin.
1978: Before the passing of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, it was perfectly legal to fire a woman for being pregnant.
1981: Before this time, a husband could keep his spouse in the financial dark. Thanks to Kirchberg v Feenstra, where a man was told he doesn’t have the right to unilaterally take out a second mortgage on property held jointly with his wife. Do you know why he had to be told this? Because before this time, it was actually the law in Louisiana that you could do this.
1988: Believe it or not, this was when the “Women’s Business Ownership Act” put an end to state laws requiring male co-signers. That’s only thirty years ago!
2009: President Barack Obama signs the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration act, which allows people to sue companies for pay discrimination even if more than six months have passed.
Here’s all those facts in a cool picture you can share.
In doing the research for this article, I was shocked by how recent some of the developments I take for granted really are. In the 60’s, my mother was a child. My grandmother was a young adult woman – a stay at home mom who never went to college, despite the fact that she was more than capable. Why? That’s what women did. And until me, all the married women in my family also had their money managed by their spouse.
One of the main reasons I started this site was to help other money smart women, as well as those who want to become better with their money, to manage things themselves. Women being able to do things as simple as run a business, get a loan or credit card, be the breadwinner, work outside the home, and manage their own money are recent developments when you look at it from a historical perspective.
Many women out there might be like me – with few or no other money-smart or strong career female role models in their own lives. It can be a difficult path to walk when you feel like you’re alone. I’m here to let you know that we’re not alone. There are women who have walked this path before you, even if you don’t know who they are. There are many women walking alongside you now. And there are women behind you as well. If we can all work towards helping others to learn and achieve, we’ll be able to change the world in ways we can’t imagine now.
What if you’re not a woman? That’s great, actually. You can help ensure that your mothers, sisters, daughters, granddaughters, and all other women have the opportunity to live up to their potential. How can you do this? By living your life in a way that you encourage women to succeed, pointing out where others may be holding women back, and working hard to recognize any unconscious biases you or others may hold.
Looking at how far we have to go can, at times, be saddening. “Are we making any progress at all?” you may wonder. Hopefully this look back in time will show you that yes, we have indeed made tremendous progress. And we are the ones that will be making that progress for our – and others – children. One day, when we are all old or gone, the coming generation will be in disbelief with what we had to deal with.
So lets all work together for the success of our, and future, generations. If we do, we can change the world.
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