Women in the Workforce: We’ve Come a Long Way

March 4, 2015 |

Women in the Workforce_Zocalo article

On Saturday, March 21, the UA Bookstore’s first floor is set to become a portal to the past when a salon – featuring music and discussion – on the women’s movement takes place. The UA Confluencenter for Creative Inquiry’s event, part of the Creative Collaborations series, is looking back at the middle of the 20th century when a seismic paradigm shift occurred in the United States; the shift from men mostly running things to women entering professional fields, and when girls’ ambitions could evolve beyond solely finding the perfect husband and becoming a dutiful wife and mother.

Pianist, Professor Emerita and the UA Confluencenter for Creative Inquiry Senior Fellow Paula Fan, the Creative Collaborations coordinator and host, reflects on the incredible journey of the women’s movement through dialogue with women from journalism, medicine and law – along with songs performed by vocalist Kristin Dauphinais.

“The stories that these ladies are going to tell, its history; they lived through it. I’m in my 60s. I am sort of peripheral to it. These three – in law, journalism, and medicine – we’re talking about the power fields, where women weren’t represented, so I think it is an important event,” Fan said.

These amazing, accomplished and award-winning professionals include magazine and newspaper journalist Linda Grant, Dr. Marilyn Heins, and retired attorney Susan Freund, J.D. All three entered college and their careers at a time when female participation was not the norm. They succeeded in spades through intelligence, determination and hard work. They faced discrimination and had experiences that would be lawsuit worthy today.

Linda Grant, 75, who graduated with a journalism degree from Northwestern University in 1963, shared that when she worked at Fortune Magazine (owned by Time, Inc.) in the 1970s, there was “a strict gender-based policy: men writers and women fact-checkers and reporters.

“This struck me as arrogant and wrong. In 1970, the women of Fortune filed a complaint with the EEOC (U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission). As part of the settlement, Fortune and other Time Inc. publications had to institute ‘writer training programs’ for women,” Grant wrote via email. “The men editors hated this requirement, and year after year flunked all the women-in-training. In the mid-70s, I was selected to go through a one-year ‘training program.’ Pretty much everyone on the staff thought it would be a slam dunk, for I had freelanced for other publications and had been writing at Fortune for years. I just wasn’t getting the promotion and the pay of a writer. After a year the editors flunked me as well, which ended the entire training program.

“I wrote a strong letter of protest, took a leave, came back, and was promoted to associate editor and writer only months later. This was huge victory for all women. I celebrated by quitting Fortune and joining the Los Angeles Times in L.A.

“This fight – which the women at all magazines followed – led to the opening up of jobs for women. It has been detailed in a book by Lynn Povich called ‘The Good Girls Revolt: How the Women of Newsweek Sued their Bosses and Changed the Workplace.’ Newsweek was first; Time, Life, Fortune and Sports Illustrated followed months later. The lawsuits were based on the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and follow-up legislation in 1979 that prohibited any company who did business with the U.S. government from discrimination,” Grant explained.

Dr. Marilyn Heins, a pediatrics expert, received her medical degree from Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1955 and her undergraduate degree from Radcliffe (Harvard) in 1951. Heins, who is 84, shared in an email that at her undergrad orientation, Radcliffe’s Dean told the women that they were there to become educated mothers for their children.

“I went to college to become a doctor, so this was a bit of cognitive dissonance. One of the libraries was for men only and, yes, Harvard was a man’s world in those days. Most professors were at least somewhat accepting of the women students but I remember one asking us not to knit in class. I did not know how to knit then and still don’t know how.”

In a 2001 award acceptance speech, Heins recalled that “on the first day of our obstetrics rotation, the head of the department began the introductory lecture thusly: ‘With apologies to the women attending this lecture in order to become physicians, the function of young women is to have babies.’ I was a conscientious student so I wrote down his words verbatim. It took 18 years for that remark to somehow surface into my conscious thoughts and enrage me.”

Susan Freund, J. D., 69, graduated from college in 1967 with a degree in economics and a minor in accounting. “I was the only female in all of my business classes, but felt very supported by the professors. I made very good grades in my business and accounting classes, but was advised by my accounting professor that only the government (not private accounting firms) would hire me upon graduation because of my gender. He was right. I took a job as a field agent with the IRS. I was told at the time I was hired that there were only four female field agents in the whole U.S. I don’t know if this was true, but even the federal government was very much male dominated at this time.

“Before law school, I earned an M.B.A. from Monmouth University – I was the first female to do so. All of my professors and classmates were very supportive. I began law school (at the University of Arizona) in 1974. I was almost 29 and by then, a third of the class was female. We were the first class with substantial female numbers. The male classmates were very supportive, but some of the professors not so. Fortunately, the tax and business law professors were great. I graduated in 1977. After law school I went on to get a Masters of Law degree in Taxation at NYU. Again, a very good experience both with classmates and professors. I graduated in 1978,” Freund wrote via email.

When asked what some of the enduring accomplishments of the women’s movement are, Linda Grant wrote that the achievements for women today are proven by the numbers. “Women are everywhere: doctors, lawyers, engineers, journalists (no women’s pages anymore).” Dr. Marilyn Heins reflected Grant’s statement by saying, “the civil rights and women’s movement made enormous differences. Women have acquired access to virtually all professional and career opportunities.”

As Grant also said, “the movement could have done things better, but revolutions are messy. I think the movement wandered off course when it blamed men for everything, when bra-burners and demonstrators were silly. All we wanted was equal pay, and we are still working toward that goal, but progress is being made – two steps forward and one back.” Heins added that women’s advancements in achieving professional positions of power still needs a lot of work.

All three women, all mothers, echoed the same concern about child rearing. “Who is going to nurture the children?” Grant asked. Freund said that “one of the biggest challenges facing women today is how to manage a career and family. The support just isn’t there, for either the mother or the father. Maternity/paternity leave is too short.”

“The ‘big problem’,” wrote Heins, “is far from solved. When women work, either to fulfill their career dreams or feed their family, in a nation whose policies seem to assume all women are at home as in the ‘Dick and Jane’ books, who takes care of the children, our future?

“I hope today’s young people, both men and women, will use their creative thinking and political power to solve the ‘double burden’ problem.”

Creative Collaborations’ “Women in the Workforce: We’ve Come a Long Way” is free and runs from 11 a.m. to noon on Saturday, March 21 at the UA Bookstore’s first floor – located next to the student union at 1209 E. University Blvd. There is free parking in the Second Street Garage at Mountain Avenue. More information is at Confluencenter.arizona.edu or by calling 621-4587.

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Category: Arts, Community, DOWNTOWN / UNIVERSITY / 4TH AVE, Events