Volume 3 Issue 3
Women Still Rising in the Workplace, 80 Years Later
By Lourdes Cortez
As we celebrate the 80th Aniversary of North Jersey Federal Credit Union, I must reflect on women’s role in the workplace and the tremendous changes our communities have experienced since 1936.
In a mostly male dominated society, women in the workplace today have become the norm and our accomplishments are reflected in the types of careers many of us have chosen.
One can see how far we’ve come.
Eighty years ago, many women were relegated to domestic work, particularly those of color. While the women who had opportunities to become more educated, were expected to become a nurse, a school teacher or have a career in a stereotypical job. In other words, women didn’t have many options and the glass ceiling was quite formidable.
However, according to the Department for Professional Employees (DPE), 73 million women are in the workplace today, as compared to 11 million 80 years ago – a clear indication that women are infiltrating all aspects of industry and business.
Certainly, banking was not always considered women’s work. Although there’s been a presence of trailblazing women in banking, like Mary Roebling, who took over the reins as president of Trenton Trust Bank upon her husband’s death in 1937. Under her leadership the bank’s assets soared from $17 million to $1.3 billion by 1984, when she retired.
Meanwhile, Maggie Lena Walker founded the charter for St. Lukes Penny Savings Bank in 1903, in Richmond, Virginia, making her the first female African American bank president.
Subsequently, women have continued to make their presence known in a variety of fields, some more so than others – nearly equaling men as biological scientists and as artists, in numbers (DPE).
In management positions, women like Arisa Batista-Cunningham, account for 30 percent of the workforce. Batista-Cunningham is the vice-president of Global Diversity for Johnson & Johnson, whose
mission is to advance minority and underserved populations.
As women became more prevalent in the workplace, in both traditional and non-traditional industries (factories, armed forces, etc.) a new issue arose, and that is the gap between wages earned for the same job done. Men and women working in the same job position were not earning the same salary. And this, unfortunately, was happening systematically.
While the arduous task for equality has been ongoing for women in the workplace, nothing says this more than “equal pay for equal work.”
With the passing of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which President Obama signed into law in 2009, women gained the leverage so badly needed, when it comes to wages.
The commendable strength of women, throughout history, has been defined by persistence and determination. Starting with the Women Suffrage Movement’s 52-year-long battle to secure the right to vote in 1920, to the Feminist Movement of the 1970s, when “the spirit of entrepreneurship was invigorated,” women have been relentless. According to Women in Business: a Historical Perspective, by the late 1980s, women owned half of all American businesses while juggling being mothers and caretakers.
Indeed, the valiant spirit found in the DNA of women, was eloquently captured in the poem by the great Maya Angelou – Still I Rise.
You may shoot me with your words
You may cut me with your eyes
You may kill me with your hatefulness
But still, like air, I’ll rise.