Thus it’s an age-old question that is still being asked to this very day. There is no simple answer to this
question. Depending on what decade in time the question is asked the answer will vary. Prior to World
War ll, most women were wives, mothers and homemakers. Most of these women were brought up to
believe their job was to meet a good man who could support them financially, get married, raise a family
together and keep a lovely home.
Prior to the industrial revolution, many Americans lived in rural areas on family farms. They grew their
own food and raised livestock. Most families were large, and everyone helped work the farm. With the
start of the industrial revolution, many families left the farm and moved into the cities in hopes of finding
respectable good-paying jobs in manufacturing or processing plants. Some of those jobs made it
possible for women to work outside the home but it was still predominantly a man’s place to support his
family. Most women worked in the textile mills or were hired on as domestic workers in the homes of
With the start of World War ll, many men left their jobs to join the war effort creating a shortage of
workers. Women who had never worked outside the home were now joining the war effort by taking on
these otherwise male-dominated jobs in factories, munition plants and shipyards. It was during this era
that the now-iconic Rosie the Riveter was created with her message “We can do it!” encouraging more
women to hang up their apron and join the war effort.
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When the war ended, and the soldiers returned home reclaiming their place in the workforce many of
these women who had gotten a taste of being wage earners did not want to return to their positions as
homemakers. Some needed to continue to work to support their family. Many women were left
widowed by the war and others needed to support their now disabled spouses.
Although these women performed the same jobs as the male workers the women were paid less. The
mindset at the time was if a woman worked her salary was supplementary. Many employers saw
women in the workforce as problematic. They had a higher turnover rate because of family obligations.
At the time some state laws prohibited women from working at night and some even limited the
number of hours they could work and the amount of weight they could lift. These limitations placed on
women justified why they should be paid less than their male counterparts for the same tasks.
The Equal Pay Act of 1963 mandated equal pay for equal work. It was a law aimed at ending gender-
based disparity. It was signed into law by President John F. Kennedy on June 10, 1963. However, female
salaries still fell behind that of their male counterparts. Many women were equally or in some cases
better qualified for managerial or executive level jobs than their male counterparts, but men were still
being promoted over women.
In 1978, Marilyn Loden, a management consultant, coined the term “glass ceiling” in reference to
limiting the advancement of women and minorities to upper management positions. Now more than 40
years later the term is still used but times are changing. More women and minorities are now being
promoted to these positions.
With the ever-growing presence of the internet, more people are earning their living online than ever
before with the bias toward gender and race less prevalent. According to Lindio.com, 42% of all
businesses are owned by women and women have an extraordinarily strong business presence on the
internet as well. Hopefully soon the term “glass ceiling” will own its place in history but no longer in
To my women and minority readers,” You’ve come a long way baby!”