Magazine article Workforce Management


Magazine article Workforce Management


Article excerpt

To celebrate Workforce Management's 90th anniversary, we're running a series of articles looking at important workforce-related issues with a then-and-now theme. This installment examines women in the workforce in the 1970s and today. In August, we will look at the 1980s and wellness programs. To read the full version of this story, go to

A NEW SOCIAL MOVEMENT took center stage in the 1970s. It followed the lead of the civil rights movement, as well as the mounting protests against the Vietnam War. In this volatile era, the women of the nation were determined that their voices be heard above the din of discontent.

"A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle" was a popular slogan frequently used by activist Gloria Steinem. The phrase suggests an independence and stature for women that still, four decades later, is not fully realized.

"We take five steps forward and 10 steps back, but we try to keep moving forward and not get too discouraged," says Nancy Kaufman, CEO of the National Council of Jewish Women, which supports social and economic justice for all women. "We really try to be advocates, and that's what the women's movement has been all about."

Outspoken leaders of the women's liberation movement, such as Steinem and Betty Friedan, aimed to raise women up from home and work situations that they considered subjugation. And both forward-thinking college students and working women organized marches and protests for equal rights in the workforce. One of the more noteworthy rallies was the Women's Strike for Equality where an estimated 150,000 women marched across the country in August 1970 to mark the 50th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which gave U.S. women the right to vote.

"You've come a long way, baby," was another popular saying of that era, which originated on cigarette advertisements meant to acknowledge the giant strides of the women's movement.

But judging from a January 1975 article in Personnel Journal, the forebear of Workforce Management, some of the concepts embraced by the women's movement, including equality in the workplace and the C-suite, were not going over well in tradition-bound workplaces.

In "What Does It Take for a Woman to Make It in Management?" by Marion M. Woods, an assistant professor at the University of Southern California, a list of attributes was offered as requisites for women's success: 1) competence; 2) education; 3) realism; 4) aggressiveness; 5) self-confidence; 6) career-mindedness; 7) femininity; 8) strategy; 9) support of an influential male; and 10) uniqueness.


The women's movement of the '70s was in part a reaction against the type of happy homemaker that was often portrayed in television sitcoms of previous decades. Like it or not, girls growing up in the '50s were exposed to role models such as the housewives in Leave It to Beaver, The Donna Reed Show and Father Knows Best, women whose career goals were getting the kids off to school and serving dinner on time. A working woman as role model didn't come along until the late 1960s and early 1970s when shows such as Julia, starring Diahann Carroll, and The Mary Tyler Moore Show in which Moore portrayed Mary Richards, a career-oriented single woman who is a news producer for a TV station in Minneapolis.

Today, women comprise nearly half of the U. …

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