We have written, on this blog, about the persistent gap in pay between men and women in America today. We have written about the injustice of men being paid more for doing the same work, about implicit gender-based bias, about unjustifiable double standards—it is by no means easy (or fair) to have to navigate the American workplace as a woman. And we’re working hard to level the playing field.
But, as we begin women’s history month, I’d like to take a moment to acknowledge that women in America have the right to work in the occupation of their choosing. More than this, it is illegal to discriminate against an employee or applicant based on sex. This has not long been the case in this country.
If you don’t know the story of the irrefutably charming Lorena Weeks, I encourage you to watch this short video:
Today, around the world, countries still codify discrimination on the basis of sex: in Russia, the law prohibits women from operating trains, bulldozers, ships and trucks; working in sewage systems; producing leather; firefighting; repairing aircraft and a myriad of other jobs. In Madagascar, it’s illegal for women to work at night. And in Guinea, a married woman can only work if she has permission from her husband.
We know all too well that both at home and abroad, truly equal footing for women in the workplace remains illusive. But we should recognize the power of Title VII, and the contribution of women like Lorena Weeks, who relied on the law in insisting on providing their families the best life they could. In doing so, they opened the American workplace for women.