Women's History Month: Women in the Workplace

1903 - The National Women's Union League (WTUL) is established to advocate for improved wages and working conditions for women.

1920 - The Women's Bureau of Department and Labor is formed to collect information about women in the workforce and safeguard good work conditions for women.

1961 - President John Kennedy establishes the President's Commission of the Status of Women and appointed Eleanor Roosevelt as chairwoman. The report issued by the Commission in the 1963 documents substantial discrimination against women in the workplace and makes specific recommendations for improvement, including fair hiring practices, paid maternity leave, and affordable child care.

1963 - Betty Friedan publishes her highly influential book The Feminine Mystique, which describes the dissatisfaction felt by middle class American housewives with the narrow role imposed on them by society. The book becomes a best seller and galvanizes the modern women's right movement.

June 10 - Congress passes the Equal Pay Act, making it illegal for employers to pay a woman less than what a man would receive for the same job.

1964 - Title VII of the Civil Rights Act bars discrimination in employment on the basis of race and sex. At the same time it establishes the Equal Employment Commission (EEOC) to investigate complaints and impose penalties.

1966 - The National Organization for Women (NOW) is founded by a group of feminists including Betty Friedan. The largest women's right group in the U.S., NOW seeks to end sexual discrimination, especially in the workplace, by means of legislative lobbying, litigation, and public demonstrations.

1967 - Executive Order 11375 expands President Lyndon Johnson's affirmative action policy of 1965 to cover discrimination based on gender. As a result, federal agencies and contractors must take active measures to ensure women as well as minorities enjoy the same education and employment opportunities as white males.

1968 - The EEOC rules that sex segregated help wants ads in newspapers are illegal. This ruling is upheld in 1973 by the Supreme Court, opening the way for women to apply to higher paying jobs that had only been available to men.

1970 - In Schultz v. Wheaton Class Co., a U.S. Court of Appeals rules that jobs held by men and women need to be "substantially equal," but not "identical" to fall under the protection of the Equal Pay Act. An employer cannot, for example, change the job titles of women workers in order to pay them less than men.

1974 - In Corning Glass Works v. Bennan, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that employers cannot justify paying women lower wages because that is what they traditionally received under the "going market rate." A wage differential occurring "simply because men would not work at low rates paid women" is unacceptable.

1978 - The Pregnancy Discrimination Act bans employment discrimination against pregnant women. Under the Act, a woman cannot be fired or denied a job or a promotion because she is or may become pregnant, nor can she be forced to take a pregnancy leave if she is willing and able to work.

1986 - Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson: The Supreme Court finds that sexual harassment is a form of illegal job discrimination.

1999 - The Supreme Court rules in Kolstad v. American Dental Association that a woman can sue for punitive damages for sex discrimination if the anti-discrimination law was violated with malice or indifference to the law, even if that conduct was not especially severe.

2003 - In Nevada Department of Human Resources v. Hibbs, the Supreme Court rules that states can be sued in federal court for violations of the Family Leave Medical Act.

2005 - In Jackson v. Birmingham Board of Education, the Supreme Court rules that Title IX, which prohibits discrimination based on sex. also inherently prohibits disciplining someone for complaining about sex based discrimination. It further holds that is the case even when the person complaining is not among those being discriminate against.

2009 - President Barack Obama signed the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act, which allows victim of discrimination to file a complaint with the government again their employers within 180 days of their last paycheck. Previously, victims (most often women) were only allowed 180 days from the date of the first unfair paycheck. This Act is named after a former employee of Goodyear who alleged that she was paid 15 to 40% less than her male counterparts, which was later found to be accurate.


  1. Great outline! Have you watched/ do you like madmen? I tried watching it because everyone was raving about it, but I just couldn't take it! haha!


  2. Yet another great post on women history. Love it!