Tuesday Tidbits: Female Firsts - Women in the Workforce: Part 5

In this week's Tuesday Tidbits,  we continue to highlight Female Firsts: A Brief History of  Women in the Workforce. This is Part 5: the 1980s -- Breaking Barriers and the 1990s -- "The Year of the Woman."

1980s -- Breaking Barriers

Female First: Sandra Day O’Connor becomes  the first woman justice of the Supreme Court in 1981.

Would You Believe: The 1980 Enjoli perfume ad holds up an impossible ideal for women to achieve: “Bring home the bacon, fry it up in the pain and never, ever let you forget you’re a man”.

The Eighties saw the rise of the female professional. It was the era of women climbing the corporate ladder, as epitomized by the 1988 movie Working Girl. Indeed, women’s participation in management jobs increased from 20% in 1972 to 36% in 1985 and in the banking and financial industry from 9% in 1960 to 39% in 1983. By 1985, equal numbers of women and men graduated from college, with women accounting for a third of all degrees decreed in law, business, accounting and computer science. In some industries, women overtake men for the first time, including, bill collectors, real estate agents and insurance adjusters. Still, although the gender gap continued to narrow, women made $0.66 to their male counterparts in 1988.

1990s -- “The Year of the Woman”

Female First: The percentage of women in Congress following the 1992 election doubles; 1992 is dubbed “The Year of the Woman”.

Would You Believe: Women cannot wear trousers on the U.S. Senate floor until 1993.

The decade saw many gains for women. The number of women in college surpassed men in 1993. In the same year, The Family Medical Leave Act, or FMLA was passed, providing employees with the ability to take an unpaid leave to meet family medical needs. However, occupational gender segregation became a much-debated issue. A move towards a more integrated workforce happened in the Seventies and Eighties, but stalled in the Nineties. Part of the issue was that women were more likely to choose majors that provided less opportunity for financial advancement, such as education and social work, as opposed to men who picked high-paying ones like engineering. Studies have shown, though, that career choice is a circular problem with sexist attitudes of family and society leading to lower career aspirations of women.

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