Calling their bluffs
THE GOOD GIRLS REVOLT
Author: Lynn Povich
It generally starts Friday, sometimes earlier. There's the inherent horseplay, the name-calling, taunts—with and without slurs—bluffing, and boasting. You're pretty sure that if you put towels out, they'd be snapped.
And it's all in fun, except for one thing: Your workplace isn't a boys locker room.
Neither were the Newsweek offices in 1970, and in The Good Girls Revolt by Lynn Povich, you'll see what was done to raise awareness there.
Newsweek intern Jessica Bennett didn't understand.
She “grew up in the era of Girl Power” and had always been a high achiever. Her list of accomplishments was long, so when she landed the internship, she didn't understand why she couldn't get ahead.
Male interns were given plum assignments and were quickly offered jobs, but Bennett waited a year for an offer. A dedicated employee, she was a frequent contributor to the magazine but was repeatedly denied opportunities that male co-workers received.
Jessica thought she was alone, until she learned that two women colleagues were experiencing similar frustrations. The three women were astounded when a researcher at Newsweek told them about previous horror stories.
In the 1960s “help wanted” ads were classified by gender. Discrimination in employment, pay, and benefits was common, even accepted. At Newsweek, which strived to hire the best college-educated “girls” for its research department, things were no different.
But in the mid-to-late 1960s, those “girls” began to notice that the men around them got promoted, assigned, and lauded. Male writers were given bylines for columns written by female researchers. The men made more money doing equal or lesser jobs. It was wrong.
In early 1970, the women united, contacted a lawyer, and negotiated with supervisors. When that didn't fix the problem, they sued successfully, which opened the eyes of other women at other media corporations, and the barricades were open.
I liked The Good Girls Revolt. And I didn't.
On one hand, Povich gives readers a good sense of the times in which this history-making case happened. Her account is a peek at the beginnings of workplace feminism and the call for equal pay for equal work, laying blame, naming names, and offering a happy “ending” for a struggle which still continues.
On the other hand, this book has too much detail. Povich digs deep, but some of what she relates in this thin book might only be of interest to those who were there.
Still, The Good Girls Revolt is something you'll want as a reminder of how far we've come and how far we need to go, whether you're a supervisor, CEO, owner, or you're in the trenches.
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