The timing is perfect to recognize women in the workplace, profiling women who are smart, successful and leaders in the community. The loss of Mary Tyler Moore and the many tributes to her career were a distinct reminder of workplace issues for many women of my generation. The Mary Tyler Moore show aired from 1970 to 1977 and the first television show to depict an attractive, single professional woman in a business setting, in both a serious and comedic way. A spoonful of sugar served with very serious social issues.
The MTM show, produced by Mary’s own company, won critical acclaim and was transformational in its depiction of women who were striving for careers versus jobs. The writers wove in discussions of equal pay for equal work, broached birth control and sex before marriage, living alone in a big city and the stereotyping of professional women. Costuming guided young women how to dress in the workplace (MTM was the first woman on TV to wear pants and capris in the Dick Van Dyke Show) and creative dialogue helped women learn to present their opinions in the workplace. The resulting bonds within the workplace created a positive model for a workplace that makes room for all types of personalities.
Fast-forward 20 years to Brenda Barnes, the former CEO of both Pepsi-Cola (and later Sara Lee), who chose to resign her position in 1996 to be a stay-at-home mom to her three young children. She was catapulted into the media limelight, derided by some women for making this retreat – and hailed by other educated women who wanted to make the same choice, guilt-free.
So, in an era of lightning fast technology, with improvements to our healthcare, cars and homes, why are we still talking about equal pay for equal work – some 40 years later? And, after all the hard work by women who came before us, why are we seeing such deep divisions among women? The recent marches illustrate a dichotomy of interpretations about what women want. At a basic level, women want the opportunity to choose across life’s spectrum, from who we marry or not marry (some cultures still decide for daughters), to how many children we have (China’s single birth policy), to where we work (women in forced labor or sex trade), to our choices about where we live, our hobbies, our friends. It’s pretty simple – we want choice, including the opportunity to work hard and rise to whatever heights we strive for.
I feel empowered when I read about women who are both successful in their work and making a difference in their communities. I hope that you are inspired by the stories in this issue, as well. I95