Milestones - 1970s


March 25, 1979: Anne Ladky, then the Associate Director (but now the Executive Director), is quoted in Chicago Tribune piece on the debate over appropriate work wear for women. “You’d think the only thing holding women back was that they didn’t know how to dress.” Meanwhile, WE kept working on more important issues:  pay discrimination, sexual harassment, affirmative action, respect for female office workers, and more. 





In 1978, Sexual harassment was common in workplaces all across the country. To put an end to it, Women Employed helped draft new federal rules defining sexual harassment as illegal sex discrimination.




In 1977, Iris Rivera, a secretary at a law office, was fired for refusing to make coffee. Women Employed responded by bringing 50 women to her office to stage a coffee-making lesson for the lawyers, complete with instructions (“Step 5: Turn on the switch.”). The demonstration made the front page of the paper—and won reinstatement for Rivera.



In 1976, WE held a tongue-in-cheek competition for the Pettiest Office Procedure of the Year, asking working women to send in stories of the arbitrary rules in their offices, such as being required to sign in and out to go to the bathroom, make coffee for the boss, dust plants, or even balance the boss' personal checkbook. Once WE began publicizing these practices, they quickly began to disappear.


In 1975, secretaries were not treated with a lot of respect in the office. They were expected to do menial tasks, rarely recognized for their contributions, and promotions and pay raises were all-too-often closed to them. In 1975, Women Employed drafted a Secretaries’ Bill of Rights, demanding respect, fair salaries, and opportunities for advancement. We also organized a Secretaries’ Day rally, demanding rights AND roses.


In 1974, WE's Nancy Kreiter gave our first Congressional testimony before the Senate Banking Committee, charging the U.S. Treasury Department with refusing to enforce affirmative action regulations at Chicago banks. Our constant diligence led to increased enforcement of affirmative action, dramatically changing women’s opportunities.



In 1973, a meeting of women workers in Chicago ended up turning into historic advances for working women. Who could have imagined this meeting would lead to a crackdown on sexual harassment, family medical leave, increased financial aid for student moms, equal pay legislation, and much, much more?!      




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