She Works Hard for the Money

by Keasi Smith

During the 1970s and 1980s, the number of women in the United States labor force soared. Since this immersion into the workforce, women have tackled a number of issues, including equal pay, workplace harassment and working around family-career interruptions. Cinema in the 1980s reflected these struggles with films such as 9 to 5 (1980), Baby Boom (1987) and Working Girl (1988). Even now these movies feel fresh, because even though workplace culture and policies have improved tremendously since their debut, there is still progress to be made.

9 to 5: Toxic Workplace Environments

A comedy starring Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Dolly Parton, 9 to 5 illustrates an adverse work environment where they are subjected to sexist remarks and sexual harassment as well as denied promotions based on their gender. After kidnapping their boss, the women seize control of the company and implement equal pay, flexible hours, a job-sharing program and a daycare center. Almost four decades later, full-time female workers make only 79 cents for every dollar earned by a man. And while many companies have implemented sexual harassment policies it has been harder to stomp out more subtle, everyday slights and gender expectations. Besides campaigning for women in the workplace through legislation and the implementation of better workplace policies, you can shut down sexism in the workplace by speaking up when you feel you aren’t being heard or taken seriously or are undermined. More important, encourage your male and female coworkers to take on a zero tolerance policy.

Baby Boom: Can We Have It All?

After becoming a single parent through inheriting a child, J.C. Wiatt, played by Diane Keaton, struggles to keep up with her demanding career working at an advertising firm. Today, women still bear a disproportionate amount of responsibility for childcare and housework, which can often lead to missed career opportunities. A 2013 Pew Research Center survey found that mothers with children under 18 were three times more likely than fathers to say that being a working parent made it harder for them to advance in their careers, either by turning down a promotion, reducing work hours or quitting. Some may just attribute this to the way the world is and insist that making sacrifices is the norm, but I’ll argue that providing flexible hours, the ability to work from home and childcare would allow a woman to not only do her job, but do it better. These types of initiatives can impact our communities in an amazing way and increase a company’s productivity and, thus, its profits.

Working Girl: Climbing the Ladder

As Tess McGill, played by Melanie Griffith, learned in the movie Working Girl, climbing the corporate ladder isn’t easy when there are systematic barriers in your way. Although not legal, hiring and promotion processes may favor men, and lack of support and role models often deter women from seeking these positions in the first place. Polls show that Americans find women leaders indistinguishable from men in traits such as intelligence and capacity for innovation and that they excel in areas such as compassion and organization. Still, according to Fortune.com, in 2016 women occupied only 21 percent of Fortune 500 board seats and held 4.2 percent of CEO positions. In fact, there are 24 Fortune 500 companies that have zero female directors altogether. While Tess chooses to impersonate a senior executive to get ahead, there are other ways to shatter glass ceilings. Find a mentor, whether it’s someone you know or a prominent woman you’d like to emulate. Also, network, especially with other women. And lastly, don’t forget to ask for what you want. If you can’t get the promotion you’re seeking, don’t be afraid to accept a position elsewhere where there’s more room for advancement.