*Secondary Locations in Davenport, IA; Columbus, OH; Washington, DC; Tampa, FL; Minneapolis, MN; Raleigh, NC.
For over a century, the role of women in society has evolved tremendously, especially in the workforce. Women have made major contributions to our society and are continuing to break boundaries every day. There are many inspiring figures who have and continue to fight for female representation in our communities and the workplace.
March is Women’s History Month in the United States, a time set aside to commemorate women’s contributions throughout history. It was first observed in 1987 as a week-long celebration with International Women’s Day on March 8 to reflect on some of the achievements in American history, including those of Abigail Adams, Susan B. Anthony, Sojourner Truth, Rosa Parks, and other figures who helped us get to where we are now.
It took a lot of persistence, determination, and work to get to where we are today, however, there is still a lot more work that needs to be done. Women in the workplace continue to fight for equal pay and representation in almost every industry.
While these issues are important and should be addressed, it is also important to reflect on how far we’ve come, the accomplishments and achievements of women over the past century, and how their stories continue to inspire future generations to follow their own dreams to success.
As we begin this month, let’s take a look back at how we got here, where we are in terms of women in the workplace, and where we’re heading.
A Brief History in America
Women in the workplace dates back to colonial America when the Daughters of Liberty was established in 1765. The 13 colonies adopted the same English laws of Great Britain, which prevented working women from keeping the income they earned as well as barring them from owning property. Any wages women made were given to their husbands.
The first promotions of gender equality came from Abigail Adams, wife of President John Adams, in 1776. Adams emphasized the issue of gender equality and the importance of educating women.
The first industry made up of predominately women was the manufacturing industry. Jumping ahead to the early 20th century, women began to gain some control over their income. New York was the first state to pass the Married Women’s Property Act in 1848, giving married women more control over their income and property decisions. By 1905, America had its first female millionaire, Madam CJ Walker, the founder of her own hair care product company.
In 1917, The United States elected Jeannette Rankin as the first woman to Congress, three years before women received the right to vote. As women began taking on jobs once held by men so they could serve in World War I, the right to vote was the next big fight they would face. In 1920, the 19th Amendment was signed granting American women suffrage and expanding the Department of Labor to add a Women’s Bureau, which was responsible for standards and policies focused on the welfare, creation of opportunities, and improving working conditions for women workers, especially after the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire of 1911, which killed 123 women workers.
Once women suffrage was acquired, their attention turned to civil rights in which The National Council of Negro Women was established in 1935. The council aimed to end job discrimination, sexism, and racist policies – issues that are still faced today.
During World War II, some iconic propaganda images like Rosie the Riveter were created to inspire women to take on traditionally masculine jobs in order to help the war effort. By 1945, Congress introduced the Women’s Equal Pay Act, which unfortunately did not pass.
Fast forward to 1972, America got its first female CEO of a Fortune 500 company, Katharine Graham, publisher of the Washington Post, who took on the role after the passing of her husband Phil. Under her leadership, the newspaper broke one of the most controversial stories of modern American history – the Watergate Scandal.
Coming full swing into the 21st century, women have come a long way since the birth of the United States. We have seen female business owners, activists like Susan B. Anthony and Rosa Parks, CEOs Ginni Rometty of IBM and Michelle Gass of Kohls, astronauts like Sally Reid, Supreme Court Justices like Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, to those of today including the first female line referees for the NFL like Sarah Thomas and the first American female Vice President, Kamala Harris.
ICONMA’s Feminist Founding
One of the best success stories comes from our own CEO, Claudine George. George received her bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Michigan and started off as an IT consultant to the automotive industry. While she was working as a contractor, she founded her first company, Computer Systems Group in 1999.
Using her previous experience matching engineering and IT consultants with clients on the west coast, George started ICONMA in 2000 based in Troy, Michigan. As time progressed, George expanded ICONMA to more service areas, including an IT Solutions Division and Healthcare Services, which has been modified and advanced with an incredible team to fill the gaps where improvement was needed.
George oversees the company’s business and activities and plays a big role in promoting ICONMA’s diversity initiatives. She also serves on the board for the Great Lakes Women’s Business Council and continues to encourage strong, professional relationships with local and minority owned businesses.
Under George’s leadership, ICONMA’s current client list includes a range of Fortune 500/1000 companies, the company was named to the Inc. 500 for six years in a row and has been recognized as one of the 50 fastest-growing, women-owned/led companies in North America. George was also named as a Emst & Young LLP Entrepreneur of the Year in the staffing and support services category.
Women in Today’s Workplace
After many years of pushing for recognition and representation in the workplace, women are finding ways to become successful in their careers. Many of whom are becoming Fortune 500 CEOs themselves.
With all the success, it is also important to recognize what goes on outside the office as well. Out of the 23.5 million women workers in the United States, about two-thirds are working mothers who continue to impress coworkers with their commitment to their job and their family. Along with this, gender role reversals are becoming more normal in the workplace where women are the breadwinners of the house and their husbands take more responsibilities at home. Especially during the times of COVID-19 when many women nurses and essential workers took on more work responsibilities to help with the pandemic, while many fathers who were sent home or let go from the office took care of the kids.
Today women make up larger percentages of the workplace than they did 30 years ago. They make up*:
19% of C-Level Executives
24% of Senior Vice Presidents
27% of Vice Presidents
35% of Directors
40% of Managers
53% of Entry-Level Positions
*Information courtesy of Human Resources MBA.
Women are continuing to blur gender roles in the business world despite the challenges.
This month, we applaud and celebrate women’s achievement in the workplace. While we have come so far, there is still a lot of improvement that needs to be made for women to feel respected alongside their male counterparts.
Women’s history month is a great time to look back and show gratitude for the female figures and leaders who have contributed to our own progress and success.
So many women have come before and paved the way for future generations to become successful. There are so many inspiring success stories to learn about and become inspired from. They are the stories that we continue to tell and hope leave a lasting impact on others. They all share the same message: no matter your gender, race, religion, or cultural background, with a little determination and courage, you can accomplish anything.
February 25, 2021