Lynn Povich, author of The Good Girls Revolt, is one of the original “Newsweek 46” who sued the magazine for gender discrimination in 1970 — and won. We spoke to her before hosting a panel discussion on fighting gender discrimination in the workplace.
Your book starts out by describing challenges that the young women at Newsweek are facing now. How are the obstacles for women today different than those you and your colleagues faced forty years ago?
There is still overt discrimination, but much of the bias today is subtler. People don’t say, as they did to us, “If you want to write — go someplace else. Women don’t write at Newsweek.” Women are well educated and get good jobs, but once there, they often aren’t promoted as quickly and they are paid less. If they are ambitious and aggressive advocating for themselves, they are stigmatized as “difficult” or “bitchy.”
What would you like to see happen in the next wave of change for women in the workplace?
The next big change is that the workplace has to be restructured for working parents — men as well as women. This isn’t a women’s problem — it’s a societal problem. And I’m hoping young men, who are far more involved in raising their children than my father’s generation was, will come together with their female colleagues, who still bear most of the responsibility for child rearing, and demand that their workplaces change. We need flexible hours and part-time tracks as well as paid family and medical leave and more support for day care.
What can people look forward to at the event?
I’m speaking with Jesse Ellison, one of the young women writers at Newsweek in 2010 who learned about our 1970 lawsuit and wrote a story for Newsweek on women in the workplace 40 years later. She was raised in the era of Girl Power, where young women were told they could do anything and be anything, and yet they still faced obstacles in getting ahead. Jesse and I will have a discussion about what’s changed — and what hasn’t — for working women as well as about feminism today.