Women's rights, 1968 to 2013: Have things really changed?

Women's rights, 1968 to 2013: Have things really changed?

In 1968, the women’s liberation movement was in full force.

The first black female was elected to Congress. Protestors gathered outside the annual Miss America Pageant. Activists were advocating for the Equal Rights Amendment.

The Saturday Evening Post entered the fray with a long-form story headlined “Women at Work: Is there room at the top?” The story focused on successful female executives “in a man’s world.”

One is quoted as saying, “I usually eat lunch alone. The men all go together — they’d never dream of asking me. I’m supposed to eat with the typists, I guess.”

How much have things changed? Perhaps not as much as you might think.

The article quotes several women frustrated that they make less money than men for the same job. A copywriter said she makes only $8,000 per year, while her male colleagues earn $11,000. A production “manager” replaced her former boss, a production “director,” but earned $4,000 less per year.

Now skip forward 45 years. Women in Oregon earn only 78 cents per every dollar men earn, and that, believe it or not, exceeds the national average. Only one woman — Schnitzer Steel’s Tamara Lundgren — leads a top 50 Oregon public company. Women are under-represented in Oregon boardrooms.

I think of this because we’re preparing for our annual Women of Influence awards April 18, where we honor 25 outstanding businesswomen for their contributions to both their companies and communities. You can meet them here.

Earlier this month, the awards program created an impassioned debate in the Portland Business Journal newsroom whether it was still necessary — in 2013 — to single out women for recognition.

We’ll have a complete package of stories in Friday's print edition about the challenges and obstacles Portland female executives must confront every day.

In the meantime, what do you think? Does gender bias still exist in the workplace? Weigh in.

Related: Meet the 2013 Women of Influence award finalists