Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Feminist Ginsburg

This week, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg did something very unusual. When the court decided that there should be a limit on the amount of time a woman could wait to sue a company for pay discrimination, she read her dissent aloud and urged Congress to strengthen laws protecting women in the workplace. Good on her!

I can see where she might have just had enough from the eight old men who serve with her. I'm afraid I couldn't have kept quiet, either.

Corporate America is very good at keeping wages secret from their employees. The company I worked for paid their employees the way airlines charge for seats. A different rate for each person. And, it wasn't necessarily based on the length of time the employee had worked there or a reward for exceptional work. Those cute little Performance Reviews for people in the office were actually more revealing than they realized, because they had 5 categories and the supervisor checked the category he though the employ fell into.

Number 5 meant, "get rid of this employee, NOW". Number 4 was "he/she's lazy, but also never complains about his pay, so we'll keep him/her in reserve so we'll have someone to lay off at the next belt tightening." Number 3 was "ho-hum" and most employees fell into this category, especially the women in the office. Number 2 was good, not great, and was pretty much reserved for the men. Number 5 meant, "strike up the band, this guy (and I do mean guy) walks on water." Nobody ever achieved a number 5, because if anyone in the rank and file was that good, he'd be a threat to the managers.

As secretary to the manager at our factory, I was in a position to know more about salaries than most of the others in the office. I got to see all of the Performance Reviews, and noticed the inequities where the women were concerned, and the outright gifts to the men. So, I got to wondering about my own position in the scheme of things. And, you really don't want to get me wondering.

I had gotten pretty chummy with my counterpart in another town, and we were bemoaning our pitiful raises one day, when she mentioned that she knew her raise was smaller than the Executive Assistant with the same job description as hers in another town. Executive Assistant, you say? When did your title change? Well, she said, she knew J in St. Louis had received an upgrade, so she marched into her boss's office and demanded the same treatment - a couple of years earlier.

Now, I'm pretty mild mannered, until you get me riled, and this got me riled. So, I went to see the H.R. Manager and told him that I thought I had been overlooked when my position was upgraded in all the other facilities. He said he didn't know anything about it. So, I said, "Well, I suggest you find out, because I have been in this job a good five years longer than any of the others, and you can believe me when I say that if I find out that they are young and blond, there's going to be hell to pay." I got an upgrade and a nice raise in my next pay check. Men just can't hear the female voice unless she is shouting at them.

My point in this diatribe is this: It could take years for a woman to realize she has been shafted by a company that she has heretofore trusted to do right by her. Imposing a limited number of years for her to discover the inequity puts her at a very unfair advantage.

So, when I heard about Justice Ginsburg, I said a silent, "You go, girl!" and did a little dance. She may have to do a lot more of that in the future. I hope she's up to it.


CarmenSinCity said...

That's a reall nice thing to hear :) Good for Justice Ginsburg.

Claude said...

I see that things are not much different in France than they seem to be in the States.
I enjoyed the story of how YOU got your raise.

patsy said...

good for RUTH. thank for informantion on Lucille. if you come over to my blog you can see the house she grew up in at denver Ar.

Lorna said...

Loved this post, Betty. The sad part of it is that when a women does raise her voice, she gets labeled a bitch. Seems we lose either way to some degree. hugssssssssssssss

gawilli said...

I agree. Good on her. Women in lofty places need to recognize the inequality and move forward.

Peggy said...

Yippee for Justice Ginsburg!

Cazzie!!! said...

Here here, sisters doing it for themselves..that's what I'm talkin' 'bout!!!

Gardener Greg said...

Do I have to be female to comment here? This is my first visit. I agree with her that there shouldn't be a time limit. The upper management is sly when it comes to covering up the inequalities. We have these cute little pay brackets here but the area managers have the ability to go up to 120% of that bracket. I know some of my counter parts out there are making lots more than me just because they are good old boys.

I tried to get a girl that used to work here to file a suit for descrimination but she was afraid to and wouldn't do it. I know she was let go without just cause.


Betty said...

Claude: We always see the differences between countries, but are surprised when there are similarities. Wonder why.

Patsy: You're welcome.

lorna: How true. Sometimes it seems that people are afraid of what you might say. I think most people just shy away from expressing opinions.

Betty said...

carmen: Women need to get together, like we did in the 60's and 70's and ROAR.

gawilli: See above reply. :-)

peggy and cazzie: You can say that again!

gardener greg: Welcome. Glad to see you. This is definitely not a blog just for women. I hope it's only a coincidence that none of "my guys" have commented. We had salary brackets, too, and once you were in one, your pay went up in such small increments, you never got out unless you could get an "upgrade". Very difficult.

CarmenSinCity said...

Betty, I had Jay and Rockdog in mind when I was up late last night posting that article. At the last minute I added number 6 and threw in the pictures of the girls to make my male readers happy :)

Tink said...

All I can say is...

I KNOW why Joan of Arc did it.

Betty said...

carmen: I know. I think it was very considerate of you to think of the weaker sex, that way.

tink: Yep.

Annie said...

The current and next generation are less likely to accept the status quo, I think. I hope.

Newt said...

Oh Betty, don't even get me started. At my company women are referred to as "they" as in "they want to work here"

It's freightening what a boys club this world still is

Oh, and I agree with Tink.