The Gender Bias Lawsuit that Changed Journalism

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The story of the women's movement, and of women entering the workforce in positions of power, often begins with the publication of Betty Friedan's book "The Feminine Mystique" in 1963. But history provides a much more complicated picture of the modern American workforce. 

While World War II provided a range of employment opportunities for women, once the soldiers returned, a majority of American women retreated into the home. Some retained their jobs, as Gail Collins writes in her book on the women's movement, "When Everything Changed." In 1960, more than 30 percent of American wives worked outside the home. The jobs available to women offered little opportunity for advancement. Moreover, as Collins explains, "Working women tended not to be well-represented among upper-income families."

The children of World War II veterans and their wives — the Baby Boom generation — grew up in a very different country compared to their parents, particularly as they entered higher education. By the late 1960s, a new generation of college-educated women entered the workforce. Taking their cues from the Civil Rights Movement, working women started to realize that they deserved the same rights afforded to their male counterparts.

Women across the country began to speak out against gender discrimination, and the media took note. On March 16, 1970, Newsweek magazine published a feature on the women’s movement. The cover that week read "Women in Revolt," with a picture of a women in red silhouette, pumping her first in the air. 

That same day, 46 of Newsweek’s female employees publicly accused the magazine of gender discrimination in hiring and promotion. It was the first class female class action lawsuit, and Lynn Povich was proud to be a part of it. 

Lynn details the Newsweek suit, and how it changed journalism, in her new book, "The Good Girls Revolt: How the Women of Newsweek Sued Their Bosses and Changed the Workplace." Takeaway contributor Farai Chideya began her journalism career at Newsweek, in 1990.