If you sang that to yourself, then you’ve been around awhile, at least 50 years or so. Those words are the chorus of a song from a movie that came out in 1980 about working women and how they were treated in their workplaces. And in many cases, it wasn’t good.
International Working Women’s Day is celebrated on March 8, and its roots go back to the early 20th century. In the beginning it was about gaining rights for women such as the right to vote, and fair treatment in the workplace. While much progress has been made, the work continues.
Those of you that don’t remember the movie Nine to Five may be surprised to learn that it wasn’t so long ago that women and men had very different rules to live by in the job market. I remember when I was 14 and looking for my first job (1975) that the classified ads for jobs were separated by jobs for women and jobs for men. My mother often told the story of how when I was born, she left her job at an insurance office in Sioux Falls to be at home for a while, and they hired a man to replace her. Six months later, they called and asked her to PLEASE come back and fix the mess this person had created. But they still paid her less than they had paid him. This was in 1962.
Another critical difference is that women were not allowed to get credit in their own names until 1974 when the Equal Credit Opportunity Act was passed. This made it so that lenders could not ask about familial status, i.e. married or single, whether or not a woman planned to have children, and couldn’t disallow income from alimony or child support, among other things.. Imagine this scenario: a married woman works and makes as much as (or more) that her husband, but cannot get a credit card in her own name. If or when that woman got divorced or became widowed, how was she to establish credit to buy a home or a car? Single women couldn’t even get a foot in the door.
My parents divorced in 1974. Even though the ECOA had just been passed, many lenders still made it very difficult for women to get the credit they deserved, my mother included. When she tried to get a mortgage to buy a home in her own name, she ran into many barriers that this law was meant to prevent. She eventually got her loan, but I remember well her anger and frustration at how uneven the playing field was in those days.
Having good credit is important for a lot of things, not just borrowing money. Insurance companies, employers, and landlords are just a few examples of when credit can play a big part of being able to access a service or get a good job. Nowadays, it’s hard to imagine a lender asking about whether or not someone is married or telling someone that Social Security income can’t be used for a loan decision. But it was not so long ago that it was that way.
So on March 8th, celebrate the working women in your life, whether it’s you, your mom, your spouse or partner, your girlfriend or your friend. You’ve come a long way.
Are you looking help on building or rebuilding your credit? The counselors at the Center for Financial Resources can help. Contact us at 1-888-258-2227 or visit www.lsssd.org to make an appointment.
Written by Sylvia Selgestad, Financial Counselor and Educator
Photo credit: http://www.filmaffinity.com
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