When it comes to equal wages and equal respect for equal work, just about every professional woman has a story to tell. A recent series on Amazon Prime, “Good Girls Revolt,” recaps such misadventures.
Mine involves a green bikini and a press conference for a major auto maker in Omaha. I’d flown into Omaha with my camera, notebook, Olivetti portable typewriter and best reporter’s demeanor, for the 1979 introduction of a new pickup truck in a hotel conference room populated by reporters and car dealers. The host and marketing manager handed me a sliver of green cloth and asked me to try it on.
“We’ve got lots of reporters and truck experts. The model called-in sick. You’ve got a better body than her. Wear it.”
“I’m not sure where I found the guts to stand my ground in a room full of leering men who would sooner see me naked than doing my actual job.”
“Who will write the story I came here to write?” I asked.
“We’ll handle that. Your job today is to look foxy.”
“I can’t do this,” I protested. “I’m… I’m… I’m too scared. I’m… I’m… I’m a professional for a national magazine.”
“We’ll write you up for insubordination,” the manager said.
“Go ahead. I’ll write up a truck story, like I came to do.”
I’m not sure where I found the guts to stand my ground in a room full of leering men who would sooner see me naked than doing my actual job. But I did it, and the boss back in Detroit backed me up. The brave women in the 1960s and 1970s took such matters to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
This month the Association of Women in Communications (AWC) reminds us how much work it took to get where we are today with a lecture and viewing of “Good Girls Revolt.” No green bikinis provided.
“As professional communicators it is important to honor and remember the struggles of the past.” -Deniella Ortiz-Lalain, President of the Association for Women in Communications-Detroit Chapter
AWC celebrates two long-time members and dedicated feminists: Diana Jacokes ran a multi-million-dollar recruiting and communications company in Farmington Hills where she insisted women earn as much as their male counterparts. She not only championed numerous women’s organizations and mentored many individuals, she helped her brother John George and sister-in-law Alicia George launch Artist Village and Motor City Java House as a drop-in centers for the neighborhood and the greater Old Redford community. Artist Village is hosting the salute to Jacokes and another strident communicator, Mary Lou Butcher.
A Michigan Hall of Fame inductee, Butcher led a class action suit of 90 women journalists at the Detroit News because she was denied a slot on the city desk in the early 1970s. Her team won $300,000 and the court case led to women across the country getting some of the better-paying, more exciting jobs that had been bastions of the male-dominated establishment. She’ll lead a discussion of the differences in fiction and reality of achieving equal rights.
“Good Girls Revolt,” a historical drama of the late-60s, is written by Lynn Povich and based on real events at Newsweek. There women occupied research positions and men were paid twice as much to be reporters. The women risked their jobs, marriages and reputations to file an EEOC lawsuit. Eventually they won. The show chronicling their efforts was produced in 2015.
“As professional communicators it is important to honor and remember the struggles of the past,” says Deniella Ortiz-Lalain, president of the Association for Women in Communications-Detroit Chapter. “We can never take for granted the opportunities that were hard-won by determined professional women in our industry. This evening is dedicated as a tribute to the many women who blazed the trail.”
The public is encouraged to attend. The cost for members is $25, future members $35 and students $15. The schedule is as follows:
5:30-6:00 Registration and networking
6:00-6:30 Registration, networking, dinner
6:30-7:30 View pilot of Good Girls Revolt
7:30-8:30 Q&A and discussion with Mary Lou Butcher Casey
Editor’s Note: The Association for Women in Communications Detroit Chapter will host a special viewing of the TV pilot “Good Girls Revolt” followed by open dialogue with guest commentator Mary Lou Butcher, a retired reporter who won a similar fight for pay and parity in the 1970s. The association meets Thursday, Aug. 17 from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 pm at the Motor City Java & Tea House, 17336 Lahser Road in Detroit.
Most every woman in the workplace has one of “these” stories to tell. Share yours with TheHUB.