Jane Fonda brought attention to 9-to-5 when she drafted the script for the iconic film in 1978, but it’s so much more than just an entertaining movie: It’s based on true stories from female workers shared through the 9-to-5 Movement that started in 1972. Karen Nussbaum and Ellen Cassidy co-founded the “9 to 5 movement” by organizing the “Harvard Office Workers Group.” Both women, who met in college in 1968, worked at Harvard in clerical positions. The “Group” realized there were inequities that needed to be addressed and started the “Newsletter for Boston Area Office Workers” to draw attention to this. The logo was “9 to 5” and the movement was born.
In the fall of 1974, the 9-to-5 Movement organized the Forum for Office Workers in downtown Boston. 150 women attended, beginning a nationwide effort that impacted the lives of every working woman today.
Women have come a long way since the 70s, and there is more to be done. LeanIn.org and McKinsey & Company launched a study in 2015 that concluded in 2021 titled “Women in the Workplace 2021.” The findings focus “on the impact of COVID-19 and the growing emphasis on DEI on the experiences of women and the state of the work more broadly.” This is a multi-industry, multi-organizational study with over 65,000 participants. The results indicate much progress and much opportunity. Here are a few key findings of particular interest:
Women are rising to leadership but take on more work compared to male peers.
Pre-pandemic 1 in 4 women said they were thinking of leaving the workforce. In 2021, it was 1 in 3. As women rise to be leaders, they find themselves to be “only’s.” The only woman in the room or the only working mother at the table. In this case, there is often an unintentional bias against their emotional state or judgment. Women are more likely to be interrupted, hear comments regarding their emotional state, or have their judgment questioned than their male peers, and they must put forth additional effort to overcome this perception.
There is a “broken rung” in the ladder.
The report describes a “broken rung” in the ladder to the top and at the manager level. Men are more likely to be promoted to a manager role than women. This pattern has been consistent since 2016, despite women holding more college degrees and despite their high participation in the workforce prior to the pandemic.
There is a Disconnect Between DEI Priority and Performance Reviews
As many organizations focus on DEI efforts, the lack of promotion of women will continue to be a challenge without a focus on reducing bias in performance reviews. While two-thirds of organizations hold senior leadership accountable for progress on DEI goals, less than half of those hold managers accountable as a part of their performance reviews. This creates an environment where there may be a gap between what is said to be important and associated actions.
At Humanidei + O’Rourke, we are dedicated to DEI and the development of future executives. Personally, I am a woman who was given the opportunity to climb beyond the “broken rung” earlier in my career. I had the experience of being an “only” many times, and I built a network of women who also shared these experiences as part of a generation of female leaders that continue to move forward and work to bring others along.
Yes, we have come a long way since the women of the 9-to-5 movement discussed being referred to as “girls” until the day they retired (without the pension their male colleagues received). The women of the 9-to-5 movement deserve a lot of respect and a lot of credit: They paved the way for women like me to help continue advancing equity in the workplace. Today, through executive search, mentoring, and executive coaching, I am dedicated to helping others find their path to the C-Suite in an industry that has always “provided the pension.”