Dr. Martin Luther King changed my life in profound ways. He galvanized people of all races and sexes to take action to make equality a reality. For this, I am genuinely grateful.
As a woman, I was born into a society that denied me fundamental rights that we take for granted today. Consider this:
- 1954 Women gain the right to serve on Texas juries.
- 1963 Women enroll at Texas A&M University for the first time.
- 1963 Congress passes the Equal Pay Act, prohibiting sex-based pay discrimination.
- 1964 Congress passes the U.S. Civil Rights Act, outlawing discrimination in public accommodations and employment.
- 1973 Congress passes the Women’s Educational Equity Act to foster the development of nonsexist teaching materials.
- 1973 Texas allows women to obtain credit in their own names.
- 1978 Congress passes the Pregnancy Discrimination Act
- 1986 The U.S. Supreme Court rules unanimously that sexual harassment constitutes illegal job discrimination and upholds affirmative action based on race and gender.
And, my ability to make a living wage blossomed. In 1950, 26.8% of all women in Texas were paid workers. By 1984, the number had grown to 56%. However, women mostly held positions such as secretary, sales clerk, bookkeeper, waitress, cashier, domestic, teacher, nurse, typists, and nursing aide. They earned 64% of a man’s median income. By 2017, the wage gap had decreased to 81.3%
Today, in the United States, women hold more jobs than men, occupying 50.04% of positions. Additionally, they receive more degrees than men. Women earned 57.3% of bachelor’s degrees, 59.4% of master’s degrees, and 53.3% of doctorate degrees in the class of 2016-2017.
We’ve come a long way in my lifetime, but we still have miles to go. It is incumbent on all of us to do what we can to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to fulfill their potential.
In closing, I offer this quote from Dr. King:
“People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they have not communicated with each other.”
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