Janet Walkow Christine Jacobs

The More Things Change, The More They Stay the Same

This expression was at the front of my mind this week when I ran into a woman I worked with at my first company after graduate school, over thirty years ago.  We have run into each other every once in a while and have followed each others careers and families from afar.

When she asked what I was up to, I talked about The Leading Women Project and my sense that after a career of managing production facilities in a variety of largely male dominated industries, it is time for me to help women move along.  She looked at me strangely, smiled and then commented that I had not changed at all. I had talked about women and equity with passion early in my career also.

While I worked my executive career and raised three children, I mostly focused on my own roles and lost sight of the big picture and the overall landscape for women.  I felt that we baby boomer women would change the world by being good in our own roles. But, if I thought we had achieved out goals, I only had to read weekend news stories to get depressed all over again.

The nation’s governors have gathered in DC this week and the gathering includes only 5 women.  Politico’s analysis was pretty gloomy.  When I started work after graduate school, there was one women governor—Ella Grasso from Connecticut—and she was the first woman elected to this role who did not succeed her husband.  Five is better than one, but it has been thirty years.  At this rate, it will be at least the end of the current century before we achieve equity.

Many mortgage lenders are being investigated for discriminating against pregnant women.  They will not issue mortgages to them for feat that they will not return to work after giving birth. When I was pregnant with my first child, I was considered for a promotion but was told that it was not the best time to think about this;  I may not come back to work once I gave birth.  That child is now 29 and little has changed.

Catalyst recently reported that there were no real increases for women in Financial Post 500 senior officer or top Earner ranks over the last couple years.  Women hold only 18% of the senior roles in these companies.  When I graduated from business school, 23% of my class was women and the numbers have continued to increase, filling the pipeline.  Progress is painfully slow.

So if I sound the same as I did over thirty years ago or if I sound strident about my beliefs, or if I feel that it is time for real change, I have reasons.

Christine Jacobs is an experienced corporate executive and a co-founder of Leading Women. Read her full bio.

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