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How the Women of Newsweek Sued Their Bosses and Changed the Workplace

by Lynn Povich

Pub Date: Sept. 10th, 2012
ISBN: 978-1-61039-173-3
Publisher: PublicAffairs

Firsthand account of the female Newsweek employees who sued their employer in 1970 for sex discrimination.

Journalist Povich began her career in the mid-’60s at the magazine’s Paris bureau as a secretary, photo researcher, telex operator and occasional reporter. In 1975, she became the first female senior editor in the magazine’s history. Here, she chronicles the five-year legal battle that she and the women of Newsweek waged against the company, laying the groundwork for women’s advancement at the publication and in other careers in the areas of journalism, law and society. The Newsweek case was also the first female class-action suit filed in the United States. The women were a cohort of educated well-mannered “good girls” of the ’40s and ’50s, raised to be apolitical and accept the status quo in the workplace and society. But Povich and her co-workers found themselves stymied professionally and personally by the male-dominated work environment at Newsweek. Today it may be difficult to comprehend, but when the case was filed, there were few professional women in the United States. “Until around 1970,” writes Povich, “women comprised fewer than 10 percent of students in medical school, 4 percent of law school students, and only 3 percent of business school students.” The author describes the women’s initial trepidation, followed by a feeling of empowerment. By standing up for what they believed they were entitled to, some flourished while others fell prey to a hostile work environment. As one of the plaintiffs said, “A lot of women were prepared socially and emotionally for it, but for those of us who were traditional women, you couldn’t switch off overnight just because we won a lawsuit.”

Povich’s in-depth research, narrative skills and eyewitness observations provide an entertaining and edifying look at a pivotal event in women’s history.