(This post originally appeared on Entrepreneur)
Once upon a time a woman applied for a job at a big company that everyone knows.
But, as Alyssa Rosenberg at ThinkProgress writes, the woman was unfortunately rejected. Not because she was unqualified. But because she was a woman. The woman’s name was Mary Ford and the company was Walt Disney Productions. The rejection letter, which can be seen here, went like this:
Dear Miss Ford:
Women do not do any of the creative work in connection with preparing the cartoons for the screen as that work is performed entirely by young men. For this reason girls are not considered by the training school.
The only work open to work women consists of tracing the characters on clear celluloid sheets with India ink and filling in the tracings on the reverse side with print according to directions.
In order to apply for a position as “Inker” or “Painter” it is necessary that one appear at the Studio, bringing samples of pen and ink and water color work. It would not be advisable to come to Hollywood with the above specifically in view, as there are really very few openings in comparison with the number of girls who apply.
The letter was signed by a Mary Cleane. Another woman. It was written in 1938.
If you’re a female entrepreneur, business owner or employee, does this letter make you angry? It shouldn’t. It should make you very, very happy. Why? Because it’s clearly not 1938 anymore.
In 2018, there were 12.3 million women-owned businesses in the U.S. as compared to 402,000 in 1972, Since 2007 that number has increased by 58 percent. Today, four out of every ten businesses in the U.S. are female-owned. Last year more than 1,800 net new women-owned businesses were launched every day and more than two-thirds of those were founded by women of color. In today’s business world, women are slightly more likely to start a business than men. (All of this recent data comes from two reports – one from SCORE and the other from American Express – and both were summarized in this article by the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council).
It’s great news but it’s not time to put on the party hats.
According to the 2018 Women in the Workplace Report from McKinsey & Company and LeanIn.Org. while women now hold 38 percent of managerial positions in corporate America, they are still twice as likely to be mistaken for much more junior employees, continue to suffer from harassment and discrimination at work at rates far above their male counterparts and still lag behind in earnings and advancement opportunities. There is clearly much, much work to do.
But the takeaway is this: while we haven’t reached parity, females have come a long, long way since 1938. Be grateful. Keep fighting. Males — particularly those of us in our 50’s who make up the majority of business owners in this country — are getting the message. Maybe the change isn’t as fast as it should be. But it’s happening – and the reaction by society today to what was once a commonplace occurrence in 1938 should be confirmation enough.
Oh, and if it’s any consolation, the men working those cartoon preparation jobs at Disney back in the ’30’s were replaced by computers long ago!