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Women and Credit Through the Decades: The ’00s

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Women and credit

Throughout October, we’ll look at the financial progress women in the United States have made since the Equal Credit Opportunity Act was passed, decade by decade. This installment — the fourth of five — highlights the progress of the 2000s, the decade when the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was passed.

Women and finance: Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act

The first bill President Barack Obama signed into law was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act in 2009. The law restored the protection against pay discrimination for women, which was previously taken away in Ledbetter vs. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., a Supreme Court case that ended in favor of Goodyear.

Lilly Ledbetter was a manager at Goodyear who dealt with sexual harassment and discriminatory pay. Her boss also told her that women shouldn’t be working there. Ledbetter complained to the EEOC and she won her first case. It was later reversed by the Court of Appeals.

It went all the way to the Supreme Court, which voted 5-4 in favor of Goodyear in 2007, stating that employees don’t have the right to “challenge ongoing pay discrimination if the employer’s original discriminatory pay decision occurred more than 180 days earlier.” In effect, as long as you were discriminated against long enough, it was OK for your employer to continue paying you unfairly. There were eight men and one woman on the Supreme Court at this time, and the woman, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, wrote a dissent and read it from the bench when the court’s opinion was shared.

Passage of the law has given employers strong incentive to eliminate discriminatory practices in compensation and has allowed employees to call out employers who aren’t adhering to these rules. It also encourages employees to challenge compensation discrimination by reporting it as soon as they see it. This is a huge win for women, who still earn only 78 cents on the dollar men make.

Women and finance: Strides in the workplace, CEO-style

In 2000, there were three female CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, according to About Money. By the end of the decade, the number quintupled — in 2009, there were 15 female CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. One of the CEOs, Ursula Burns of Xerox, was the first black woman to become a CEO of a Fortune 500 company.

Fifteen female CEOs out of 500 represented about 3% of the total. (Still, it beat out 3 of 500, or 0.6%.) As of October 2014, there are 26 female CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, representing 5.2% of the top spots.

The advancement of women at every corporate level and in independent businesses has driven up their earning  power. No wonder women are increasingly becoming the main breadwinners in American families.

» MORE: The History of the Credit Card

Main takeaways:

  • President Obama’s first bill signed was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which restored protection from compensation discrimination, which was taken away by the Supreme Court case, Ledbetter vs. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. The act incentivizes employers to pay fairly and employees to report pay discrimination.
  • Throughout the 2000s, the number of female CEOs of FORTUNE 500 companies quintupled. While women CEOs of these companies are still a small minority, they’re growing — from 0.6% in 2000 to 3% in 2009 to 5.2% in 2014.

More: Women and finance: The ’90s

More: Women and finance: The ’80s

More: Women and finance: The ’70s

Professionals led by women image via Shutterstock