Even if you weren’t familiar with her work, or the impact she had on women’s rights and gender equality as a whole, you are likely aware of the passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. When Ginsburg, affectionately dubbed RBG, died earlier this month, much of the country—and the world—mourned her passing.
Who was Ruth Bader Ginsburg?
Born Joan Ruth Bader in Brooklyn, New York in 1933, Ginsburg dealt with hardship from an early age, living through the Great Depression, and losing her mother to cancer the day before she graduated high school. Ginsburg consistently received high marks throughout high school, and her success in academia continued at both Cornell University, where she graduated top of the class, and at Harvard Law school, following the birth of her first child.
During her first year of law school, Ginsburg’s husband was diagnosed with testicular cancer. She remained in school—and at the top of her class—while helping her ailing husband with his own studies, and raising a young child. At Harvard, Ginsburg was one of nine women in a class of 500.
Despite her outstanding academic achievements, Ginsburg was far from immune to gender discrimination against women so prevalent in the ‘50s and ‘60s. In fact, she was even berated by top authorities at Harvard who blamed her for taking coveted law school spots from more-deserving male students. But she forged ahead, becoming the Harvard Law Review’s first female member.
Even with her experience and academic excellence, Ginsburg found it difficult to find a job in the male-dominated world of law. After receiving a few offers from law firms to work at a fraction of the wages paid to her similarly-qualified male counterparts, Ginsburg moved abroad to Sweden to conduct research for an International Civil Procedure project. Upon returning to the US, she continued her love of academia, accepting a professorship at Rutgers University Law School, and remaining there for nearly nine years until accepting a teaching position at Columbia.
How RBG Changed Gender Discrimination in the Workplace
Having suffered at the hands of gender discrimination in academia and in the workplace, Ginsburg’s fight for gender equality came honestly, and began early. In the 1970s, she directed the Women’s Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union, during which time she successfully brought multiple landmark cases before the Supreme Court.
In 1993, Bill Clinton appointed Ruth Bader Ginsburg to the U.S. Supreme Court, securing her position on the nation’s highest court, and solidifying her status as the notorious, and exceptional, RBG.
How her Work Impacts Working Women Today
Employers are prohibited from discriminating against women due to their gender or because of pregnancy. RBG was instrumental in the adoption of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which recognizes pregnancy discrimination as a form of sex discrimination. As such, it became unlawful to fire a female employee, or otherwise treat her unfavorably, based on pregnancy or plans to become pregnant.
Women should have access to the same financial benefits as men. RBG worked tirelessly so that women would have the same rights to financial independence as their male counterparts, paving the way for the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, which gave women the right to obtain mortgages, credit cards, and even bank accounts without the need to have a male co-signer.
Jury duty must be a requirement for men and women. Until 1979, jury duty was optional for women, but RBG found this disparity to be a serious issue. “Women belong in all places where decisions are being made,” said Ginsburg, in 2009. “It shouldn’t be that women are the exception.”
And RBG’s fight for gender equality didn’t only extend to women. She believed that true equality benefits both women and men, even ruling that men should be entitled to the same Social Security and caregiving rights as women.
Continuing The Fight For Gender Equality
Her small size and fierce will and determination led Ruth Bader Ginsburg to the nation’s highest court, where she proved to the world that equality benefits everyone. RBG’s powerful spirit lives on in so many activists for gender equality, both female and male, in the US and around the world. And there is no doubt that she would want us to continue her fight now and every day, for the good of all. Gender-based discrimination still occurs with shocking frequency in the workplace, but victims have more legal rights and protections—and recourse—today than ever before.
Contact Joseph & Norinsberg LLC Today
If you are suffering from gender discrimination in the workplace, the skilled legal team at Joseph & Norinsberg LLC can help. For more than two decades, our dedicated employment lawyers have been fighting for the rights of employees across NY/NJ, and we have an impressive track record of obtaining substantial settlements for our clients. If you are being discriminated against or harassed in the workplace, you don’t need to suffer in silence. Contact Joseph & Norinsberg LLC and book a free and confidential consultation through our website today.