Help Wanted: Female

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Most were, Robertson says, dead ends.

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Meanwhile, male college graduates were finding jobs or corporate training programs that could lead to advancement to the highest levels. When I went to work for a Charlotte law firm in the same year the Times made its change, I did not think it was unusual for me to be supervising female staff members who were smarter and harder-working than I was.

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It was just like it had been in the Army, when, as a young officer, I supervised non-commissioned officers who were also smarter and harder-working than I. Women have great opportunities and have achieved success at the highest level in business. But progress has been slow.

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By the late s Robertson had become a writer for Fortune magazine and would soon become an editor. Curious about the progress of women into the higher ranks of corporate America, she did a thorough research project that identified the three highest compensated officers in each of 1, large public corporations. Only 10 women made the list. That prediction seemed pessimistic in the late s.

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But today, 40 years later, there are only 25 women CEOs of Fortune companies. It did not even seem odd to us that practically all of the good entry-level jobs were exclusively for men. Those with college degrees were mostly going into training programs at financial institutions or marketing companies, or in industry, where they would learn the ropes and have their talents assessed and encouraged as they moved along. Secretarial positions were among the better-paid work, and it was not unusual, especially in publishing, for a bright woman who started as a secretary to break out and rise up; some great editors took that route.

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Such exceptions do not change the fact that in , almost all of the jobs open to women were dead ends. Things began to open up in the s with legal challenges brought after the passage of the Civil Rights Act.

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    Even so, change came very slowly. In the late s, when I was a writer at Fortune magazine, I persuaded the editors to give me time to search through the Securities and Exchange Commission filings of more than 1, of the largest United States corporations to find high-ranking women.