The 1960s were a time of transformation for the United States, for women, and for Georgetown’s business school. The Vietnam War, the Civil Rights movement, and the women’s rights movement intersected in a wave of tremendous social change.
While women were entering the workforce in increasing numbers, traditionally “feminine” roles offered lower pay and little opportunity for promotion. The pattern of women leaving the workforce for reasons related to marriage and childbirth persisted. Despite this employment trend, the gender gap in higher education was beginning to close. Major universities began to accept women, abandon explicit gender quotas, and revise gender discriminatory admissions policies at the end of the 1960s.
It was in the late 1950s and early 1960s when the first women arrived at Georgetown’s business school. These women were admitted only if they lived locally, were Catholic, and were unable to attend an out-of-town Catholic institution to receive an education in business administration. Comprising just 5% of the school’s total enrollment, the women students in the business school found themselves constituting about one-half of the top 10% of all students academically.
The waves of protest and social change that swept the United States in the late 1960s continued to transform the landscapes of business and higher education for women into the 1970s. The participation rate of women in the workforce grew steadily during the decade, far outpacing the 33% rate of their mothers’ generation.
At university, fewer women chose to study traditionally “female” subjects, specifically education, literature, languages, and home economics. Women moved onto campus, and dorms became co-ed.
By 1980, 52 percent of women participated in the labor force. This jump from 43 percent in 1970 was the largest increase of women’s participation in the labor force in any decade of the 20th century. One major motivator for women’s expanded presence in the working world came from young women’s increased ability to picture themselves in the workforce. The early 1980s marked the tail-end of a second wave feminism in the United States, but women continued to face a number of significant changes and events throughout the decade.
Women made up the majority of bachelor’s degree recipients by the early 1980s, and between 1976 and 1987, females and males had the same likelihood of enrolling in college immediately after high school. The number of women receiving business degrees skyrocketed from women earning less than 10% of all business degrees to women earning almost a third of all business degrees.
Throughout the 1990s, women’s labor force participation continued to grow and reached an all-time high in April 2000 at 60.3%. Although the number of women in many male-dominated fields increased, workplace equity remained elusive, particularly in senior management positions. As more women began to view work as a financial necessity, working women became increasingly concerned with receiving equal pay for their work and maintaining balance between their careers and their families.
During this decade, 1992 was dubbed “The Year of the Woman” in politics, as more women won seats in Congress than in any previous decade. Twenty-four women were newly elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, comprising the largest number of women elected to the House in any single election thus far. The number of women in the U.S. Senate also tripled that year from two to six.
At the turn of the 21st century, the United States experienced the burst of the “dot-com bubble,” the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, growth of social media, the financial crash of 2008 and following recession, and the election of the first African American president, among others as the global community became more connected.
After women’s labor force participation rate peaked at 60% in 1999, the proportion of women in the workforce remained relatively stable throughout the 2000s. Women of varying ages, races and ethnicities, educational backgrounds, and marital statuses largely continued to participate in the workforce, but women’s overall workforce participation declined to 58.8% by the beginning of 2010 when both men and women felt the effects of the recession.
Activism was a theme of the second decade of the 21st century. In the United States, men and women voiced their support for equality--gender, racial, and sexual orientation. In addition to annual women’s rights as well as right to life marches, young and old alike showed up at rallies around the country to address gun violence, climate change, and racism.
The decade saw a Democratic president and a Republican president. In 2018, The House of Representatives contained a record-setting 102 women and the Senate had 25 women members, making the 116th Congress 24% women overall, the highest in U.S. history. The 2018 Congressional class marked a number of historic firsts for women, including the elections of the first Muslim women, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, and the first Native American women, Deb Haaland and Sharice Davids.
The McDonough School of Business, now in its new home in the Hariri Building, propelled into the new decade with innovative programs and initiatives, all while maintaining its standards of academic excellence. The school’s programs excelled in national and global rankings. New graduate programs in finance, international business and policy, and in management all launched. The decade also gave birth to new centers and initiatives around global real estate, financial markets and policy, entrepreneurship, global business, and the study of markets and ethics. The school prides itself on educating its students to not only be the best in the world, but the best for the world.