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Kristen Houghton – Huffington Post – Wednesday, 18 October 2012

When President Barack Obama was telling the story of his grandmother, a woman who became a bank vice president but could go no further because of the glass ceiling; when he said that she had had to train men who would go on to make higher salaries and gain positions of power denied to her because of her gender, he was telling the story of my own mother.

My mother worked throughout my childhood. She went to “business,” as it was called back then, earning a pittance compared to what men earned. A serious college graduate, she had wanted to pursue a career as an accountant but was told that “girls” can only become bookkeepers. A damned good bookkeeper she became; a bookkeeper who had to train men for well-paid positions which she could never hope to get simply because she was a woman.

Her take-home pay was half that of male employees even though she did double the work they did and helped to support her aging parents. That she was frustrated about this inequality I have no doubt, but she never complained. Only once did I hear her say that she was upset about the unfairness shown to women in the workforce. That was when the men in her office received a Christmas bonus of a full week’s salary while she and the other women there received two tickets to the holiday show at Radio City Music Hall as compensation. There’s a big difference between a week’s salary as a bonus and show tickets. But that’s what women were seen to be worth; they were background workers . . .

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