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Countering The Boys Clubs

The New York Times wrote an interesting story on relevance of the Ebell Club, a women's organization based in Los Angeles, and its struggle to both maintain members and draw new members. It was established in 1897 to serve as a university setting during a time when many women could not enter higher education institutions. At the time, it was widel believed that higher education was harmful to women's health. It wasn’t until 1885 when the American Association for University Women conducted a survey that debunked that myth that more universities started letting women in. Harvard formed the women’s school, Radcliffe, in 1879 and it wasn’t until 1977 that the admissions for Harvard College and Radcliffe were merged.

In 1908, the National Press club was formed, but no women or minorities were allowed. The Washington Press Club was formed eleven years later to juxtapose them and it wasn’t until the mid 50s when there was a fight to integrate the sexes after black men were admitted. It wasn’t until 1985 that women were admitted to the club, at the height of Barbara Walters' on-air news career.

And still, equal pay is an issue, even though it’s not considered polite to discuss salary with other employees. There’s often no way for a woman to know if she is making less, except for the studies and surveys. Women earn 77 percent of what men earn on average, with the highest level of equality being in D.C. with only a 12 percent difference.

Women’s clubs are still relevant because of these numbers. Even if as a woman, you don’t think you’ve had disadvantages, they’ve existed. Whether it be because you were swayed from taking interest in science in grade school (highest paying jobs in America) or because you were never taught to advocate for a high salary when you were hired, those little differences add up. But women don’t want to think of themselves (myself included) as disadvantaged. It’s easier to pretend we are equal, when we are not. We still have to struggle to get there, and the wage gap is a glaring reminder of this. Even when factors such as race, education and life decisions are taken into account, there is still a gap. And that is the “unexplained” disparity. That unexplained disparity is the indirect discrimination, which is why we need clubs like the Ebell club, and women’s professional networks like WIN. The Boys Club still exists. Let’s not pretend otherwise.

Lisa Gillespie is a former staff writer for Campus Progress as well as the Managing Editor & New Media Director at Street Sense. She graduated from the University of North Carolina–Asheville.

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