Some 30-odd years ago, I boarded a chartered bus and rode east all night. In the morning the bus disgorged us and I happened on a group of women forming behind an AWIS (Association of Women in Science) banner. Wearing white, we all got an ERA sash (Equal Rights Amendment) sash bespeaking our unity as we surged down Pennsylvania Avenue toward Capitol Hill. Following an afternoon in the sun listening to women (and maybe even some men) tell us why the amendment was needed, I did manage to find my bus, which carried me back to Nashville. Like so many other good plans, this amendment foundered off into oblivion when it failed to be ratified by the requisite number of states.
My sash hung in my sewing room for years. Did it the ERA matter then, does it matter now that it didn't pass? In 1975, women faculty earned 10% less than their male counterparts (http://sciencecareers.sciencemag.org/career_development/previous_issues/articles/0210/women_s_salaries_why_the_wage_gap_worsens/(parent)/12096) and for old farts like me, things haven't changed (http://pubs.acs.org/cen/employment/84/pdf/8438salary.pdf, last chart at the bottom). I'm in the bottom 10% of my salary grade, I am sorry to admit to you, and the managerial food chain above my head at this fine company is all male.
But our new Speaker of the House of Representatives is now a woman. No matter that she is so liberal I would have trouble voting for her against another moderate Democrat. Would we have gotten here sooner if the ERA had passed 25 years ago? Maybe not. But I have finally asked my manager for a salary adjustment. And I'm cynically betting that in another 30 years, it will still be the same.