As you may know, March is Women's History Month and a chance for us all to celebrate the trailblazing women who have contributed to our history, culture, and society. Interestingly, the month-long celebration grew out of an event organized by the school district of Sonoma, CA, in 1978. A few years later, their concept sparked similar events across the country, and in 1980 Jimmy Carter declared the week of March 8 as National Women's History Week, which eventually grew to be Women's History Month.
We want to honor a few different women who have shattered the glass ceiling and helped pave the way for future generations. To start, we wanted to spotlight Katharine Graham. You may know that Graham was the publisher of The Washington Post. But did you know she was also the first female CEO of a Fortune 500 company?
Taking over The Post in the 1960s, when newspapers were big business and dominated by men, Graham became a towering figure, not only in publishing but in American history. Her controversial decision to publish the Pentagon Papers hastened the end of the Vietnam War, and her paper's Watergate reporting led directly to the resignation of President Nixon. Under Graham, The Post became one of the nation's most influential newspapers and an illustration of the power and importance of a free press. For that, she has our utmost respect, and we're proud to honor her.
Next, we chose to highlight Sara Blakely - the woman Forbes named the world's youngest self-made female billionaire.
We just learned that Blakely sold fax machines door-to-door before launching the Spanx apparel company in 1998, at the age of 27, with $5,000 in the bank. While the concept of shapewear wasn't new, Blakely researched her market and realized the industry was out of touch with its target audience. She learned that most hosiery companies were owned and operated by men and that none of the products were tested on real women. Through hard work, creativity, and trust in herself, Blakely went on to turn Spanks into a huge success. But that was just the start. Blakely wanted to make a lasting impact on the world, so in 2006 Blakely started the Spanx by Sara Blakely Foundation.
Since its launch, the Foundation has donated millions to charities that focus on empowering underserved women and girls. Blakely has also taken the billionaires' pledge to donate at least half of her wealth to charity. For her example, as an enormously successful woman and the accomplishments she's had as an entrepreneur and philanthropist, we're proud to honor Sara Blakely.
It's now time to highlight Billie Jean King, one of the most influential figures in the world of sports and beyond.
King's achievements on the tennis courts are legendary. She was the world's top women's player five times and won a total of 39 Grand Slam titles. King used her fame to advocate for the advancement of women in tennis and beyond. To fight for equal prize money, she formed the Women's Tennis Association and became its first president. King's straight-set win over Bobby Riggs in 1973's "Battle of the Sexes" was watched by 90 million people and, along with the passage of Title IX the prior year, is often considered the spark that ignited the boom in women's sports.
King is a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom and is in both the International Tennis Hall of Fame and the National Women's Hall of Fame. She is the first woman to have a major sports venue named in her honor, and I'm not sure if you noticed, but she did the honorary coin flip at this year's Super Bowl – pretty cool!
For all she's done to advance women's rights over the years and for every young girl who's ever picked up a tennis racket or kicked a soccer ball, we are proud to honor her.
Lastly we'd like to introduce you to a remarkable woman whose name you may not know – Betty Dukes. Dukes' story shows that we all have the power to change the world, even if it's one corner at a time.
In 2001, Betty Dukes was a 51-year-old cashier at Walmart. After years of watching her male co-workers getting higher pay and faster promotions, she decided to act. She became the lead plaintiff in one of U.S. history's most significant class-action discrimination lawsuits. After an 11-year fight through the lower courts, her case went all the way to the Supreme Court. Although the Court ultimately ruled that the suit didn't meet the requirements for class-action status, Dukes' efforts to level the playing field for women were not in vain. Conditions at Walmart have improved significantly, and women are more valued than ever before. Dukes' tenacity and sense of fairness helped change the culture of one of the largest companies in the nation.
For all she has done to improve the working conditions for women at Walmart, and across corporate America, we're proud to honor her.
Women like Katherine Graham, Sara Blakely, Billie Jean King, and Betty Dukes are all around us, willing to take a stand and speak out for what's right. We hope you've enjoyed this blog post and this month, let's celebrate the brave women in our lives and around this world.