In the 1600s, many Americans believed a woman’s place was in the home. Women were viewed primarily as homemakers and caretakers. In the 1940s, World War II forced societal changes in the United States. With men drafted into service, millions of women entered the workforce, many of them working in factories to help the war effort. Women were deluged with propaganda encouraging them to do their patriotic duty by working outside the home. On a now iconic poster, Rosie the Riveter, a female factory worker, flexed her muscles and told women, “We Can Do It!” But when the war ended, and men came home, many of those women lost their jobs. They were reminded that their first responsibility was to their home and their family. Some women welcomed that change. Others didn’t.
On September 22, 1949, Shirley Cupp, Irma Beisel, Frances Stuckey and Hilary Bufton Jr. met in a coffee shop in Kansas City. At a time when it was socially unacceptable for women to pursue a full-time career, they incorporated the American Business Women’s Association (ABWA), a professional network for women. According to the ABWA’s website, the organization was founded:
“to bring together businesswomen of diverse occupations and to provide opportunities for them to help themselves and others grow personally and professionally through leadership; education, networking support and national recognition.”
The first generation of ABWA members broke tradition and paved the way for today’s business women. Today, the ABWA offers resources and networking opportunities for business women, female entrepreneurs, and for women who work from home. They provide online training programs and opportunities to earn business certificates.
On September 22, 1982, the ABWA first sponsored American Business Women’s Day as a day to recognize and celebrate the accomplishments of millions of women in the workforce and women business owners. Congress officially recognized the day through proclamations in 1983 and 1986. American Business Women’s Day is a day set aside to honor the contributions and accomplishments of the millions of U.S. women in the workforce and women business owners. The day brings together businesswomen of diverse occupations to collaborate and network. Workshops and seminars offer leadership, education, networking, and national recognition.
Today’s women provide a variety of skills in the business world – whether it’s working at or running businesses or providing corporate leadership. They inspire professionals and set examples for young women to become leaders themselves. And those skills are more important today than ever. The global COVID-19 pandemic hit women in the workforce especially hard. Both the National Women’s Law Center and the Institute for Women’s Policy Research compared workforce statistics from February 2020 to December 2020. According to the Women’s Law Center, by the end of 2020, the U.S. workforce included 2.1 million fewer women. According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, the number of employed white women decreased by 5.2%, the number of employed black women decreased by 9.5%, and the number of employed Latinas decreased by 8.3%.
While women’s opportunities and pay in the business sector have evolved, there is still work to be done. September 22nd, American Business Women’s Day, provides an opportunity to give a shoutout to a businesswoman you know. Increase your business knowledge by attending a seminar, workshop, Ted Talk, or taking advantage of other resources. Sponsor a leadership conference or speak at a local school. Attend a career fair and offer your expertise as a businesswoman. Most importantly, support businesswomen in your area to create a positive environment for women in business.
 Lauren Vespoli, Bring Balance to the Workforce, Hemisphere, August 2021, at 54.