That’s the world in which Ann Hopkins finds herself. After graduating with a master’s degree in mathematics and working in IBM’s aerospace division, she’s landed a prestigious role at the accounting firm Price Waterhouse.
She’s got an attitude and style that mean business. Ann speaks directly and doesn’t bother conforming to what others think.
Instead, she’s focused on her career. And she’s crushing it.
“It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer … to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.”
Price Waterhouse argued that some discrimination was legal, as long as it wasn’t the only reason.
The district court agreed with Ann, but Price Waterhouse appealed.
TheUS Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit agreed with Ann. But yet again, Price Waterhouse appealed.
Next stop: The Supreme Court of the United States.
The law of the land
It seems strange to us, more than 30 years later, that a case like this could be controversial at all.
Yet the very fact we hold that opinion is mostly due to the Supreme Court’s landmark decision on Ann’s case in 1989.
InPrice Waterhouse v. Hopkins, the court voted 6–3 in favor of Ann. As thedecision stated,
“[W]e are beyond the day when an employer could evaluate employees by assuming or insisting that they matched the stereotype associated with their group.”
After the case, a lower court awarded Ann Hopkins her job—and the partnership she so clearly deserved.
She returned to Price Waterhouse and worked there until her retirement in 2002.
Ann Hopkins isn’t the most famous hero in the battle for equal rights. But her story stands as one of strength and determination in the face of unfair judgment.
That you can still fight to succeed. That women can still win at work, even if they’re not “ladylike.” And that every woman deserves to live, talk, and dress the way she wants.
“The only thing that makes me remarkable,” she toldThe Boston Globe in a 1990 interview, “is that I happened to stand up for a particular principle at a particular time.”
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