Notorious is not a word that many of us would want to embrace as a moniker. The dictionary defines it as “famous or well known, typically for some bad quality or deed.” One courageous woman embraced it wholeheartedly: Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Notorious indeed.
As I watched the tributes this past weekend following her passing, it made me want to know more about her “notorious” badge of honor that she wore like the famous collars around her neck. I knew generally about her and was intrigued by the idea of her being notorious.
The movie On the Basis of Sex had been on my watchlist for a long time (full disclosure—since it came out!). To honor her passing and deepen my understanding, I watched it. I then watched the RBG documentary. My thirst for understanding the full impact of her career and determination seemed crucial to me. Her journey underscored my own upbringing—I always felt equal to men. I never understood that I wasn’t.
The inability of a woman who graduated at the top of her law class to obtain a position in a law firm was unbelievable. While I knew how women were viewed in the 1950s, to see it play out on the screen and watch her bright star dim was disheartening. Unlike today, there really were no options for her. We can all appreciate her taking on the role of professor at Rutgers Law School as that is the path that led her to advocate equality for all.
She was more than a trailblazer. Her work during the 1970s began the change in society for women in the United States. Her passion for the law drove her—and her commitment to women and equality pushed her forward when barriers were thrown up again and again. Did I mention her tenacity? Or her brilliant legal mind?
I write this post today to honor her work and recognize the contributions she made for all women over the course of her career. No matter your politics, you have to agree that this one, diminutive woman initiated legal and cultural progress that has had sweeping impact. To me, she is notorious for consistently challenging the bad deeds of laws that barred women from equal opportunity for employment, pay and education—among other areas. She said in an interview that she knew she “...could be something that could make society better.” And she certainly she has... her impact will be felt for many generations.
We are still fighting the battle for equality for women today. We know this at CREW Network and we see it in commercial real estate. Let’s become notorious ourselves and carry the fight forward. RIP, RBG. We’ve got this.
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Wendy Mann is the chief executive officer of Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW) Network and president of the CREW Network Foundation.