Newsweek Still Wages Gender War, 40 Years Later

The ACLU agreed not to press legal action if Newsweek were to immediately set goals and timetables to fully integrate women.

Internships paved the way for top talent like Howard, as well as her co-conspirator Lynn Povich of MSNBC and Boston Globe columnist Ellen Goodman.

Another was Eleanor Clift, who joined Newsweek as a secretary. Today, she still writes a column, "Capitol Letter," and is a regular panelist on the nationally syndicated show, "The McLaughlin Group."

At 22, she worked as a "Girl Friday" in the Atlanta bureau, answering phone calls at the front desk and Telexing stories. "I taught myself, watching those around me," she said.

Unlike the polished research girls, Clift -- the daughter of a Deli owner in Queens, N.Y., who never finished college -- said she writing was "not within my realm of thinking."

"When I was there it was clear I just wanted to do something where what I was typing was interesting," she said. "It never occurred to me to do anything else."

She later qualified for an internship, going on to cover the 1976 presidential campaign of Jimmy Carter.

"It was a Cinderella story," said Clift, now 69. "They opened doors for me and opened my mind."

But Clift admits that sexism is "still alive, though not as blatant," and statistics bear her out.

Women earn the majority of college degrees and are well-represented in entry and mid-level positions, but they still lag behind in almost every sector of the economy, according to the White House Project, organization that works to advance women's leadership.

And, according to its 2009 report "Benchmarking Women's Leadership," women account for only 18 percent of the nation's top leaders and earn 78.7 cents to the dollar earned by men.

In the world of journalism, women make up only 22 percent of the leadership roles, and they still have fewer bylines -- 1 to every 7 males at the top media outlets -- even though the majority of journalism majors since 1977 have been women.

"A woman has to be man enough for job," said Marie Wilson, founder and president of The White House Project. "If there are two women, it's a cat fight. If it's three, it really starts to make you pay attention. Stereotypes only exist because of the numbers."

But those numbers could be slowly changing.

In 1970, all New York women in their 20s made on average $7,000 less than men. By 2000, they were about even. In 2005, according to an analysis of the latest census results they were making about $5,000 more, a median wage of $35,653, or 117 percent of the $30,560 reported by men in that age group.

In Dallas, those percentages are even higher, according to data from the U.S. Census American Community Survey.

"Young women like us aren't engaged with feminism in the same way our mothers were," said Newsweek's Jessica Bennett. "So I think the most important thing is that we're talking about these issues, and that we're forcing our magazine -- and hopefully, the culture as a whole -- to look critically at themselves."

"The biggest challenge is recognizing that sexism still exists, even if it's not as overt as calling the 1970 women 'dollies,'" she said "We've come a long way, yes -- but there is certainly still a long way to go."

Her predecessor, Lucy Howard, who wrote the magazine's "Periscope" column until she retired in 2002, has a more militant view.

"Newsweek was progressive and people were open-minded, but they were set in their ways," she said. "Until you really force someone to do something, you can't get them to change. It's a habit."

ABC News Information Specialist Gerard Middleton contributed to this report.

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