This past weekend the BBC played a lengthy interview with ex-Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Conner. In the interview with BBC-radio, O'Conner shared that the glass ceiling for women had been extremely high in the legal professions of mid-20th Century USA.
O'Conner related the fact that for many months after her graduation from the law school Stanford University, she had received no job offers.
Women were just not being hired at that junction in U.S history. The only direct offer of employment which O'Conner received in California that first year was to work as a legal secretary. (Naturally, she turned that offer down.)
It was 1949 when she had entered Stanford University. Many men had come home from WWII and with the GI Bill in hand were able to study for the first time in their lives. It was a decade when women made up only 1% of all law school students studying in the entire USA.
In desperation, and just prior to her wedding day--near the end of that same year of her graduation--, O'Conner finally wrote a distant county official who had once indicated that if he ever received more cash from his country supervisor, he would consider hiring her.
In the letter to this particular county attorney, O'Conner explained that she was volunteering to work for the man's department for free--and even humbly sit at a desk next to his secretary in front of his own office for a many months until his department could at some future time have more moneys allocated by the county where he worked in order to eventually pay her a salary.
That county attorney agreed.
Luckily, after only three or four months, that particular county official was promoted to another higher post, whereby he had more input into the county's budget.
That lawyer was then able to come up with cash for that legal department to finally be able to pay a salary to the young Sandra Day O'Conner for her various legal effortsWOMEN IN GULF ARAB STATES: MID-CENTURY THROUGH TODAY
The former U.S. Supreme Court Justice O'Conner's experience in America in the decade after WWII puts in clearer focus the world of women in Kuwait today-in 2007.
Around 1950, various Gulf Arab states, such as the Emirate of Sharjah in the UAE (where I used to teach), didn't even have a public school till 1954 and a school for girls followed sometime later.
The only university in the City of Sharjah, situated 10 minutes from downtown Dubai., through the end of the 1980s was a technology school.
Now there are 4 or 5 universities functioning in the Sharjah emirate. In comparison, in Kuwait, where I live now, there was no public school for boys till 1912, and it wasn't till the late 1930s that the first girl's school was opened. There was no university in Kuwait until 1965, and women weren't initially allowed to attend, but now make up the majority of students on campus.
Similarly, as Justice Sandra Day O'Conner noted during her interview with BBC, even though American women only made up 1% of the law school population in 1949, by 2007 the majority of students in America's law schools are currently women.
In short, both in the USA and in the Gulf Arab states, women's opportunities to be educated grew substantially after WWII-just as both region's economies grew.2007 SURVEY OF WOMEN IN KUWAITI UNIVERSITIES
Roxanne Issurdatt recently published in a Kuwaiti weekend newspaper, the FRIDAY TIMES, an article entitled "What a Kuwaiti Girl Really Wants".