SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Less than 55 years ago, a woman in the U.S. could get legally fired from her job because she was pregnant.

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 made it illegal to fire a woman for being pregnant.

According to World Bank, as of 2021, it was still legal to fire a woman for being pregnant in 38 countries.

Tuesday is International Women’s Day (IWD), a recognition day adopted by the United Nations in 1977. Although IWD was started before 1977, the UN’s adoption made it mainstream.

What’s happened in South Dakota, the region, the U.S. and internationally for women since 1977? Well, the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act is one improvement.

Prevention and recognition of sexual harassment is part of many workplace trainings. But it wasn’t before 1977.

In the U.S. the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 1980 defined sexual harassment in the workplace after the courts recognized it in 1977, according to nerdwallet.

In 1977 nationally, women with associate’s, bachelor’s or master’s degrees earned 50% of what men with the same degrees earned, according to a 2011 article published by the National Career Development Association.

In 2019 educated women were earning 74% of what educated men made, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Additionally on the child-bearing front, the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 “entitles eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons with continuation of group health insurance coverage under the same terms and conditions as if the employee had not taken leave.”

No credit and other financial limitations

Although national laws pertaining to sexual harassment and pregnancy were advantageous for women, things were still slow on other topics.

A 1981 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Kirchberg vs Feenstra said a Louisiana law which allowed a husband to take a second mortgage on house without his wife’s knowledge was unconstitutional.

Before the UN adopted IWD, things were tough in terms of financial rights for women in the U.S.

(AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File)

The Federal Reserve in St. Louis outlined in 2018 some of the financial challenges women faced in the 1960s and 1970s.

 “In 1965, a “working wife” was cautioned by the Women’s Bureau that because her husband was legally responsible for family support, he had the right to decide where she lived—but her rights to work, to a bank account, to control her separate property and wages, and to run her own business were well established,” according to the Federal Reserve.

Women in the U.S. were given the right to have a bank account in the 1960s.

The United Kingdom granted women that right in 1975.

Not until 1975 did the U.K. catch up with the U.S., granting women the same right.

Women in the U.S. couldn’t get a credit card without their husband’s signatures until 1974.

Electing women to political offices

Women make up about 49.8% of the world’s population but that is not reflected in leadership roles worldwide.

Vigdís Finnbogadóttir of Iceland became the first female head of state elected in a nation-wide election, according to Only 70 of the world’s 195 nations have had a female head of state.

The U.S., Russia, Nigeria, China and Mexico, all among the 10 most populated nations, have never elected a female leader.


The highest position of executive power has been held by a woman in just 63 countries since 1960, according to Statista. The organization cites Sirimavo Bandaranaike of Sri Lanka who was elected in 1960, 1970 and 1984. but also states the country changed the role to a more ceremonial role in the late 1980s.

Women make up roughly 50% of the population in South Dakota, Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota and Wyoming but the percentage of female elected lawmakers is far less than that.

Still the percentage of female lawmakers has increased in all states since 1977.

Iowa and South Dakota both have female governors.

But South Dakota ranks 33rd in the number of female lawmakers, according to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers. Thirty of the state’s 105 legislators are women. In 1977, only 7.6% of elected state lawmakers were women.

Iowa is 32nd with 43 women of its 150 elected lawmakers. In 1977, 11.3% of elected state lawmakers were women.

Minnesota is 12th with 72 women of its 201 elected lawmakers. Only 6.5% of the state’s lawmakers were women in 1977.

North Dakota is 42nd. The state has 32 women and 141 total elected lawmakers. In 1977, 12.4% of the state’s lawmakers were women.

Sixteen of 90 lawmakers are women in Wyoming. The state ranks 45th. In 1977, 8.7% of the state’s lawmakers were women.

Violence against women

Violence against women continues across the world.

A UN report called the Progress of the World’s Women 2019-2020 said an average 17.6% of the female population worldwide aged 15-to 49 are subject to physical or sexual violence by current or ex-partner within a 12-month period.

A study of data from 2000 to 2018 in 161 showed that 1 in 3  women have been subjected to physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner or non-partner sexual violence or both, according to the World Health Organization.

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), 1 in 4 women has experienced some sort of physical violence by an intimate partner.

The NCADV also shares data compiled from various agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and state and national criminal databases. Here’s some of what the NCADV shares on domestic violence in Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming.

In Iowa, 35.3% of women experience intimate partner physical violence, intimate partner
sexual violence, and/or intimate partner stalking in their lifetimes. The percentage is similar in Minnesota with 33.9% and Wyoming also with 33.9%.

The numbers drop below 30% in North Dakota (29.7%) and South Dakota (27.8%).