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Oprah Refused to Work Until Her Female Producers Were Paid What They Deserved

Even early in her career, Oprah Winfrey had things figured out. The champion/queen/talk show host is featured in Time Firsts, a series about groundbreaking women, and in her interview with the magazine, she told a story about how she stood up for all her female producers in a way that was basically unheard of at the time.

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It was the 1980s, and The Oprah Winfrey Show was already popular. Even though she was young and new to the game, Winfrey was successful, and as her viewership increased, so did her salary. There was just one problem: Her female producers weren’t getting paid more, even though the show was making more and more money all the time.

“I went to my boss at the time and I said everybody needs a raise,” Winfrey told Time. “And he said, ‘Why?’ He actually said to me, ‘They’re only girls. They’re a bunch of girls — what do they need more money for?’ I go, ‘Well, either they’re going to get raises, or I’m going to sit down. I will not work unless they get paid.’ And so they did.”

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In 1985, women on average made 64 cents for every dollar a man made. Income inequality has improved slightly since then, but today, women still only make about 80 cents for every dollar a man makes across all industries. Those figures only help illustrate what a groundbreaking move Winfrey was making by demanding raises for female employees.

“I built this show around myself and the producers,” she explained to Time. “We were young women in our 30s trying to figure it out and find our own way.”

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Thirty years later, and Winfrey is still helping women find their way. What an inspiration she is.

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