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Women's rights in business partnerships

AMERICAN women have taken another step forward as they, like racial and ethnic minorities, strive to attain the full equality promised by the Constitution and US society.

The newest progress came when the US Supreme Court decided unanimously that women may not be excluded on the basis of sex from the top management positions of business enterprises that are run as partnerships, such as are common in the legal, accounting, and advertising professions.

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This constitutes another in a series of gains for women in recent years. As the result of court decisions and legislation, they are generally hired on the basis of ability, irrespective of gender. They are more often paid what men are if they perform the same work. And more women are being promoted into management ranks than a few years ago.

There is progress yet to make, for one thing in ensuring that women are provided pensions equitable with those offered men. Just this week the US House of Representatives unanimously approved such a pension equity proposal.

The greatest effect of this week's high-court ruling may be symbolic, with the broadest interpretation being that women in all areas of work must be offered an equal opportunity to compete for top positions. That is appropriate.

The needs of American society are immense - the skills and insights of able women should be used to meet these challenges. And it is important that each person, male or female, be both permitted and encouraged to reach full potential without any arbitrary limitation, including gender.

What is true of women also applies to racial and ethnic minorities. Leading legal firms have few black partners, as well as few who are female: With the new court ruling this can be expected to change.

Blacks, like women, are generally underrepresented in the highest levels of management throughout corporate America. This applies to other ethnic groups as well. Backed both by court decisions and relatively recent laws, blacks are generally being hired and promoted irrespective of race; a current need is to achieve the top positions.

Women and minorities should now be particularly careful to prepare themselves educationally for the careers they seek, and - once hired - to hone their skills so that they will be ready to move all the way up the ladder. The newest court ruling affirms once again there can be no legal barrier to fullest achievement.

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