My daughter, if she's reading this, will start rolling her eyes at any minute. Yes, it's her crazy feminista mother getting on that soapbox again. Well, here goes ...
If you're a woman, particularly a liberal one like me, you've probably been disturbed by some of the news lately. There are attempts to limit our reproductive choices and to threaten our ability to get health care. Horrible sexist remarks have been spewed and celebrated by the media. It seems as if progress made by women in the last half of the twentieth century is being undermined if not leveled completely.
Add to this the fact that women, who (as I've pointed out in previous posts) make up 51% of the population, are still regarded as a minority and are disadvantaged when it comes to positions of power and pay scale. And, let's not forget that the Equal Rights Amendment, first proposed in 1923, has never been ratified. As the mother of a daughter, I worry that she will mature and eventually try to make her own way in a world that still thinks of women — and still treats women — as citizens decidedly second-class.
But, I just found some good news that I'd like to share with you ...
Things are going to change. Really. They are going to change because the make-up of an important segment of our population is changing. That group is the Educated.
Take a look at some of these statistics (many gleaned from Kay Hymowitz's book Manning Up: How the Rise of Women has Turned Men into Boys):
Between 1975 and 2006, the percentage of men with a college degree increased slightly from 26.8 to 27.9.
In that same period, the percentage of women with a college degree increased more dramatically from 18.6 to 34.2.
So, not only did educated women increase at a faster rate, but at some point we passed men by. Nearly 25% more women had a college degree by 2006 than men did. The total enrollment for women in degree-granting institutions in 2009 (the most recent year tracked by the National Center for Education Statistics) was almost exactly one-third higher than for men. So, this appears to be a trend that is continuing.
This movement isn't limited to undergraduate schooling either. Today, looking at young people aged 25 to 29, there are 139 women with advanced degrees for every 100 men.
Related to this, we've seen rapid growth for professional women. Fifty years ago, women accounted for 6 percent of doctors and just 3 percent of lawyers. Today, we have reached close to parity with 49 percent and 47 percent. Some people project that by 2050, women will hold 70 and 60 percent of those positions.
With these trends in education and professional participation comes increased economic power. While national numbers are still depressing (overall, women make just 77 cents for every dollar earned by men), there is significant change in urban areas and within specific demographics. In New York City, for example, women between 21 and 30 years old make 117% of what their male peers do. And in Dallas, that same age range makes 120%.
I look forward to this group growing older and taking over some of the old boy institutions, like the executive suites at the Fortune 500 or, more importantly, the U.S. Senate. I look forward to a time when women can run for President and be taken seriously as candidates. I particularly look forward to a time when a woman actually wins. Maybe the reason so many people (specifically, so many old white men) are attacking women's rights is because they see a change coming and they are downright and deservedly scared.
So, my dear daughter, I have more hope for you and your girlfriends than I did. (Yes, I know I forced you to choose the Seneca Falls Convention for your research project instead of the whaling industry. But trust me, you will find it far more relevant to you and your life.)
No one could argue that equality — economic, political, social — has been handed to women on a silver tray. But, keep studying girls, its time is coming.