The list of accomplishments for women so badly misinterpreted by Rosin was completed by the 1990s because the previous two decades were when the bulk of women’s progress toward equality in the United States occurred.66 That progress did not happen merely as a result of faceless, technology-driven economic development, but rather reflected a cultural and political push from feminism that rode the back of that development.67 Feminism helped convert economic and technological developments into concrete advancement for women.
The forces for equality that Rosin describes are indeed real – the growth of the information and service sectors, the importance of interpersonal skills, new technologies, the expansion of education. Add to that the competitive forces that threaten to put at a disadvantage organizations choosing to exercise an archaic preference for male privilege, as has been argued by the sociologist Robert Max Jackson, and there are strong pressures in the direction of gender inequality.68 However, it is hard to see as a mere historical coincidence the concurrent rise of women’s status and women’s political activism through the feminist movement.
The opponents of inequality have noticed the role of concerted action. There is abundant evidence of resistance to feminist progress on the part of those men who would stand to lose their privileged position from feminism’s success. In the blue-collar craft and trade occupations, men have resisted the entrance of women.69 In the board rooms and executive suites of corporate America, on the shop floors and in the retail aisles, men have erected obstacles to women’s progress.70 Gender discrimination remains a real and pervasive problem, often but not always associated with women’s status as mothers.71 The segregation of women into ghettoized occupations, the tracking of women into educational specialties with lower pay and prestige, the cultural devaluation of women’s skills and the oppressive forces of objectification, pornography, and sexual violence all continue to work against gender equality.72
One fundamental aspect of ongoing gender inequality in fact is the imbalance of power and resources between men and women within families.73 Although Rosin and others draw illustrative portraits from those families in which women have attained the upper hand economically, these remain a very small minority despite women’s improved earnings and occupational status in recent decades. As is now well-known, women retain responsibility for the majority of housework and childcare even when they are employed74, and men’s increased contributions in these arenas have not matched the changes in women’s labor force participation or relative earnings.75 Persistent inequality within families is of course highly interrelated with labor market inequality. The family demands on women’s time and energy, as well as the persistent deference to men’s careers and family decision-making, impede women’s career upward mobility.76 And workplace norms that continue to privilege a masculinist model of the ideal worker penalize women disproportionately for their family obligations.77
The stall in the gender revolution arguably reflects at least in part the decline of active feminism and its transformation into an inward looking program of self-improvement under the mantra of empowerment. The momentum of the egalitarian policy agenda has weakened. Consider the examples of equal pay and abortion rights. President Obama’s signature gender-equality action was signing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act78, which simply restored antidiscrimination law to its state before the 2007 Ledbetter Supreme Court case.79 The much larger problem of inadequate protection against unequal pay under existing law has not emerged as a major public issue, and more ambitious proposals sitting before Congress for years have languished.80 Similarly, with regard to abortion, President Obama secured the support of pro-choice voters – despite stringently maintaining prohibitions on federally funded abortions81 – by appointed judges who seem likely to protect Roe v. Wade and by simply opposing the abolition of Planned Parenthood. Active intervention to move toward gender equality is not high on the mainstream political agenda.
I conclude this essay by suggesting several policy approaches beyond antidiscrimination enforcement and protecting reproductive freedom that, based on research into the factors underlying today’s gender stall, may help reduce barriers to gender equality. My suggestions stem from the observation that continued gender inequality – within families and in the workplace – is closely related to two other intransigent problems: work-family conflicts, which disparately affect single parents and working-class families; and the stickiness of intergenerational mobility, which pins children from the upper and lower ends of the income distribution to their respective social locations into adulthood – in part reflecting the structure of their families.82 Rather than assume inevitable change toward gender equality, or focus merely on protecting existing achievements, we should consider how linked policies to address these interrelated problems might provide a renewed impetus for unstalling gender as well.
Such an approach suggests three policy changes: paid family leave, universal preschool education, and labor time reform. However, the effect of family-related work policies is complicated. A comparison of wages in European countries showed that the unexplained gender wage gap is smaller in countries with more generous policies reconciling work and family (available childcare, paid maternity leave, part-time employment options, and flexible schedules). But such policies appear to increase gender inequality at the top of the earnings distribution, because they in effect encourage women to prioritize their families over their careers.83 Nevertheless, there is reason to believe the following reforms would have beneficial effects.
Paid family leave for mothers and fathers. The lack of paid family leave for parents in the U.S. is widely recognized. A comparison of 21 developed countries showed that only the U.S. and Australia had no guaranteed paid leave for mothers after the birth of a child; about half the countries had at least some paid leave for fathers.84 The lack of support for parental leave, combined with the tendency of mothers to take responsibility for unpaid care work within families, increases the effect of childrearing on gender inequality. The solution to the problem of family leave undermining women’s careers is to structure leave so that fathers as well as mothers take time out of the labor force. Further, wage replacement can be financed through social insurance, so that employers won’t have as much incentive to discourage leave-taking, especially by men.
Universal preschool education. There is a strong relationship between the enrollment levels of young children in formal education and the gender pay gap, such that countries with more young children in school have much less gender inequality in earnings.85 In practice, publicly-financed preschool versus paid parental leave is a tradeoff – two ways for the state to support childrearing – although it does not have to be. If one had to choose, it is clear that providing preschool education does more to reduce gender inequality in the labor market. Further, early education – which has demonstrated benefits for children’s later school performance – may help increase intergenerational mobility, by equalizing the opportunities of children from rich and poor families.86
Less paid labor time, with employee control. A survey of hours worked by employed people in 13 countries showed that workers in the U.S. worked than those in all the European countries and Canada, and less only than those in Korea and Japan.87 Estimates from the OECD, based on time-use surveys work per day, showed U.S. workers above all the major European economies, but working less than some in Southern and Eastern Europe, Asia and Latin America.88 The differences are quite large: American men and women combined work 550 minutes per day, or almost 100 more minutes than those in Germany, Denmark or Belgium, and about 50 more than those in France. On an annual basis, American workers put in about 350 more hours per year than Germans and Norwegians, 250 more per year than French and Belgian workers, and 150 more than those in the U.K. Given the tendency to overwork in the U.S., and the concentration of overwork hours among men – especially in professional occupations – a shorter workweek might have the effect of equalizing paid labor time between men and women, with benefits for the gender division of housework and childcare.89 Among those in non-professional jobs, working hours have become more erratic and more likely to conflict with family care responsibilities. As men increasingly hold these irregularly-scheduled jobs, they are less able to contribute to unpaid care work in their families.90 Employee control over work schedules thus might contribute to greater gender equality within families.
Such policy reforms go beyond antidiscrimination law and enforcement, and beyond the defense of reproductive rights, to address family-based sources of gender inequality, as well as work-family conflict and intergenerational immobility. Given the ubiquity of these problems – and the gender-neutral nature of these reforms – mobilizing popular support for these policies is possible. However, the tendency within current media streams to describe gender inequality as already gone – or rapidly vanishing due to inherent characteristics of our economic development – undermines the ability to develop such support. Ending the “end of men” myth is an important step on the road toward gender equality.
4 I do not deal with Rosin’s chapter on Asia in this article. For an excellent review, see Mara Hvistendahl, “Nobody Told Asia About The End of Men,” Foreign Policy, September 19, 2012, at, http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/09/19/nobody_told_asia_about_the_end_of_men (accessed September 19, 2012).
5 For a review of stalled progress toward gender equality, see “The End of the Gender Revolution? Gender Role Attitudes from 1977 to 2008,” by David A. Cotter, Joan M. Hermsen, and Reeve Vanneman, 2011, American Journal of Sociology 117 (July):259-289; and “The Gender Revolution: Uneven and Stalled,” by Paula England, 2010, Gender & Society 24(2):149-166.
7 Among managers themselves, women do in fact represent a growing share (although not a majority, and the growth has slowed considerably), but they remain heavily segregated in certain categories of management. See: Philip N. Cohen, Matt L. Huffman and Stefanie Knauer, 2009, “Stalled Progress? Gender Segregation and Wage Inequality Among Managers, 1980-2000,” Work and Occupations 36(4):318-342.
8 For example, women are 4% of Fortune 1,000 CEOs, see: http://www.catalyst.org/publication/271/women-ceos-of-the-fortune-1000. Among the four occupations listed, doctors are 35% female, lawyers are 34% female, and accountants/auditors are 59.9% female (“banker” is not an occupation). Together, the three occupations are 48% female.
9 Reach Advisors described their research for Rosin here: http://www.reachadvisors.com/about-reach-advisors-in-the-new-york-times-sunday-magazine-article (accessed October 7, 2012).
10 For this I used the 2010 ACS microdata, available from IPUMS at http://usa.ipums.org/usa/.
11 The details of that analysis, with figures illustrating the results, are here: http://familyinequality.wordpress.com/2012/09/17/why-women-in-their-20s-earn-more/.
12 My calculations for this were presented in Stephanie Coontz, “The Myth of Male Decline,” New York Times 9/29/2012: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/30/opinion/sunday/the-myth-of-male-decline.html.
13 2011 digest of education statistics, Table 283: “Degrees conferred by degree-granting institutions, by level of degree and sex of student: Selected years, 1869-70 through 2020-21,” at: http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d11/tables/dt11_283.asp (accessed September 30, 2012).
14 Paula England. 2010. “The Gender Revolution: Uneven and Stalled.” Gender & Society 24:149-166, doi:10.1177/0891243210361475.
15Field of Bachelor’s Degree in the United States: 2009. U.S. Census Bureau, at: http://www.census.gov/prod/2012pubs/acs-18.pdf (accessed October 8, 2012).
16 I presented some of the following analysis in a post on TheAtlantic.com, here: http://www.theatlantic.com/sexes/archive/2012/10/womens-economic-dominance-is-it-really-inevitable/264312/.
17 In various forms, she has been quoted using this reference in the Chicago Tribune (http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-10-05/features/sc-ent-1003-books-end-men-20121005_1_hanna-rosin-women-managerial-jobs), the Globe and Mail (http://www.theglobeandmail.com/commentary/plastic-women-cardboard-men/article4546121/).
18 http://www.bls.gov/news.release/ecopro.toc.htm. Note the content this page is replaced periodically with new estimates; my discussion is based on the data accessed in October 1, 2012.
19 “Women’s Work and Working Women: The Demand for Female Labor,” by David A. Cotter, Joan M. Hermsen and Reeve Vanneman, Gender and Society 15(3):429-452.
20 I show the trends in occupational gender segregation from 1950 to 2010 here: http://familyinequality.wordpress.com/2011/10/24/gender-integrations-lost-decade/.
21 Here she describes construction, transportation and utilities as “fading away,” when in fact by BLS estimates they are projected grow 26 percent in the decade.
24 See, e.g., http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/12/fashion/dads-are-taking-over-as-full-time-parents.html
25 My calculations from Census Bureau numbers available at: http://www.census.gov/population/socdemo/hh-fam/shp1.xls.
26 Cohen, Philip N. 2011. “Homogamy Unmodified.” Journal of Family Theory and Review 3:47-51.
27 The figure is my adaptation of a table from the Census Bureau available at: http://www.census.gov/hhes/families/data/cps2011.html.
28 Similarly, the Earth is heading toward being devoured by the Sun, but the details are still to be worked out. See: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=the-sun-will-eventually-engulf-earth-maybe.
29 “Autonomy, dependence, or display? The relationship between married women’s earnings and housework,” by Sanjiv Gupta, 2007, Journal of Marriage and Family 69(2): 399-417.
30 “Different Reasons, Different Results: Implications of Migration by Gender and Family Status,” by Claudia Geist and Patricia A. McManus, 20120, Demography 49(1): 197-217.
31 These calculations are from the 2008-2010 ACS microdata (see above).
32 “Women’s Marital Naming Choices in a Nationally Representative Sample,” by Gretchen E. Gooding and Rose M. Kreider, 2010, Journal of Family Issues 31(5):681-701.
33 History of Russell Corporation, Funding Universe. At, http://www.fundinguniverse.com/company-histories/russell-corporation-history/ (accessed October 5, 2012).
34 This detail is so riveting that Katie Roiphe copied it in her review, “Is this the end of men?” Financial Times Magazine, October 5, 2012. At, http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/2/e3e2482a-0cea-11e2-a73c-00144feabdc0.html (accessed October 5, 2012). However, in paraphrasing Rosin’s passage, Roiphe made the understandable error of assuming Mayor Young was elected in that year.
35 “Young wins mayor’s race.” Alex City Outlook, September 14, 2004. At, http://www.alexcityoutlook.com/2004/09/14/breaking-news-young-wins-mayors-race/ (accessed October 8, 2012).
36 “Political winds change.” Alex City Outlook, December 26, 2008. At, http://www.alexcityoutlook.com/2008/12/26/political-winds-change/ (accessed October 8, 2012).
37 Alexander City website, at http://www.alexandercityonline.com/council.html (accessed October 7, 2012).
38 “Shaw, Lamborne to face off.” Alex City Outlook. August 29, 2012. At, http://www.alexcityoutlook.com/2012/08/29/shaw-lamborne-to-face-off-oct-9/ (accessed October 8, 2012).
44 Auburn city government website, at, http://www.auburnalabama.org/Default.aspx?PageID=530 (accessed October 8, 2012).
45 Auburn University website, at, http://www.auburn.edu/administration/ (accessed October 8, 2012).
46 These numbers are from the ACS 5-year file for Lee County, Alabama, which includes Auburn.
47 The claim that sexual assault is “so low” it can’t be plotted, although nonsensical, jumps off the page into other media outlets. Thus, it was paraphrased in Esquire: “In parts of the United States, rapes have declined to such a low number that they can’t be charted.” Stephen Marche, “The Contempt of Women: The rise of men. And the whining of girls,” Esquire September 2012. At, http://www.esquire.com/features/thousand-words-on-culture/contempt-of-women-0912 (accessed October 7, 2012).
48 That is an ironic reference, because Sweden actually has very high (for Europe) rate of reported rape, which has been attributed to its broad definition and aggressive attempts at prosecution and data collection. See, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/25/world/europe/data-on-rape-in-eu-difficult-to-compare.html.
49 The sexual assault rates are here: http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2010/crime-in-the-u.s.-2010/tables/10tbl01.xls. This was the FBI definition: “the carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will. Attempts or assaults to commit rape by force or threat of force are also included; however, statutory rape (without force) and other sex offenses are excluded.” See, http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2010/crime-in-the-u.s.-2010/violent-crime/rapemain. That definition is in the process of being changed to include oral and anal penetration, as well as male victims, but data based on those changes aren’t reported yet. See, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/07/us/politics/federal-crime-statistics-to-expand-rape-definition.html.
51 The full list by metropolitan area is at, http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2010/crime-in-the-u.s.-2010/tables/table-6.
52European Sourcebook of Crime and Criminal Justice Statistics, at: http://europeansourcebook.org/ob285_full.pdf.
53 The quote is from my transcription. Audio for the segment, titled, “Is This the ‘End of Men’?”, is available at: http://www.kcrw.com/news/programs/tp/tp120914anti-american_protes.
54 Sam Tanenhaus, “Violence That Art Didn’t See Coming.” New York Times, February 24, 2010, at, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/28/arts/28bishop.html (accessed October 8, 2012).
55Arrest in The United States, 1980-2009, by Howard N. Snyder. Bureau of Justice Statistics (NCJ 234319), September 22, 2011, at, http://www.bjs.gov/index.cfm?ty=pbdetail&iid=2203 (accessed October 8, 2012).
56Criminal Victimization in the United States. Table 38: “Percent distribution of single-offender victimizations, by type of crime and perceived gender of offender,” at, http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/html/cvus/single_offender_victimizations298.cfm (accessed October 8, 2012).
57Homicide Trends in the U.S.: Trends by Gender. Bureau of Justice Statistics, at, http://www.bjs.gov/content/homicide/gender.cfm (accessed October 8, 2012).