I'm delighted to bring a guest post from Gloria Feldt, former head of Planned Parenthood of America, currently on the board of the Women's Media Center and Jewish Women's Archive, co-author with Kathleen Turner of the NY Times best-selling Send Yourself Roses, and needless to say, feminist extraordinaire. Keep reading for Gloria's provoking questions on why barriers still remain for American women today. --Kristen
I am perplexed. I hope you can help me figure this out.
During the last 50 years, thanks to feminism and other civil rights movements, reliable birth control, and an economy that now requires more brain than brawn, women have broken many barriers that historically prevented them from partaking as equals at life’s table. But though we’ve smashed many corporate glass ceilings and marble barriers to political leadership, and now make up the majority of college students and graduates, women remain far from parity in any sphere of political or economic endeavor. For example, women hold just 16% of seats in Congress and 25% of state legislative offices ; 3% of clout positions in mainstream media corporations and 15% of corporate board positions. And despite gender equity laws and the separation of biology from reproductive destiny, women still earn approximately3/4ths of what men do while shouldering the lion’s share of responsibility for childrearing. These factors are interrelated, though they have usually been thought of as discrete problems, and that is one reason they still exist.
Still, it seems to me—and I am a second wave feminist who has seen many barriers fall, but I’m well aware of the many structural challenges women still face---that by far the most intractable problem facing women today is not that doors aren’t open, at least wide enough to give us the sense of possibilities, but that women aren’t walking through the open doors with intention sufficient to transform the workplace, politics, or relationships.
I am trying to figure out why we don’t seem to use all the power we have to change the system so that it works better for us. I’d like to know what you think. Here are just a few of the theories that have been advanced:
Women have less ambition than men.
Women have less motivation than men.
Women are more adverse to competition than men.
Women see these problems as individual ones rather than problems that women have in common, and therefore don’t join together as a political force to solve them.
Women do not negotiate compensation as aggressively as men.
Women are more turned off by the rough and tumble attacks of political campaigns than men are.
Do you think I’m simply all wet in my statement that women aren’t walking through the doors with intention sufficient to transform the workplace, politics, or relationships?
I know that many GWP readers are experts in various aspects of these questions, and even more important, all of you have a stake in bringing about greater equity and equality for women. What are your thoughts? What do you think is to be done about it? I am eager to hear from you.
Cross posted in part at Heartfeldt Politics Blog.