If a woman
has a sterling résumé, a supportive husband who speaks fluent car pool and a
nurturing boss who just happens to be one of the most powerful women in the
world herself, who or what is to blame if Ms. Supposed-to-Have-It-All still
cannot balance work and family?
A magazine article by a former Obama administration official has blown up into
an instant debate about a new conundrum of female success: women have greater
status than ever before in human history, even outpacing men in education, yet
the lineup at the top of most fields is still stubbornly male. Is that new
gender gap caused by women who give up too easily, unsympathetic employers or
just nature itself?
The article in The Atlantic, by Anne-Marie Slaughter, a Princeton professor who
recently left a job at the State Department, added to a renewed feminist
conversation that is bringing fresh twists to bear on longstanding concerns
about status, opportunity and family. Unlike earlier iterations, it is being led
not by agitators who are out of power, but by elite women at the top of their
fields, like the comedian Tina Fey, the Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg and
now Ms. Slaughter. In contrast to some earlier barrier-breakers from Gloria
Steinem to Condoleezza Rice, these women have children, along with husbands who
do as much child-rearing as they do, or more.
The conversation came to life in part because of a compelling face-off of issues
and personalities: Ms. Slaughter, who urged workplaces to change and women to
stop blaming themselves, took on Ms. Sandberg, who has somewhat unintentionally
come to epitomize the higher-harder-faster school of female achievement.
Starting a year and a half ago, Ms. Sandberg, chief operating officer of
Facebook, injected new energy into the often circular work-or-home debate with
videotaped talks that became Internet sensations. After bemoaning the lack of
women in top business positions, she instructed them to change their lot
themselves by following three rules: require your partner to do half the work at
home, don’t underestimate your own abilities, and don’t cut back on ambition out
of fear that you won’t be able to balance work and children.
The talks transformed Ms. Sandberg from little-known executive to the new face
of female achievement, earning her untold letters and speaking invitations,
along with micro-inspection of her life for clues to career success. She hired a
sociologist, Marianne Cooper, to help her get the research and data right. When
Ms. Sandberg confessed in a recent interview that, contrary to her work-hound
reputation, she leaves work at 5:30 p.m. to eat dinner with her children, and
returns to a computer later, she earned yet another round of attention, and her
words were taken as the working-mom equivalent of a papal ruling.
But her advice also spurred quiet skepticism: by putting even more pressure on
women to succeed, was she, even unintentionally, blaming the victim if they did
Enter Ms. Slaughter’s article, posted Wednesday night, in which she described a
life that looked like a feminist diorama from the outside (a mother and top
policy adviser for Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton) but was
accompanied by domestic meltdown (workweeks spent in a different state than her
family, a rebellious teenage son to whom she had little time to attend). As she
questioned whether her job in Washington was doable and at what cost, she began
hearing from younger women who complained about advice like Ms. Sandberg’s.
“Women of my generation have clung to the feminist credo we were raised with ...
because we are determined not to drop the flag for the next generation,” Ms.
Slaughter wrote. “But when many members of the younger generation have stopped
listening, on the grounds that glibly repeating ‘you can have it all’ is simply
airbrushing reality, it is time to talk.”
“Although couched in terms of encouragement, Sandberg’s exhortation contains
more than a note of reproach,” Ms. Slaughter continued, an insinuation of
“What’s the matter with you?’”
Instead, Ms. Slaughter said, the workplace needs to adapt, and women who opt out
have no need to apologize.
In an interview, Ms. Slaughter added that she was motivated to write in part by
her concern about the number of women serving in high posts under President
Obama — and now that the first round of female appointees is leaving, she said,
they are mostly being replaced by men. “I don’t think there is sufficient
appreciation across the administration as a whole of the different circumstances
facing women and men,” she said.
Unlike in earlier eras, when Germaine Greer would publish one book and then
Betty Friedan would weigh in months later, a new crop of feminist bloggers and
writers now respond instantaneously. The women they were writing about followed
along in real time on Thursday as well, reading the debate as they were living
it, inhaling Ms. Slaughter’s article and the responses as they stole a few
minutes from work or raced off to pick up their children. By Thursday afternoon,
Ms. Slaughter’s confession-slash-manifesto was breaking readership records for
The Atlantic’s Web site, according to a magazine representative.
Many responded with enthusiasm for Ms. Slaughter’s recommendations (more
latitude to work at home, career breaks, matching work schedules to school
schedules, even freezing eggs). Some defended Ms. Sandberg or expressed
solidarity with their husbands, who they said feel just as much work-life agita
as they do. More than a few said they were irritated by what they called
outdated language (“having it all”) and a clichéd cover illustration (Baby,
check. Briefcase, check).
“Irresponsibly conflating liberation with satisfaction, the ‘have it all’
formulation sets an impossible bar for female success and then ensures that when
women fail to clear it, it’s feminism — as opposed to persistent gender inequity
— that’s to blame,” Rebecca Traister wrote in an article on Salon.com.
For her part, Ms. Sandberg remained silent, declining a request to address the
Atlantic article. But Ms. Slaughter said in an interview that the Silicon Valley
executive was one of the many readers who e-mailed her as soon as the article
came out. Her message: they had to talk more about this, and soon.
September 27, 2010
The New York Times
By CATHERINE RAMPELL
Women made little progress in climbing into management positions in this
country even in the boom years before the financial crisis, according to a
report to be released on Tuesday by the Government Accountability Office.
As of 2007, the latest year for which comprehensive data on managers was
available, women accounted for about 40 percent of managers in the United States
work force. In 2000, women held 39 percent of management positions. Outside of
management, women held 49 percent of the jobs in both years.
Across the work force, the gap between what men and women earn has shrunk over
the last few decades. Full-time women workers closed the gap to 80.2 cents for
every dollar earned by men in 2009, up from just 62.3 cents in 1979. Much of
this persistent wage gap, however, can be explained by what kinds of jobs the
sexes are drawn to, whether by choice or opportunity.
The new report, commissioned by the Joint Economic Council of Congress, tries to
make a better comparison by looking at men versus women in a specific industry
and in similar jobs, and also controlling for differences like education levels
and age. On average, female managers had less education, were younger and were
more likely to be working part time than their male counterparts.
In all but three of the 13 industries covered by the report, women had a smaller
share of management positions than they did of that industry’s overall work
force. The sectors where women were more heavily represented in management than
outside of it were construction, public administration and transportation and
Across the industries, the gender gap in managers’ pay narrowed slightly over
the last decade, even after adjusting for demographic differences. Female
full-time managers earned 81 cents for every dollar earned by male full-time
managers in 2007, compared with 79 cents in 2000.
This varied by industry, with the pay gap being the narrowest in public
administration, where female managers earned 87 cents for every dollar paid to
male managers. It was widest in construction and in financial services, where
women earned 78 percent of what men were paid after adjustments.
Across the work force, the pay gap was also slightly wider for managers who had
Managers who were mothers earned 79 cents of every dollar paid to managers who
were fathers, after adjusting for things like age and education. This gap has
stayed the same since at least 2000.
The greater toll that parenthood appears to take on women’s paychecks may help
explain why, generally speaking, female managers are less likely to have
children than their male counterparts.
In 2007, 63 percent of female managers were childless, compared with just 57
percent of male managers. Of those managers who did have children, men on
average had more children than their women counterparts.
Female managers were also less likely to be married than male managers, at rates
of 59 percent versus 74 percent, respectively.
It is difficult to determine why a wage gap exists between female and male
managers, and to what extent these differences might be because of
discrimination or other factors, like hours clocked. The new G.A.O. report, for
example, does not try to control for hours worked, beyond broad categories like
full-time or part-time status.
The report was prepared at the request of Representative Carolyn B. Maloney,
Democrat of New York and the chairwoman of the Joint Economic Committee, for a
hearing on Tuesday on the gender gap in management jobs. The findings were based
on an analysis of data from the American Community Survey of the Census Bureau.
“When working women have kids, they know it will change their lives, but they
are stunned at how much it changes their paycheck,” Ms. Maloney said of the
report. “In this economy, it is adding insult to injury, especially as families
are increasingly relying on the wages of working moms.”
During the recession that began in December 2007 and ended in the summer of 2009
— generally after the data contained in this new report — men generally bore the
brunt of job losses because of the types of industries. It is still unclear how
management positions might have shifted or whether women were affected
differently by that.
September, 21, 2010
The New York Times
By CHRISTINA HOFF SOMMERS
AMONG the top items left on the Senate’s to-do list before the November
elections is a “paycheck fairness” bill, which would make it easier for women to
file class-action, punitive-damages suits against employers they accuse of
sex-based pay discrimination.
The bill’s passage is hardly certain, but it has received strong support from
women’s rights groups, professional organizations and even President Obama, who
has called it “a common-sense bill.”
But the bill isn’t as commonsensical as it might seem. It overlooks mountains of
research showing that discrimination plays little role in pay disparities
between men and women, and it threatens to impose onerous requirements on
employers to correct gaps over which they have little control.
The bill is based on the premise that the 1963 Equal Pay Act, which bans sex
discrimination in the workplace, has failed; for proof, proponents point out
that for every dollar men earn, women earn just 77 cents.
But that wage gap isn’t necessarily the result of discrimination. On the
contrary, there are lots of other reasons men might earn more than women,
including differences in education, experience and job tenure.
When these factors are taken into account the gap narrows considerably — in some
studies, to the point of vanishing. A recent survey found that young, childless,
single urban women earn 8 percent more than their male counterparts, mostly
because more of them earn college degrees.
Moreover, a 2009 analysis of wage-gap studies commissioned by the Labor
Department evaluated more than 50 peer-reviewed papers and concluded that the
aggregate wage gap “may be almost entirely the result of the individual choices
being made by both male and female workers.”
In addition to differences in education and training, the review found that
women are more likely than men to leave the workforce to take care of children
or older parents. They also tend to value family-friendly workplace policies
more than men, and will often accept lower salaries in exchange for more
benefits. In fact, there were so many differences in pay-related choices that
the researchers were unable to specify a residual effect due to discrimination.
Some of the bill’s supporters admit that the pay gap is largely explained by
women’s choices, but they argue that those choices are skewed by sexist
stereotypes and social pressures. Those are interesting and important points,
worthy of continued public debate.
The problem is that while the debate proceeds, the bill assumes the answer: it
would hold employers liable for the “lingering effects of past discrimination” —
“pay disparities” that have been “spread and perpetuated through commerce.”
Under the bill, it’s not enough for an employer to guard against intentional
discrimination; it also has to police potentially discriminatory assumptions
behind market-driven wage disparities that have nothing to do with sexism.
Universities, for example, typically pay professors in their business schools
more than they pay those in the school of social work, citing market forces as
the justification. But according to the gender theory that informs this bill,
sexist attitudes led society to place a higher value on male-centered fields
like business than on female-centered fields like social work.
The bill’s language regarding these “lingering effects” is vague, but that’s the
problem: it could prove a legal nightmare for even the best-intentioned
employers. The theory will be elaborated in feminist expert testimony when cases
go to trial, and it’s not hard to imagine a media firestorm developing from it.
Faced with multimillion-dollar lawsuits and the attendant publicity, many
innocent employers would choose to settle.
The Paycheck Fairness bill would set women against men, empower trial lawyers
and activists, perpetuate falsehoods about the status of women in the workplace
and create havoc in a precarious job market. It is 1970s-style gender-war
feminism for a society that should be celebrating its success in substantially,
if not yet completely, overcoming sex-based workplace discrimination.
Christina Hoff Sommers
is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise
September 22, 2009
The New York Times
By JAMES DAO
FORT JACKSON, S.C. — It may come as no surprise that the Army’s new top drill
sergeant idolizes Gen. George S. Patton Jr., has jumped out of planes 33 times,
aces every physical training test and drives a black Corvette with “noslack”
But consider this: the sergeant is a woman.
On Tuesday, the Army will make Command Sgt. Maj. Teresa L. King, 48, commandant
of its drill sergeant school here. It is a first. No woman has run one of the
Army’s rigorous schools for drill instructors.
Petite yet imposing, Sergeant Major King seems a drill sergeant at heart, ever
vigilant for busted rules: soldiers nodding off in class, soldiers with hair a
fraction too long, soldiers who run too slow.
“Are you crazy?” she shouts at one who is walking across a lawn. “Get off my
The eighth of 12 children, the sergeant major is the daughter of a sharecropper
who grew cucumbers and tobacco near Fort Bragg, N.C. Her first job in the Army
was as a postal clerk, a traditional position for women in those days.
She says she regrets not having been deployed to a war zone during her 29-year
Army career, though she has trained many soldiers who were. And now, in her new
job, she will have significant influence over the basic training of every
Last year the Army consolidated several drill schools into a single campus at
this sprawling post, meaning Sergeant Major King, with her staff of 78
instructors, will oversee drill sergeant training for the entire Army.
Famous for their Smokey Bear hats, booming voices and no-nonsense demeanor,
those sergeants transform tens of thousands of raw recruits into soldiers each
year. It is one of the backbone jobs of the military, and having a woman in
charge underscores the expanding role of women in the Army’s leadership.
But Sergeant Major King’s ascension is also a reminder of the limits of gender
integration in the military. Just 8 percent of the active-duty Army’s
highest-ranking enlisted soldiers — sergeants major and command sergeants major
— are women, though more than 13 percent of Army personnel are female.
In particular, the Army has struggled to recruit women as drill sergeants,
citing pregnancy, long hours and the prohibition against women serving in
frontline combat positions as reasons. Sergeant Major King said one of her
priorities would be to recruit more women into her school.
But she pushes back at the notion that she has risen because she is a woman.
“When I look in the mirror, I don’t see a female,” Sergeant Major King said. “I
see a soldier.”
As a child, she refused her mother’s cooking lessons, insisting on driving her
father’s tractor and playing basketball instead. When her siblings got in
trouble, she volunteered to take their spankings.
It was the sight of a commanding-looking female soldier in a stylish red beret
at the fort that inspired her to enlist while still in high school. Within three
years, she was sent to drill sergeant school, graduating as one of five women in
a class of 30.
Willie Shelley, a retired command sergeant major who supervised Sergeant Major
King in three postings, said that he once promoted her over the objections of
his commander into a position at Fort Bragg that had been held only by men.
“Turns out she was about the best first sergeant they ever had,” Mr. Shelley
said. “It would not surprise me that she could become the first female sergeant
major of the Army,” he added, referring to its top enlisted soldier.
In her clipped speaking style, acute command of regulations and visible disgust
with slovenliness, Sergeant Major King prowls the grounds of Fort Jackson, where
she was the top noncommissioned officer for a human resources battalion before
being promoted to commandant.
“She can always find the cigarette butt under the mattress,” said Patrick J.
Jones, a public affairs officer at Fort Jackson. Respect for rules and
dedication to training is what keeps soldiers alive in combat, Sergeant Major
King says, and she expects drill sergeants to embody that ethic 24 hours a day.
“Most soldiers want to be like their drill sergeants,” she said. “They are the
Yet for all her gruffness, she can show surprising tenderness toward her
charges. She describes her soldiers as “my children” and her approach to
disciplining them as “tough love.” She wells up with emotion while describing
how she once hugged a burly master sergeant whose wife had left him.
“She is confident, no nonsense, but compassionate about what’s right for the
soldier,” said Col. John E. Bessler, her commander in a basic training battalion
four years ago.
After a stint as a drill sergeant in her early 20s, Sergeant Major King went
through a series of rapid promotions: aide to the secretary of defense, then
Dick Cheney; senior enlisted positions near the demilitarized zone in Korea;
with the XVIII Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg; and at NATO headquarters in Europe.
For a time in her 30s, she was married to another soldier. She got pregnant but
lost the baby, and eventually divorced. The failure of her marriage, she said,
brought on a period of soul-searching that led her to study the Bible. She was
planning to retire and join the ministry when her appointment to the drill
sergeant school was announced over the summer.
“On the other side, the military life, I was doing so good,” she said. “But my
personal life just stunk.” Since her divorce, she added, “I just pour my heart
into these soldiers.”
Looking back on her years in the Army, Sergeant Major King says she can think of
few occasions where men challenged her authority because she was a woman. “And
when they did,” she said, “I could handle it.”
Asked if women should be allowed into frontline combat units, she said yes, but
only if they meet the same standards as men.
While she says most women cannot meet those standards, she believes she can. As
if to prove her point, she scored a perfect 300 on her semiannual physical
training test last week, doing 34 push-ups and 66 situps, each in under two
minutes, then ran two miles in 16 minutes 10 seconds (well below the required
17:36 for her age group.)
But before she started her test, she characteristically noticed something amiss.
“Can you believe that?” the sergeant major asked no one in particular. “A bag of
garbage outside my Dumpster.”
The glass ceiling is still holding back 6,000 women from the top 33,000 jobs
in Britain, according to new research from the Equal Opportunities Commission.
Thirty years after the introduction of the Sex Discrimination Act, women are
"woefully under-represented" in the country's boardrooms, politics and courts,
Help from nannies has not enabled successful women to maintain their careers
after having children, the research suggests. The EOC blames a male-dominated
culture in the professions for resistance to flexible working.
The upward trend in the proportion of women in top jobs is "painfully slow", the
report says, and in some sectors there is even a decline. The proportion of
women in parliament has slipped in the 12 months since the EOC's last Sex and
Power survey and is now at 19.5% - lower than in Iraq, Afghanistan and Rwanda.
Despite the successes of women such as Clara Furse, chief executive of the
London Stock Exchange, and Lady Clark of Calton, who is only one of four female
senior judges currently serving, the proportion of women directors of top 100
FTSE companies has dipped to 10.4%, and of female judges to 9.8%.
Jenny Watson, chair of the EOC, said: "Today's troubling findings show just how
slow the pace of change has been in powerful British institutions. They suggest
it's time not just to send out the headhunters to find some of those 'missing
women', but to address the barriers that stand in their way. Thirty years on
from the Sex Discrimination Act, women rightly expect to share power. But as our
survey shows, that's not the reality.
"We all pay the price when Britain's boardrooms and elected chambers are
unrepresentative. Our democracy and local communities will be stronger if women
from different backgrounds are able to enjoy an equal voice. In business, no one
can afford to fish in half the talent pool in today's intensely competitive
In total, the commission identified 33,000 of the country's most influential
jobs in the private sector, politics, the legal system and the public sector. To
achieve a representative proportion, 6,000 more of those jobs would have to be
filled by women, it said.
At the current rate of improvement it would take 20 years to achieve equality in
the civil service, 40 years in the judiciary and 60 years among FTSE 100
companies. But it would take 200 years - at least another 40 elections - to
achieve an equal number of MPs in parliament. The proportion in the Scottish
assembly is nearly 40% and in Wales the figure is 51.7%. The EOC said it was an
argument for parties to use all-women shortlists, as in Wales.
But figures for women from ethnic minorities are worse. There are only two black
women MPs, four non-white top 100 FTSE directors and nine top civil servants
from ethnic minority backgrounds.
"Ethnic minority women are still largely invisible in public life and this has
to change if we want our communities to thrive," the report says.
The research suggests that women are experiencing the same barriers to getting
the jobs they want as women in lower paid jobs. The pay gap between men and
women is 3.7% in their 20s, rising to 10.7% for thirtysomethings, a change which
is largely attributed to the impact of childbirth on women's earnings. The same
is not true for men who become fathers.
Female workers in the UK suffer one of the biggest pay gaps in Europe - 17% for
full-time staff and 38% for part-time - because they are more likely to be in
low-paid jobs and then slip further down the career ladder after having
children, the Women and Work Commission found last year.
Ms Watson said that women were getting higher up the career ladder but having
children still prevented them from getting the top jobs.
"Asking for flexible working still spells career death for too many women in
today's workplace, and as a consequence women with caring responsibilities all
too often have to 'trade down' to keep working. Extending the right to ask for
flexible working to everyone in the workplace would change that culture and
enable more women to reach the top," she said.
Katherine Rake, director of the Fawcett Society, which campaigns for equal
rights, said: "This demonstrates how much of a male preserve power remains in
the UK. If decisions are only being taken by one group of the population they
will not reflect the lives of ordinary people. It proves beyond a doubt that
life at the top is white and male."
The annual report is the last from the EOC, which is due to be amalgamated with
the Commission for Racial Equality and the Disability Rights Commission from
next year into a new body called the Commission for Equality and Human Rights.
There have been concerns that the women's rights agenda could be sidelined in
the new body, which will be headed by Trevor Phillips, current chair of the CRE.
"There is so much more to be done. This demonstrates that we haven't solved the
problem of sex discrimination," said Ms Watson.