There I was, just about to write about a column about girl power and how well women are doing, when I was gobsmacked by a feature that popped up on AOL this past Sunday morning.
While I was thinking what a good week it was for women in a whole variety of ways–Condoleezza got promoted; Martha made millions while doing time at Camp Cupcake; Desperate Housewives proved that Chick-TV rules–Business Week Online was producing a long, poignant whine entitled, “You’ve Got A Long Way to Go, Baby,” based on a study just released by the left-leaning Institute for Women’s Policy Research. And AOL was treating it like up-to-the-minute late-breaking news.
Yes, in the very same week that Hillary Rodham Clinton tied on her Marathon-approved Nikes for a serious run to the White House, a Business Week reporter, following IWPR’s lead, was moaning that at the rate women are going, “closing the gender gap will take generations.”
Not if Hillary has anything to do with it (shudder, shudder). By the way, Hillary–using the opening of Bill’s library and the excuse of his not being up to early-morning interviews–seemed to be absolutely everywhere last week. One morning she and Katie Couric had an especially long, adoring chat-fest, looking ever so much like two chipmunks grooming each other.
And as for Condoleezza Rice, her remarkable achievement opened her to almost as much criticism from women as praise. We can disregard columnist Helen Bush-Is-a-Fascist Thomas calling her “a monster.” But then on Topic A with Tina Brown Professor Patricia Williams complained that it was all very nice for Condoleezza but her success story hardly counted. Why? Because she didn’t really represent the views of African-American women, as if all African-American women must have the very same liberal views. Rice was letting down her side, it seems, by being a rigorous and independent thinker. Of course, Tina didn’t challenge the obvious lack of tolerance in Professor Williams’s biased views.
But what’s in the IWPR report that paints such a gloomy picture of American women’s lives this Thanksgiving? Unfortunately, much of the same-old, same-old. For instance, that it will be “fifty years before women achieve equal pay with men,” and that currently women earn only “79 cents for every dollar men earn.”
Now I know this much-bandied-about statistic is flawed but I checked it out, once again, with Karlyn Bowman at the American Enterprise Institute. Karlyn told me, as she has before, that this wage-gap figure–so often used by women who like to maintain that members of their gender are still victims of an oppressive male hierarchy–simply does not compare like to like. It does not compare the wages of women in the same jobs, with the same skills, and the same years of experience to men with the same qualifications; rather, it compares men and women workers overall. When the comparisons are made more equitably the wage gap practically disappears. In fact, some recent reports note that young professional women not only earn as much as young professional men, but even earn slightly more.
The IWPR report also complains about women’s lack of political representation. “Females,” the report states, “have only 79 representatives in Congress out of a total of 535 seats.” But that may be more for lack of trying than discrimination. According to Karlyn Bowman, “women who run win just as often as men at every level of our politics.” She cited a well-known study by the National Women’s Political Caucus that concluded that a candidate’s sex does not affect his or her chances of winning general elections. And even IWPR’s report, so full of doom and gloom, noted some positive developments on the political front. For example, the number of women governors jumped from one to nine between 1996 and 2004. And as for that pesky wage gap, no matter how you analyze it, even IWPR had to concede that it’s improving. Commented the report: “The wage gap between women and men narrowed in every state, with West Virginia showing the most improvement.”
Let’s face it, most American women are feeling quite thankful this holiday season. Sure, they have concerns and fears but they are smart enough to know they are the healthiest, wealthiest, longest-lived women in history with more opportunities than women have ever had before. And they are making the most of those opportunities. All of IWPR’s grim statistics can be countered with terrifically positive ones about women’s lives.
Even though it isn’t a competition, right now there are more women in colleges than men and more women getting advanced degrees. Half of the managerial jobs spread out across the nation are now held by women. Half of all small businesses are owned by women, and women are starting their own businesses at a faster rate than men. Most important, a major reason America is the strongest, richest, most diverse nation on earth is that over the past 50 years, our country has fully utilized the creativity and productivity of women like nowhere else.
Most women in this country feel they are fortunate simply because they really are fortunate. Before you have a second helping of pumpkin pie, just ask the women sitting around the table at your Thanksgiving dinner and see whether they agree.
–Myrna Blyth, former long-time editor of Ladies Home Journal and founding editor of More, is author of Spin Sisters: How the Women of the Media Sell Unhappiness–and Liberalism–to the Women of America. Blyth is also an NRO contributor.