A Long Way to Go, Baby

Article excerpt

Byline: Leslie Bennetts

The stubborn gender gap

When a congressional committee hearing presented an all-male panel of witnesses to discuss female contraception last month, Rep. Carolyn Maloney made news by demanding, "Where are the women?"

Nearly 50 years after the modern women's movement began, such omissions remain common--and yet many people assume the battle for equality is largely over. "Perfectly nice guys will say to me, 'You must be so happy you've won!'" reports Gloria Steinem. "I say, 'But are you working for a woman?' And they look appalled."

In fact, the allocation of power remains stunningly lopsided, from politics and business to academia, law, and religion. "We have fallen into what I call the 16 percent ghetto, which is that if you look at any sector, be it aerospace engineering, Hollywood films, higher education, or Fortune 500 leading positions, women max out at roughly 16 percent," said Barnard College president Debora Spar at a White House conference on urban economic development last month. "That is a crime, and it is a waste of incredible talent."

Although young women now earn more college and graduate degrees than men do, they soon fall behind professionally. "In management, women account for about a third of M.B.A. classes, but only 2 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs, 6 percent of top earners, 8 percent of top leadership positions, and 16 percent of board directors and corporate officers," reported Deborah Rhode and Barbara Kellerman in their book Women and Leadership. "While we've made enormous progress in encouraging women to assume traditional men's roles, we haven't made comparable progress in encouraging men to take on traditional women's roles," says Rhode, director of the Stanford Center on the Legal Profession. …