To break glass ceilings, feminists of the past put career above
all else. But a new generation of feminists isn't willing to
sacrifice family for work. Instead, they're lobbying to make
workplaces more family friendly.
Last week, Representative Carolyn Maloney (D) of New York and
Senator Robert Menendez (D) of New Jersey reintroduced The Equal
Rights Amendment on the floor of Congress. This is not a startling
event - the bill has been introduced every session since 1972.
Maybe you're rolling your eyes at the mere mention of the ERA.
Isn't that a throwback to '70s feminism? Hey, you've come a long
way, baby. Don't we have enough gender equality already?
But anyone who thinks that is just wrong. Numbers released just
this May by the National Association of Colleges and Employers show
that women who are graduating from college this year will make 17
percent less than their male counterparts in their first jobs. And
that's before those pesky questions of family and career balance are
even on the table.
This is nothing new. A 2007 poll of Harvard graduating seniors
found that the median first-year base salary for males was $60,000
compared to $50,000 for females - a gender wage shortfall of about
17 percent for some of the most talented young women in America.
Over the course of a career, that gap can add up, meaning women miss
out on potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars of earnings.
Why women earn less than men five decades after Equal Employment
Opportunity laws goes to the heart of a misguided debate between two
different generations of women over a basic but profound question:
What is equality?
Feminists can have families
At the Yale campus where I'm a scholar, the junior female faculty
are circulating a petition for more university-funded childcare.
Some senior female faculty find that more than wishful thinking;
they question a decision to have babies at a vulnerable career
stage, when the emphasis should be on research and building
But even if those critics are right, how do we explain pay
differentials right out of college? The answer has to do with the
type of work people choose. Few graduating seniors from Ivy Leagues
are having babies, but more women than men stay away from careers
with punishing hours that undermine family time. Many women don't
even apply for jobs that seem incompatible with a normal family
life. In the 2007 Harvard study, over half of the gender wage gap
vanished when controlling for the reality that more men than women
chose careers in finance and IT where career success requires around-
the-clock time commitment.
Solutions to the family problem include subsidized and accessible
childcare, family-friendly working arrangements, and incentives for
fathers to take parenting as seriously as women. Economists Marianne
Bertrand, Claudia Goldin, and Lawrence Katz have shown that the
gender wage gap is narrower in group medical practices, in which
doctors can cover for one another's absences, than in the business
world where a key to success is the continuous cultivation of client
Wall Street law and banking is not only a man's world, it is a
world for men unburdened by family responsibilities. …