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Contents (download chapters)
By Heather Boushey and Ann O’Leary
This report describes how a woman’s nation changes everything about how we live and work today. Now for the first time in our nation’s history, women are half of all U.S. workers and mothers are the primary breadwinners or co-breadwinners in nearly two-thirds of American families. This is a dramatic shift from just a generation ago (in 1967 women made up only one-third of all workers). It changes how women spend their days and has a ripple effect that reverberates throughout our nation. It fundamentally changes how we all work and live, not just women but also their families, their co-workers, their bosses, their faith institutions, and their communities.
Quite simply, women as half of all workers changes everything.
Recognizing the importance of women’s earnings to family well-being is the key piece to understanding why we are in a transformational moment. This social transformation is affecting nearly every aspect of our lives—from how we work to how we play to how we care for one another. Yet, we, as a nation, have not come to terms with what this means. In this report, we break new ground by taking a hard look at how women’s changing roles affect our major societal institutions, from government and businesses to our faith communities. We outline how these institutions rely on outdated models of who works and who cares for our families. And we examine how our culture has responded to one of the greatest social transformations of our time.
Our findings should not be surprising to working men and women. Today, four-in-five families with children still at home are not the traditional male breadwinner, female homemaker. And women are increasingly becoming their family’s breadwinner or co-breadwinner (see Figures 1 and 2). The deep economic downturn is amplifying and accelerating this trend. Men have lost three-out-of-four jobs so far since the Great Recession began in December 2007, leaving millions of wives to bring home the bacon while their husbands search for work. Women working outside the home, however, is not a short-term blip. This is a long-term trend that shows no signs of reversing.
Although our report is titled “A Woman’s Nation Changes Everything,” this is not just a woman’s story. This is a report about how women becoming half of workers changes everything for men, women, and their families. The Rockefeller/Time nationwide poll, conducted in early September as the chapters of the report were being finalized, finds that the battle of the sexes is over and is replaced by negotiations between the sexes about work, family, household responsibilities, child care, and elder care. Yet, while men generally accept women working and making more money, men and women both express concern about kids left behind. Whose job is it? Men and women agree that government and business are out of touch with the realties of how most families live and work today. Families need more flexible work schedules, comprehensive child care policies, redesigned family and medical leave, and equal pay. The aim of this report is to take this conversation up to the national level, to engage men and women in thinking about what this new reality means for our vision of ourselves, our families, our communities, and the government, social, and religious institutions around us.
In short, this report lays the groundwork for how our society can better support the new American worker and the new American family.
The chapters in this report examine a host of ways in which our lives have changed forever because women have entered the labor force in ever greater numbers. The policy implications vary from issue to issue, but the conclusions are clear: We need to rethink our assumptions about families and about work and focus our policies—at all levels—to address this new reality.
Clearly we aren’t going back to a time when women were available full time to be their families’ unpaid caretakers, so we need to find another way forward. This report builds on the decades of work on these issues and aims to spark a national conversation and attract the attention of policymakers and political leaders to focus on the implications of this transformation for our society.
Maria Shriver opens our report with A Woman’s Nation. Her chapter describes the unique ways the Shriver and CAP teams approached this complex set of topics. She details how together we took a “deep dive” into how our culture and our society are responding to changes in women’s dual roles in the workforce and in the family. Shriver takes a historical look at the transformation of the American woman since her uncle, President John F. Kennedy, asked First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt to chair the first Commission on the Status of Women in 1961. Shriver connects this overarching social shift to the most consistent roles of her life and of most women’s lives—the roles of daughter and mother. As our country reshapes the face of its workforce, Shriver reminds us that the struggles of the women before us opened the doors for us to guide the next generation of young women through.
In her chapter, Shriver also describes the conversations she conducted with everyday Americans around the nation, discovering that men and women are indeed negotiating everything—from the daily struggle over whether the husband or wife will drop off their child at school in the morning to major life decisions about whether a family will relocate to further one spouse’s career even if it hampers the other’s. You’ll find quotes from these conversations highlighted between the different chapters of this report—insights that bring to life the equally telling analysis of how we work and live today. And alongside our chapters is a collection of essays that Maria Shriver and her team gathered from an intriguing array of women and men, among them Oprah Winfrey, Billie Jean King, Suze Orman, Patricia Kempthorne, and Tammy Duckworth; less famous but equally insightful individuals such as Col. Maritza Sáenz Ryan, First Gentleman of Michigan Dan Mulhern and Accel Partners’ Sukhinder Singh Cassidy; and everyday Americans at the forefront of these monumental changes in our society like Gianna Le, a young Vietnamese-American seeking to enter medical school this year. This chapter captures these insights and matches them to the analysis in the report to sharply define these personal experiences on the larger canvas of our changing nation.
The New Breadwinners, by Heather Boushey, Center for American Progress senior economist, explores the economic underpinnings of the transformation of women’s work. This chapter homes in on who’s gone to work, where women are working, why they are working, how well they are coping, and what this means for the economic well-being of women and their families. The chapter finds that while women are now half of workers and mothers are breadwinners or co-breadwinners in the majority of families, institutions have failed to catch up to this reality. Women have made great strides and are now more likely to be economically responsible for themselves and their families, but there is a still a long way to go. Equality in the workplace has not yet been achieved, even as families need women’s equality now more than ever.
Family Friendly for All Families: Workers and caregivers need government policies that reflect today’s realities, by Ann O’Leary, Center for American Progress senior fellow and executive director of the Berkeley Center for Health, Economic & Family Security at the University of California Berkeley School of Law, and Karen Kornbluh, former visiting fellow at the Center for American Progress, explores the implications of women in the workplace for government policy affecting workers and caregivers. O’Leary and Kornbluh argue that we need to reevaluate the values and assumptions underlying our nation’s workplace policies and social insurance system to ensure that they reflect the actual—not outdated or imagined—ways that families work and care today.
Up until now, government policymakers largely focused on supporting women’s entry into a male-oriented workforce on a par with men—a workplace where policies on hours, pay, benefits, and leave time were designed around male breadwinners who presumably had no family caregiving responsibilities. But allowing women to play by the same rules as a traditional male breadwinner worker is not enough. Too many workers—especially women and low-wage workers—today simply cannot work in the way traditional breadwinners once worked with a steady job and lifelong marriage with a wife at home.
O’Leary and Kornbluh suggest that a fruitful way for government to address this new economic and social reality would be to update our basic labor standards to include family-friendly employee benefits and reform our anti-discrimination laws so that employers cannot disproportionately exclude women from workplace benefits. Their chapter also argues that we need to modernize our social insurance system to account for varied families and new family responsibilities, including the need for paid family leave and social security retirement benefits that take into account time spent out of the workforce caring for children and other relatives. O’Leary and Kornbluh close with suggestions for increasing support to families for child care, early education, and elder care in order to help working parents cope with their dual responsibilities.
Next is a reflective essay, Invisible Yet Essential: Immigrant women in America, by Maria Echaveste, Center for American Progress senior fellow and senior distinguished fellow at the Warren Institute at University of California Berkeley School of Law. This chapter focuses in on how we often overlook the crucial work—child and parental care, home maintenance, food production, and cleaning—once done by the unpaid wives of male breadwinners but which is now the work of immigrant women. These hardworking immigrant women have helped make possible other women’s mass entry into the workforce. Echaveste points out that our economy is increasingly based on a growing service-sector industry, which in turn challenges all of us to value the work of the millions of immigrant women performing these services. Indeed, she concludes that the work these women do will be necessary regardless of how high-tech our economy becomes. They can no longer be ignored.
Sick and Tired: Working women and their health, by Jessica Arons, director of the Women’s Health and Rights Program at the Center for American Progress, and Northwestern University law professor Dorothy Roberts, explores the implications of women working and earning the family income on women’s health, as well as women’s access to employer-based and private health insurance. They find that women’s breadwinning has not always come with greater access to health benefits and, too often, women’s health is compromised as they combine work and family responsibilities. As more women work, the authors note that we are developing a greater understanding of the health implications for women and their families—everything from inequitable job conditions and workplace health hazards to the timing of when women become mothers. Further, they highlight how our current health insurance system, centered as it is on employer-sponsored insurance, fails women in a variety of ways.
Better Educating Our New Breadwinners: Creating opportunities for all women to succeed in the workforce, by professor and former dean of University of California Berkeley’s graduate division Mary Ann Mason, explores the implications for our education system, focusing on post-secondary education. She finds that women have made great advances in educational attainment, yet there is still clear evidence that women face barriers within our educational institutions. Further, even when women receive the same degrees as men, they continue to face lower wages and fewer high-paying job prospects due to inflexible and unsupportive work environments.
Mason examines both sides of this gender coin. Women receive 52 percent of high school diplomas, 62 percent of associate’s degrees, 57 percent of bachelor’s degrees and 50 percent of doctoral degrees and professional degrees. But three problems persist. First, not all women have gained access to post-secondary education. Hispanic women, for example, lag far behind their counterparts. Second, women remain concentrated in the “helping” professions of health and education and are falling behind in entering the higher-paying fields of the future, including science, mathematics, engineering, and technology. Finally, more women with family responsibilities are attending all levels of post-secondary education, but they need family-friendly support to get their degrees (just as all workers need businesses to respond to the fact that our highly-educated workforce necessarily combines work and care). Mason recommends that policymakers focus on these three problems and offers some solutions to help them do so, including increasing family-friendly environments in our educational institutions and increasing compliance with Title IX with regard to science, engineering, mathematics, and technology at all post-secondary levels.
Got Talent? It Isn’t Hard to Find: Recognizing and rewarding the value women create in the workplace, by Brad Harrington, professor of organization studies and executive director of the Center for Work & Family at the Carroll School of Management at Boston College, and Jamie Ladge, assistant professor of management and organizational development at Northeastern University, point out that women make up half the talent that is available to corporate America and small businesses. The authors argue that women’s outstanding performance in educational institutions, especially in higher educational and professional schools, demands that employers create workplaces that attract, retain, develop, and exploit (in the best sense of the word) this tremendous resource. They detail, however, that the vast majority of employers need to let go of outdated models such as thinking that there is only one place that work gets done, one way to structure a workday, one model for the ideal career, and one leadership style that works in today’s workplace.
Harrington and Ladge show that flexible work arrangements, flexible career paths, and new leadership styles better meet the needs of today’s diverse workforce as well as today’s flexible and fast-changing economic environment. They argue these new work policies should not be perks for only a chosen few. All workers need policies that meet the changed realities of work and family, not just elite workers. In short, the conversation is no longer about whether women will work, but rather about how businesses are dealing with the fact that their workforce is increasingly made up of women and most workers today—men and women—share in at least some care responsibilities.
The Challenge of Faith: Bringing spiritual sustenance to busy lives, by Kimberly Morgan, associate professor of political science and international affairs at The George Washington University, and Sally Steenland, senior policy advisor for the Faith and Progressive Policy project at the Center for American Progress, explore the ongoing role of religion and spirituality in women’s lives. They ask how traditional faith communities and new organizational forms of spirituality have responded to women’s increased employment outside the home. Their conclusion? Women are struggling to find the time for religious involvement amid the responsibilities of job and family, which in turn means religious institutions need to adapt to these new realities—especially as the support and services that organized religion provides become more important than ever.
Morgan and Steenland note that some congregations have actively engaged with today’s new realities, providing increased services that address the challenges for families that no longer have an adult who remains outside the labor force. Yet others have not, and in many cases while women have entered boardrooms and are leading companies, faith institutions have been slow to incorporate women into their leadership. Morgan and Steenland suggest several ways for faith and spiritual communities to better engage with today’s busy women.
University of Michigan communications professor Susan Douglas then shows us in Where Have You Gone, Roseanne Barr? how the media that we’re surrounded by every day have in some ways overshot reality and in many ways not caught up on the way women work and live in our society today. The mainstream media outlets often suggest that women have “made it,” portraying women as successful executives at the top of every profession, yet in real life there are far too few women among the highest ranks of the professions, and millions of everyday women struggle to make ends meet and to juggle work and family. Douglas suggests women need to challenge these misleading portraits with facts, vigor, and humor.
Douglas’s provocative chapter is accompanied by an essay titled Sexy Socialization: Today’s media and the next generation of women, by Stacy L. Smith, a fellow at the Center for Communication Leadership and Policy at the Annenberg School of Communications, and two of her colleagues, Cynthia Kennard, a senior fellow at the Center, and Amy D. Granados, a policy analyst at Annenberg. The three authors highlight what today’s 8-to-19-year-olds are taking in about the role of men and women in the workplace and society through the lens of various media, focusing on how troubling male and female sexual stereotypes could affect the life and career choices of our next generation. The authors express concern about the future of women breadwinners in the coming decades because of these stereotypes, but hold out hope that the media industry itself will change as more women rise within its ranks or launch new media outlets on their own.
Our report then shifts focus to a series of chapters and essays that we hope will get people talking about all of our analytical research. In Has a Man’s World Become a Woman’s Nation?,Michael Kimmel, sociology professor at the State University of New York, Stonybrook, surveys the varied responses that men have had to women’s entry into the workforce and to losing the title of sole breadwinner. He finds that most men have chosen the path toward acceptance of greater gender equality and often relish the extra earnings women bring into the family—but that some groups of men continue to struggle with the idea of widespread employment of women and mothers as it has made them question their very notion of masculinity.
Above all, though, Kimmel finds that while both men and women want the kind of support that makes it possible to have a dual-earner, dual-caregiver family, these issues are more often misperceived as only “women’s issues” in Washington and statehouses around the nation. Men need family-friendly policies so that they can have the sorts of family relationships they say they want to have, as well as careers that enable them to work and live better in our changing 21st-century economy. Kimmel closes his chapter with a call for men to rally behind efforts to make it better for women and men together to work and live in our changing economy and society, not rely on women alone to do so.
Next, we learn that negotiating around the kitchen table can be good for your marriage. In her reflective essay, Sharing the Load , Evergreen State College sociologist Stephanie Coontz provides evidence that the most stable, high-quality marriages are those where men and women share both paid work and domestic work. This is a shift from generations ago when the most stable marriages were those where husbands specialized in paid work and wives did all the domestic work.
In this section we also include two concluding reflective essays, one by senior correspondent for The American Prospect Courtney E. Martin and the other by political strategist and media consultant Jamal Simmons. They explore what it all means for today’s generations of women and men who grew up in a world that was less likely to question the desirability of the equality of women but understands that does not yet mean true equality.
Simmons focuses on how the woman you commit to today may have the same name and social security number as the woman you are with tomorrow, but she may want completely different things in her life at different times throughout your lives together. For him, the rules seem to be maddeningly flexible. Martin notes that the women (and men) of her generation have come of age at a time when feminist values are simply in the water. But she argues that we need comprehensive policy reform that reflects an accurate picture of the workers and families as we really are, not as we imagine ourselves to be. She closes by saying that “It’s a good thing we’ve been so pumped up on post-gender idealism, because there are some big battles ahead.”
To gauge just how representative these conversations and observations are of actual conditions in American homes and workplaces, we close the report with a hot-off-the-press landmark nationwide poll. This Rockefeller/Time poll of 3,413 people nationwide takes a broad and deep look at what men and women think of their changing roles in society and their attitudes toward each other as spouses, parents, bosses, and co-workers. Center for American Progress fellows John Halpin and Ruy Texiera, Kelly Daley with global research company Abt SRBI Inc., and former Los Angeles Times pollster Susan Pinkus conducted, analyzed, and then concisely summarized the poll findings for us in their chapter Battle of the Sexes Gives Way to Negotiations.
The poll results reveal a truce in the battle of the sexes, demonstrating that men and women are in agreement on many of the day-to-day work and family issues. The old line in the sand separating them has largely washed away. Indeed, both men and women agree that women’s movement into employment is good for the country. Virtually all married couples see negotiating about the rules of relationships, work, and family as key making things work at home and at work. The authors conclude that the one clear message emerging from this poll is that the lives of Americans have changed significantly in recent years, yet the parameters of their jobs have yet to change to meet new demands. They find that political and business leaders who fail to take steps to address the needs of modern families risk losing good workers and the support of men and women who are riding the crest of major social change in America with little or no support.
Rather than pining for family structures of an earlier generation, the authors report that the poll found that men and women agree that government and businesses have failed to adapt to the needs of modern families. Americans across the board desire more flexibility in work schedules, paid family leave, and increased child care support. Given the ongoing difficulties many people face in balancing work and family life, it is not surprising that large numbers of Americans—men and women alike—view the decline in the percentage of children growing up in a family with a stay-at-home parent as a negative development for society. Yet, ever practical and pragmatic, this poll demonstrates that Americans understand that everything has changed in their work and lives today and that consequently they are working things out as best they can while looking to their government and their employers to catch up.
The academic research, anecdotal evidence, personal reflections, and poll results that make up this unique report all confirm that recognizing women now constitute half of the workers in the United States is only the first step. The second is identifying what we need to do to reshape the institutions around us. We can then begin to take the necessary actions to readjust our policies and practices. When you finish reading our report, we’re confident you’ll agree that more than four decades after President Kennedy’s Commission on the Status of Women, we’ve learned that while there’s much to cheer about, we still have a long way to go. We as a people must transform the way our government, our businesses, our faith-based institutions, and our media deal with the realities of a woman’s nation so that all of us can better cope with the transformation of how we work and live. The ultimate goal is a more prosperous future for all women and men in a nation that recognizes the unique value of each of us to contribute to the common good at work and at home. We believe that we can get there together, and that this report takes an important step along that path.
By John Podesta
Download the preface (pdf)
Earlier this year, the Center for American Progress decided to closely examine the consequences of what we thought was a major tipping point in our nation’s social and economic history: the emergence of working women as primary breadwinners for millions of families at the same time that their presence on America’s payrolls grew to comprise fully half the nation’s workforce. In addition, we were watching the Great Recession amplify and accelerate these trends. We are in the midst of a fundamental transformation of the way America works and lives.
But my own interest wasn’t just academic. It sprang from a very personal source: my mother. My family wasn’t much like what we were watching on TV in the 1950s. My parents had a tag-team work life—my father working in a factory during the day; my mother in a pink-collar job from 5 p.m. until midnight. Like millions of families today, they juggled, struggled, nurtured, laughed a lot, and fought a little so that their kids could lead good lives and get ahead. I don’t think my mother ever really thought of herself as a trendsetter, but she was at the leading edge of a wave that shaped America in the last half of the 20th century—a wave we call “a woman’s nation.” Though she recently passed away, she still serves as a role model for my daughters.
So I was delighted when Maria Shriver, who cleverly conceived of the phrase “a woman’s nation,” came to me with the idea of combining a project she envisioned with CAP’s work and together producing a landmark examination of this fundamental change in American society. We realized that Maria could add invaluable depth to the efforts underway because she recognized not only the enormous impact of these changes on the workplace, but their import for every aspect of the American life and culture, as well. A partnership was born, and it produced a document that goes far beyond the typical findings of your standard economic policy report.
This report brings together the relentless intellect of a Peabody and Emmy Award-winning journalist who pushes beyond statistics to fully reveal the complexity of women’s lives and the academic muscle of a progressive think tank that understands how to comb through data and illuminate the trends re-shaping the American landscape.
In the summer of 2009, Maria packed her bags and crisscrossed the country and, with her team, engaged in conversations with everyday women and men in Atlanta, Detroit, Los Angeles, Seattle, and Silicon Valley, hearing and understanding from both sexes how this cultural upheaval has changed their lives. Maria used the diverse voices she heard to stitch together the work CAP was doing.
CAP’s contribution—led by senior economist Heather Boushey, the leading authority on the study of working families and the U.S. labor market, and Ann O’Leary, a CAP senior fellow and executive director of the Berkeley Center for Health, Economic & Family Security—shines a light on America’s defining institutions. We examined government and businesses; faith, culture, and media; and our health care and educational institutions, and then we considered meaningful ways they can adapt to this sea change in Americans’ lives.
And the Rockefeller Foundation, which generously funded a nationwide poll in collaboration with Time magazine, conducted a comprehensive examination of American attitudes about the role of women in today’s world.
The result is an exhaustive, multifaceted report. CAP’s economic team commissioned work from a variety of scholars and experts. Maria inspired and assembled a collection of diverse, incisive, and illuminating essays and brought to us her conversations with dozens of Americans around the country. And then there is the landmark national poll that closes the report. Together, we’ve created a provocative study that we expect will spur a national conversation about what women’s emerging economic power means for our way of life.
When we look back over the 20th century and try to understand what’s happened to workers and their families and the challenges they now face, the movement of women out of the home and into paid employment stands out as a unique and powerful transformation. Unlike the America our parents still remember and even helped to build, today:
- Moms aren’t home all day caring for younger children, waiting for the cable guy or to pick up the kids from school, yet quality child care and flexible hours at work are in short supply.
- Workplaces are no longer the domain of men. The last remnants of those days can scarcely be found at all, save on episodes of “Mad Men” or on “Leave it to Beaver” reruns. Women now comprise half the workers on employers’ payrolls. And while men and women still tend to work in different kinds of jobs, most workers under 40 have never known a workplace without women bosses and women colleagues.
- Schools still let kids out in the afternoon, long before the workday ends, and they shut their doors for three months during the summer, even though the majority of families with children are supported by a single working parent or a dual-earning couple.
- Most workers—men and women—now have family responsibilities they negotiate daily with their spouses, family members, bosses, colleagues, and employees. But it is still a rare doctor’s office that is open evenings or weekends, even though so many people work at all hours in our 24/7 economy.
Women becoming primary breadwinners or co-breadwinners changed everything. But, even though we were all witness to this phenomenon’s slow emergence over many years, these changes seem somehow to have snuck up on us. As a result, our policy landscape remains stuck in an idealized past, where the typical family was composed of a married-for-life couple with a full-time breadwinner and full-time homemaker who raised the children herself.
Government policies and laws continue to rely on an outdated model of the American family. And, despite the existence of innovative practices in corporate America, most employers fail to acknowledge or accommodate the daily juggling act their workers perform, they are oblivious to the fact that their employees are now more likely to be women, and they ignore the fact that men now share in domestic duties.
Slow, too, have been our institutions of faith in recognizing this transformation of male-female dynamics at a time when increasingly urgent lives make spiritual support more needed—and, perhaps, less available—than ever before.
And the media present flawed images of the real challenges women face, embracing glamour, power, and sex while ignoring the daily struggle to raise children and pay bills.
At one level, everything has changed. And yet so much more change is needed. This report contemplates what a new America should look like after we finally embrace this important new dynamic in our lives and the changes it has caused in our homes and businesses.
At CAP, our work builds upon the progressive ideals of leaders who brought needed change to our national life, people such as Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt, Jane Addams, and Martin Luther King. We draw from the great social movements of the 20th century, from labor rights and worker safety to civil rights and women’s suffrage.
“A Woman’s Nation Changes Everything” is work in the best tradition of those ideals. It flips a switch in our culture, sparking a collective acknowledgement of the interdependence of men and women today. With that switch we hope will come changes in the collective mindset of our government, business, faith institutions, our culture, media, and most importantly, men and women. Embracing these new dynamics and sparking new conversations is what “A Woman’s Nation Changes Everything” is all about.
But this report is only the beginning of that conversation. In the months and years to come, we at the Center for American Progress hope you will join us in our efforts to transform our ideas into actual policies that make the world around us work better for families—as they really are. We hope you enjoy this report and that you’ll join us on the road ahead.
By Maria Shriver
I sit down to begin writing this not too long after my mother died. I held her hand as she took her last breath and left this world. She was my hero, my best friend. I spoke to her every day of my life—and the truth is, I can’t imagine my life without her. And so I sit here now, trying to write this opening to a report on the American woman that bears her last name and my own. I find it hard to concentrate, hard to gather my thoughts. For a moment, I consider not writing it. But I close my eyes and hear her telling me, as she always did, “You can do it, Maria! Get going! Get moving!”
My role model, like most daughters, was my mother. She was my first image and idea of what it meant to be a woman. It didn’t matter to me that she wasn’t like the other mothers. She wore men’s pants, smoked cigars, and worked outside the home. She was my mother, and she was fearless. She raised me exactly the way she raised my four brothers: to believe I could do anything. She sent me right in there to play tackle football with the boys. She said, “Maria, this may be a man’s world, but you can and will succeed in it.” I admit I wasn’t exactly sure what that meant the first time I heard it. After all, I was only in the second grade. But I didn’t question her. You didn’t say no to Eunice Kennedy Shriver.
My mother was indeed a trailblazer for American women. She was scary smart and not afraid to show it. With all her energy and ingenuity, she didn’t buy into the propaganda of her day that women had to be soft and submissive and take a back seat. That took courage back then, because she grew up in a family that expected a lot from the boys and very little from the girls. Women stayed behind the scenes in supporting roles. Not my mother.
She was tough, but also compassionate. She was intimidating, but also approachable. Driven and also fun. Restless and patient—and curious and prayerful. My mother understood power and wanted it, then wielded it to help those who had none.
And while she liked to hang with the boys, all her heroes were women—first and foremost, her own mother, and the millions of other mothers of kids with intellectual disabilities. She introduced me to other role models who changed the world: Dorothy Day, Mother Teresa, Claire Booth Luce. She told me their stories, because she wanted me to appreciate the gift and the power of women to change the language, the tempo, and the character of the world.
And she was right. Cut to 2008. No one was cheering louder than my mother during an election campaign that was all about change. At last, during the same presidential campaign season, we saw one woman run for president and another for vice president. As for me, I watched the change unfold from a unique vantage point, as first lady of the biggest state in the union—home to more than 18 million women—and head of The Women’s Conference, an annual conference for and about women held in California.
My goal has been to make The Women’s Conference a nonpartisan meeting place where women could come together and share experience, information, and motivation with one another. Participants come from all walks of life—from foster-care graduates to heads of Fortune 500 companies, from stay-at-home moms and retired grandmothers to college students and small-business owners. Every age, every ethnic group, every economic circumstance. They come to be inspired by speakers from all over the world, who share their wisdom and strategies on finances, spirituality, health, political power, relationships, how to overcome obstacles, how to navigate every area of human life.
In the past few years, The Women’s Conference has exploded in size and impact. It has developed programs beyond its walls, granting scholarships to needy girls, investing in micro-lending to women, connecting poor women to services that can improve their lives, and working to end emotional, physical, and sexual violence against women. We’re now hosting about 25,000 attendees, and thousands more can participate online.
When the 2008 Conference sold out in just a couple of hours, it hit me that something profound was going on with women. We’d program a workshop on caring for aging parents, and it was standing-room-only. We’d bring in speakers to talk about how to start up a business, and the rooms were packed. We couldn’t book enough sessions on empowerment, activism, and spirituality. All of them were filled, and people were asking for more.
I wondered what was going on. I talked to the women, and they filled out our questionnaires. I learned women are hungry for something that’s missing in their lives—a place to connect. They say they feel increasingly isolated, invisible, stressed, and misunderstood. They say the news media, where I’d worked for 30 years, don’t accurately reflect their lives anymore. They say women on TV shows and in the movies certainly don’t either. They can’t believe how out-of-touch government is with who women are today and what they need to survive. They can’t understand how slow business has been in figuring out how to retain, support, and promote women. They lament that many faith institutions want women to be volunteers, but won’t give them a seat at the table, let alone a place at the altar. They’re terrified how quickly their family finances could be wiped out by a child’s catastrophic illness or a parent’s Alzheimer’s. And they’re exasperated that pundits and pollsters continue to jam women into convenient boxes with labels like “soccer moms” or “security moms.”
Of course, women are as diverse as men. They are successful businesswomen, single mothers living below the poverty line, college graduates making their own way, blue-collar wives in two-career families, gay mothers, foster mothers, childless women who’ve been laid off, women setting up Internet businesses from home, soldiers in combat units overseas. They don’t dress the same way or vote the same way or have the same color skin. They don’t speak with one voice. And they don’t have one issue.
We decided we needed to learn some new, hard facts about today’s American woman. Who is she? How does she live? What does she think? What does she earn? What are her politics? How does she define power? How does she define success? What does she think of marriage? What does she really think of men? How does she want to live her life moving forward?
We went to the Center for American Progress, where the president and chief executive, former Clinton presidential chief of staff and author John Podesta, told us CAP was right in the midst of studying the impact of the changing economy on women. In fact, CAP’s chief economist, Heather Boushey, who is an expert on women and workforce issues, told us that women were right on the cusp of a huge change. Women were about to break through and account for fully half of all American payrolls for the first time. Bingo!
We told CAP that we wanted to study how women’s changing roles were impacting not only the economy but also all the other areas of American culture that our conference participants had pointed out to us. And we especially wanted to know what men thought about it all. CAP said, “We’re in!”
This report builds on the extraordinary work of so many women’s groups who have gone before us, and the more than 200 state, county, and local women’s commissions that day in and day out investigate and monitor the status of women and work diligently to promote equality. Their work and the groundbreaking reports of the Institute of Women’s Policy Research have played critical roles in examining the status of the American woman.
Our report breaks new ground by taking a hard look at how women’s changing roles are also affecting our major societal institutions: our government, businesses, religious and faith institutions, educational system, the media, and even men and marriage. And we examine how all these parts of the culture have responded to one of the greatest social transformations of our time. We look at where we are and where we should go from here.
It was back in 1961, when my uncle, President John F. Kennedy, asked former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt to chair the very first Commission on the Status of Women. According to anthropologist Margaret Mead, who co-edited the final report, the goal was “a review of the progress that has been made in giving American women practical equality with men educationally, economically, and politically.”
The Commission’s 1963 report, American Women, said that the role for women “most generally approved by counselors, parents, and friends [is] the making of a home, the rearing of children, and the transmission to them in their earliest years of the values of the American heritage.” Back then, only 10 percent of families were headed by unmarried women—and in families where both parents worked, less than a fifth of the wives earned as much or more than their husbands. In fact, most women’s jobs were in what the report called “low-paid categories” such as clerical work. And the Commission also found a “widening gap [between] the educational and career expectations for boys and for girls.” The gap in political participation was wide, too. There were only two women senators and 11 congresswomen, and just two women had ever held cabinet posts.
Among the Commission’s policy recommendations: equal pay for equal work, access to child care and paid maternity leave, and enhanced educational opportunities for women. Mead signaled in the final report, “The climate of opinion is turning against the idea that homemaking is the only form of feminine achievement.”
Indeed it was. The report was published within months of Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique, the opening salvo of the Women’s Lib movement, which promoted the idea that women’s true fulfillment could come only outside the home with “liberation” from wifely and motherly duties. With that, the pendulum of opinion seemed to swing all the way in the other direction. You could understand why women got whiplash.
All of a sudden, so many women became activists, taking to the streets and the halls of power. Many of these women risked their reputations, their security, their jobs—sometimes even their lives and marriages—to knock down walls of inequality. They got many outdated work laws changed and new anti-discrimination laws put in place. Their work and their courage created opportunity for many women, enabling more women to go to college and professional schools, more women to play sports, more women to get on career tracks. Today we stand on their shoulders. Their work freed so many of us to dream new dreams and fulfill them. And with the simultaneous sexual revolution, the advent of the pill, and the Roe v. Wade decision, many women postponed or even said no to marriage or children. Women were moving up the ladder in just about every area of endeavor.
Fast forward to 2009. For the first time in our nation’s history, fully half of U.S. workers are female—and mothers have become the primary breadwinners in 4 in 10 American families. That’s a sea change from 40 years ago. What had been a slow and steady shift has been accelerating during the current recession, when more than three-quarters of the jobs lost have been men’s jobs, especially in areas such as construction and manufacturing.
With more and more men forced to stay home, more and more women are bringing home the bacon. Women are more likely than ever to head their own families. They’re doing it all—and many of them have to do it all. When they work, it’s no longer just for “the little extras.” Their income puts food on the table and a roof over their heads, just like men’s income always did. In fact, half of all families rely on the earnings of two parents and in more than 20 percent of all families a single mother is the primary breadwinner. Seventy percent of families with kids include a working mother. And more and more of them, like me, are moving into what I call “the squeezed generation,” caring for both kids and our own aging parents.
Welcome to A Woman’s Nation
As you’ll read in this report, women have now taken their place as powerhouses driving the economy. Consider this: Today, women now earn 60 percent of the college degrees awarded each year and fully half of the Ph.D.s and the professional degrees. Almost 40 percent of working women hold managerial and other professional positions. Women make 80 percent of the buying decisions in American homes. Companies led by women generally are proving to have healthier bottom lines.
It’s a transformational moment in our history—much as the opening of the West, industrialization, the great 1960s civil rights campaigns, and the flowering of the Internet age have all irrevocably altered the fabric of American life. With working women now the New Normal, striving and succeeding in areas where they never have before, so many assumptions and underpinnings of our society are cracking open. The rumbling is shaking the ground in every corner of the culture, and many women and men are struggling to get their footing. The effect on every sector of our society will be deep, wide, and profound. We hope this report will help us all come up to speed and begin a national conversation about how our institutions need to adapt to the unfolding of A Woman’s Nation.
To take the pulse of Americans—their realities and their expectations, their hopes and dreams—I put back on my journalist’s hat and together with our team crisscrossed the country holding conversations with an array of women and men on the frontlines of this new American revolution. In addition, the Rockefeller Foundation, in collaboration with Time magazine, commissioned a nationwide poll of 3,413 men and women to substantiate what we were hearing on the ground and flesh out the academic research.
Together, the results of these efforts provide a fascinating window into the changing American landscape. What we heard loud and clear is that the Battle Between the Sexes is over. It was a draw. Now we’re engaged in Negotiation Between the Sexes.
Virtually all married couples told the pollsters they’re negotiating the rules of their relationships, work, and family. An overwhelming majority of both men and women said they’re sitting down at their kitchen tables to coordinate their family’s schedules, duties, and responsibilities, including child care and elder care, at least two to three times a week. Men said it was more like every day!
Indeed, during my conversation with powerful businesswomen on the West Coast, one told me she and her husband “are constantly renegotiating our agreement about what gets done, who does it—or do we hire somebody as opposed to doing it ourselves.” And a man in Seattle told me he and his wife have to work out “who’s gonna take care of the light bill? Who’s gonna pay for the mortgage? It doesn’t matter who’s bringing the money in. The money is coming in, but decisions have to be made about how the money is going out.”
In the Rockefeller/Time poll, more than three-quarters of both men and women agreed that the increased participation of women in the workforce is a positive change for society. Both sexes also agreed that men are becoming more financially dependent on women. And both women and men said they’re still adjusting their lives, their expectations, and their assumptions to the change.
The findings matched what I heard in the street. Everywhere I went, people talked to me about how overstressed and in crisis they feel, especially when it comes to financial security. Women said that never before has so much been asked of them, and never have they delivered so much. Divorced mothers talked to me about trying to make do without child support. One single mother who had just lost her job told me she was utterly dependent on her family and friends just to stay afloat.
Men are feeling out of sorts and stressed-out as well. One man said to me, “We’ve been in our comfort zone. We’re men! We bring the money to the house! As soon as women start working, they’re bursting our bubbles and basically doing our job. Doing it better, in some cases.”
The men who were polled said that compared to their fathers, they’re much more accepting of women working outside the home. But they’re still looking for a playbook. Here’s an exchange from Seattle:
Maria: Is there a revolution going on about what it means to be a man, what are the rules of manhood today?
Mike: Yes, but it wasn’t started by us!
In fact, many Americans feel disoriented. The African American owner of an automotive parts company in Detroit told me, “Nothing in business school prepared me to deal with the problems I’m having.” He said he has trouble sleeping at night. He’s had to reduce his workforce by two-thirds, and employees are asking for pay cuts instead of layoffs. Female employees want help with child care or time off to tend to sick grandparents. “Men are conditioned to be problem-solvers,” he explained to me. “I solve my own problems. Well, today, the problems that are out there are very difficult to solve.”
And very difficult to adapt to, according to some men we met. One told me, “It used to be really easy. You’d go into all these kinds of arenas where there were just guys. The military, the firehouse, the police station, the law firm, everywhere you went. And the big change, of course, is that women are now in every one of those arenas. The dilemma for women has often been, ‘How do I be those things that are called masculine, like confident and assertive and ambitious, and still be a woman?’ And for men now, everywhere we go, there’s women. And some guys sort of feel like, ‘Oh my God, women have invaded!’”
And more and more often, a woman is the boss. One 55-year-old man told me, “In the olden days, women used their sexuality in the workplace, because they were looking for a husband to support them. Now the women have power.” Intriguingly, though, the poll shows that women find it much harder to work for female bosses than men do.
And women often define that power differently from men. One woman who had made it to CEO chose to give up the corner office and downgrade to a lower-rung position. She told me, “I will admit, it was fun, it was power, and I was dealing with a bunch of top dogs. But now I get to hang out with my kids when they come home from school. For me the definition of success is not being a CEO and not being the biggest dog and frankly not making the most money. It’s living a balanced life.”
In fact, talk to women, and you hear a lot about the search for “a balanced life.” More and more of them say if they could, they’d like to leave companies that are unresponsive and start their own businesses. Many of them do. In fact, the number of women working for themselves doubled between 1979 and 2003, so that women make up 35 percent of all self-employed people. Growth in the number of women-owned businesses is significantly higher than the growth in the overall business sector: The number of women-owned businesses is growing at a rate of almost 23 percent, 2½ times faster than the growth in the number of total businesses.
One female corporate executive told me, “Women don’t need equal pay. They actually need to be paid more, because the fact of the matter is that we typically are responsible for more within our families, and we have to pay to outsource more. Most of the men I have competed with for positions have had a stay-home wife at some point and many have had a wife throughout their entire marriage.”
But other women countered that it’s not up to employers to help with flex time or child care money. “If I’m doing the same amount of work as men, I want the same compensation. It’s up to me figure out if I want to spend it on child care.”
In 2009, these aren’t just women’s issues anymore. An overwhelming majority of both sexes believe the structure of the modern workplace isn’t meeting people’s needs. A preponderance of both men and women told the pollsters that if businesses fail to adapt to the needs of modern families, they risk losing good workers. Still, too many women and men who were polled said there were occasions when they wanted to take off from work to care for a child, but were unable to do so. In fact, women reported actually being afraid to ask for time off for caregiving. And large majorities of both sexes agreed that businesses should be required to provide paid family and medical leave for every worker who needs it.
Many of the highly successful women I spoke to worried about women who had made it big and then got beat up in the media. They talked about the outright sexism they’ve seen hurled at high-profile women such as Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin, Katie Couric and Barbara Walters, Carly Fiorina and Martha Stewart. They question whether the climb all the way to the very top is even worth it.
Another hint that there’s still plenty of underlying sexism: Women told me that male co-workers ask them all the time to give pep talks to their daughters, but never to their wives. They marveled, “They want us to inspire their girls to great achievement, but don’t you go giving their wives any big ideas!”
In fact, the poll shows that a substantial majority of women feel that men resent women who have more power than they do. Yet wherever I went, I was surprised how open men were to sharing their bafflement about what women want—and their own insecurities about what’s expected of them.
“All of us grew up thinking this was a man’s world, that doors were just gonna open to us because we had a Y chromosome,” a Seattle man told me. “And suddenly, we have to adjust to the fact that that’s not the case. And the recession has made it even more intense for us. So every family is trying to figure out what does it mean that we’re both working or that I’m laid off and you’re working? We haven’t thrown some switch to go from a man’s world to a woman’s world. It’s more like we’re finally, for the first time, in a position where it’s no longer only a man’s world. Now what does that mean?”
Good question. What does it mean, especially in families where wives are suddenly the primary providers? Those stories moved me. One man told me, “My wife makes about three times what I make, and that has been challenging to me. I was raised very traditionally. The masculine partner took the lead or was supposed to.”
Some men talked about reinventing themselves. I met a stay-at-home father who says he’s coming to terms with shuttling the kids around and being supported by his wife. “It’s confusing. Am I turning into not enough of a man? It just all depends how it’s defined in your own family. So if I’m enough of a man to them, that’s all that matters.”
Another father told me, “It’s role reversal a little bit. I have dinner ready. I do the grocery shopping. I do laundry. She works harder than I ever did.” And what about his wife? She’s worried about their daughter, because “I feel like I’m not there as much for her as I ought to be. I do have some regrets.” In fact, the men and women who were polled both said they’re concerned about the effect of both parents working and raising children without a stay-at-home parent.
With all the change and insecurity, women overwhelmingly told the pollsters that religious faith is important to them in general for help getting through. And men report seeking connectedness through talking and listening to other men—on the Internet, on sports radio, in church groups.
Is there any group that doesn’t feel like fish out of water? I was relieved to discover during my travels that many younger couples aren’t so wedded to old stereotypes. When one twenty-something woman’s live-in boyfriend lost his job in Detroit, she told me, “The expectation was that we would just pull together and figure it out. People from my generation just expect women to work.” And I was glad that so many young men starting out today have a whole new sensibility about fatherhood. They told me they just expect to be active in their children’s lives and help out at home, and they want it that way.
For some, of course, women as primary breadwinners is old news, especially among Latinos and African Americans. Said one black man, “When I see a strong woman, I’m actually more attracted to that, because that represents the women I was raised with.” And a Hispanic single mother in Los Angeles said, “My mother taught me to work and be successful and not depend on a guy for all the things that I need.” Gay couples aren’t following old stereotypes either. One lesbian partner told us, “When we go to soccer and back-to-school night, usually we are the ones where both parents are there. We don’t have gender rules, so we’ve always joked, ‘Who’s gonna be the husband tonight and take out the trash?’ ”
And marriages where the partners have adapted to the new realities seem to be stronger. As you’ll read in this report, research shows that women are more sexually attracted to men who do more work around the house. And since a big predictor of a husband’s satisfaction is how often he has sex, maybe all that kitchen-table negotiating and communicating about who does what around the house is having a good effect on the institution of marriage.
Within this huge shift, there will always be some who blame society’s current ills on the very fact that so many women have gone to work and aren’t staying at home with the children anymore. They point to high school dropout rates, teen pregnancies, and the millions of latchkey kids. They see those as women’s issues. But most of the people we spoke to don’t feel that way. They feel the care and nurturing of children isn’t just a women’s issue anymore. These are family issues, and they affect all of us. Families have moved beyond finger-pointing to figure out how to confront these problems together. A union man in Detroit put it this way: “I think the fact that our roles are changing is just another way of us adapting to get the job done. We will do whatever needs to be done. And we will do it well.”
More than four decades after President Kennedy’s Commission on the Status of Women, we’ve learned that while there’s much to cheer about, we still have a long way to go. Women still don’t make as much as men do for the same jobs. Women still don’t make it to the top as often as men. Families too often can’t get flex-time, child care, medical leave, or paid family leave. The United States still is the only major industrialized nation without comprehensive child care and family leave policies. Insurance companies still often charge women more than men for the exact same coverage. Women are still being punished by a tax code designed when men were the sole breadwinners and women the sole caregivers. Sexual violence against women remains a huge issue. Women still are disproportionately affected by lack of health care services. And lesbian couples and older women are among the poorest segment of our society.
But so much has changed. Homemaking is no longer, as Margaret Mead wrote back then, the “most generally approved” job for women. Women’s expanding role in families, industry, the arts, government, politics, and other institutions is altering the American landscape. Women are learning they no longer have to shoehorn themselves into one stereotype or another, but they can do so if they choose—or they can make it up as they go along.
In 2009, women have more choices than they did 40 years ago. They can choose to have kids with a partner, in a traditional marriage or not. They can to stay childless, live as single parents, or choose a same-sex partner. They can be like the single mothers who raised a president of the United States and a brand-new Supreme Court justice. They can be like Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin. They can be like Diane Sawyer, Michelle Obama, Sandra Day O’Connor, or like Nancy Pelosi, who spent the first half of her life staying home to raise five children and then went on to become the first female Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. Or anything else they can imagine.
It’s in this new world that I’m raising four children. I’m trying to teach my boys to understand that the women in their lives will work and will have independent minds. I’m trying to teach them not just how to hold the door open, but how to do their own laundry and make their own mac and cheese. I’m also trying to teach my girls how to advocate for themselves, be smart about their finances—and to look not for a savior, but a loving, supportive, open-minded partner.
Which brings me back to my mother.
In so many articles after my mother’s death, her brothers and pundits were quoted as saying, “If only Eunice had been a man, she could have been president!”
“If only.” My mother learned from that. Her call to those who faced discrimination and the sting of rejection was to turn adversity into action. “Use adversity to give your life purpose and mission,” she said. “Turn your adversity into advantage and opportunity.” That’s what she herself did, channeling her passion and outrage into changing the world for people with intellectual disabilities. She used her intelligence and her energy to improve the world—and that’s why she’s alongside so many other extraordinary women, all agents of change, who are immortalized in the Women’s Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, New York.
My mother figured out how to be true to herself in the man’s world she was in—and I believe her solution makes her a real role model for today’s American woman. She mothered five kids who adored her, shared the spotlight with her husband—and carved out a career for herself impacting millions of lives for the better. Her message to women was, “Don’t let society tame you or contain you.” Today, she could run for president. And I believe she would win.
I know for sure if she were alive today, she’d say about this report, “It’s about time!” She’d get her hands on a hundred copies and send them to friends. She’d make bookstores put it in the window. She’d make sure every office on Capitol Hill had a copy, whether they wanted one or not. And when I’d say, “Mummy, calm down! This is just the first step,” she’d say, “Well, when’s the next step? Take that step, Maria, and take it now!”
And we shall. As we move into this phase we’re calling a woman’s nation, women can turn their pivotal role as wage-earners, as consumers, as bosses, as opinion-shapers, as co-equal partners in whatever we do into a potent force for change. Emergent economic power gives women a new seat at the table—at the head of the table.
Back in 1960, President Kennedy talked about the torch being passed to “a new generation.” Well, five decades later, the torch is being passed . . . to a new gender. There’s no doubt in my mind that we women will lift that torch. We will carry it. And we will light a new way forward.
The New Breadwinners
By Heather Boushey
For a brief moment in American history, women during World War II accounted for more than one-third of the U.S. workforce as men streamed into the armed forces to defeat our fascist enemies. This phenomenal transformation of the U.S. economy was brief but its influence was enduring. So many Americans can share “Rosie the Riveter” stories akin to President Obama’s memories of tales about his grandmother working in an arms manufacturing plant while his grandfather served in Europe with General George Patton.
Today, the movement of women into the labor force is not just enduring but certifiably revolutionary—perhaps the greatest social transformation of our time. Women are more likely to work outside the home and their earnings are more important to family well-being than ever before in our nation’s history. This transformation changes everything. At the most profound level, it changes the rules of what it means to be a woman—and what it means to be a man. Women are now increasingly sharing the role of breadwinner, as well as the role of caregiver, with the men in their lives. Even so, we have yet to come to terms with what it means to live in a nation where both men and women typically work outside the home and what we need to do to make this new reality workable for families who have child care and elder care responsibilities through most of their working lives.
Indeed, the transformation in how women spend their days affects nearly every aspect of our daily lives. As women move into the labor force, their earnings are increasingly important to families and women more and more become the major breadwinner—even though women continue to be paid 23 cents less than men for every dollar earned in our economy. Nearly 4 in 10 mothers (39.3 percent) are primary breadwinners, bringing home the majority of the family’s earnings, and nearly two-thirds (62.8 percent) are breadwinners or co-breadwinners, bringing home at least a quarter of the family’s earnings. What’s more, women are now much more likely to head families on their own.
These gains are by no means an unqualified victory for women in the workforce and in society, or for their families. Most women today are providing for their families by working outside the home—and still earning less than men—while providing more than their fair share of caregiving responsibilities inside the home, an increasingly impossible task. At home, families cope with this day-to-day time squeeze in a variety of unsatisfactory ways. In most families today, there’s no one who stays at home all day and so there’s no one with the time to prepare dinner, be home when the kids get back from school, or deal with the little things of everyday life, such as accepting a UPS package or getting the refrigerator repaired. Instead of having Mom at home keeping her eye on the children after school, families face the challenge of watching over their latchkey kids from afar and worry about what their teenagers are doing after school.
Yet the flip side is this: The presence of women is now commonplace in all kinds of workplaces and many are in positions of authority. Millions of workers now have a female boss and the more collaborative management styles that many women bring to the workplace are improving the bottom line. Increasingly, businesses are recognizing that most of their labor force has some kind of family care responsibility, and therefore are creating flexible workplace policies to deal with this reality. Many of the fastest-growing jobs replace the work women used to do for free in the home. The demand for home health aides, child care workers, and food service workers, for instance, has increased sharply.
Social patterns also are changing, and rapidly so. With women now half of all workers on U.S. payrolls, there is no longer a standard timeline for marriage and raising a family—if women even choose to marry or have children. The assisted reproductive technologies industry has blossomed as women—especially professional women—invest in their careers and delay motherhood into their 30s and 40s. And the share of women who are unmarried has skyrocketed: 40 percent of women over age 25 are now unmarried and a record 40 percent of children born in 2007 had an unmarried mother.3 While divorce rates have fallen, many women delay and some never even enter marriage.
This transformation also boasts profound implications for communities around the nation. In schools and religious and community organizations, women are now less available to volunteer during the work week and have less time to devote to leading community organizations. The transformation affects our health care system, too, since health care providers have to cope with the fact that there is not likely to be someone to provide free, at-home care for a recovering patient.
And it affects our quality of life. Many retail stores, restaurants, and consumer support lines are now open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, which meets the needs of families with 9-to-5 work hours. But this has meant that millions of other families—disproportionately immigrants and lower-income families—have workers employed during nonstandard hours, affecting their marriages and their ability to access child care and other supports not generally available at nonstandard times.
Quite simply, as women go to work, everything changes. Yet, we, as a nation, have not yet digested what this all means and what changes are still to be made. But change we must, especially as the current recession amplifies and accelerates these trends throughout our economy and society. The Great Recession led to massive job losses, especially within male-dominated industries. Since the recession began in December 2007, men have accounted for three out of every four jobs lost (73.6 percent) and now 2 million wives are supporting their families while their unemployed husbands seek work.
Women now, for the first time, make up half (49.9 percent as of July 2009) of all workers on U.S. payrolls. This is a dramatic change from just over a generation ago: In 1969, women made up only a third of the workforce (35.3 percent).
Many American women have always worked, of course, but as more women joined the ranks of the employed and laws prohibiting outright discrimination came into effect, a wider array of opportunities opened up to women. By 2008, a working mother is no longer revolutionary and is in fact now common: Only one in five families with children (20.7 percent) are the traditional male breadwinner, female homemaker, compared to 44.7 percent in 1975. That year, 4 in 10 mothers with a child under age 6 (39.6 percent) worked outside the home, but by 2008, that share had risen to two-thirds (64.3 percent).
To understand what it means for women to become breadwinners, this chapter focuses on who’s gone to work, where women are working, why they are working, and what this means for the economic well-being of women and their families. While women have made great strides and are now more likely to be economically responsible for themselves and their families, there is still a long way to go. Equity in the workplace has not yet been achieved, even as families need women’s equality now more than ever.
Family Friendly for All Families
By Ann O’Leary and Karen Kornbluh
Four decades ago, President Richard Nixon famously declared that universal child care would have “family-weakening implications” that “would commit the vast moral authority of the federal government to the side of communal approaches to child rearing over the family-centered approach.” Wielding his veto pen, he blocked what became the last best chance for decades for the federal government to support working moms and dads trying to raise their children and earn a living at the same time.
Back in the early 1970s, Nixon and Congress looked at the 52 percent of so-called “traditional” families in the country (families with children still at home consisting of a married couple in which only the husband works outside the home) and saw decidedly different social and economic forces at work. As women entered the workforce in droves during the 1970s, the number of “traditional” families immediately began to plummet—by 1975, it was already down to 45 percent of families with children.
Today, there’s no mistaking the trend—only 21 percent of families with children at home are “traditional” families. How do the other 79 percent of families working and raising children—the so-called “juggler families”—handle child care? How do these families cope with sick children and relatives or elderly parents in need of care?
Well, ask just about any mom or dad and they will tell you they mix and match caring and earning as best they can in workplaces designed decades ago around a worker who relied on a full-time homemaker to care for the young and the infirm and had no responsibility for caring for family members. This is no way to run an economy and to care for the next generation of Americans and those who built what our country is today.
Political leaders talk about “family values,” but too often real reforms are set aside when it comes time to draw up the federal budget or do the heavy legislative lifting to ensure that women and men can raise their children, care for their elders, and continue to earn the incomes they need to survive and thrive in today’s economy. Women, of course, are no longer the sole providers of care for the family, just as men are no longer the sole providers of the family income. Yet the federal government has not updated its policies to aid families in navigating this new reality.
Too many of our government policies—from our basic labor standards to our social insurance system—are still rooted in the fundamental assumption that families typically rely on a single breadwinner and that there is someone available to care for the young, the aged, and the infirm while the breadwinner is at work. But now that there are decidedly fewer “traditional families” and women comprise half of the workers on U.S. payrolls, we need to reevaluate the values and assumptions underlying our nation’s workplace policies to ensure that they reflect the actual—not outdated or imagined—ways that families work and care today.
Up until now, government policymakers focused on supporting women’s entry into a male-oriented workforce on par with men—a workplace where policies on hours, pay, benefits, and leave time were designed around male breadwinners with presumably no family caregiving responsibilities. Seeking equal opportunity in this workplace was critical, of course. Women could have never become half of all workers and entered previously male-dominated professions without Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibited sex discrimination in employment, and was amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 to ensure that a woman couldn’t be fired simply because she was having a child. And while women still have a long way to go to receive equal pay for equal work, the Equal Pay Act of 1963 certainly helped narrow the wage gap and increase women’s economic stability.
But allowing women to play by the same rules as the single male breadwinner worker of yore is not enough. Too many workers—especially women and low-wage workers—today simply cannot work in the way the breadwinner once worked with a steady job and lifelong marriage with a wife at home. Today, not only are half of all U.S. workers female, but our families are no longer static. The marriage rate is currently at the lowest point in its recorded history. And while the divorce rate is down, it is still significant. More than one in three families with children is headed by a single parent. There are approximately 770,000 same-sex couples living in the United States, 20 percent of whom are raising children. Yet there has been limited action at the federal level to update our workplace policies or create new policies to help working parents and their varied families—and not for lack of debate.
The notable exception is the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, but even it only allows 12 weeks of unpaid job-protected family or medical leave to approximately half of all workers in the United States. Our federal government does not require employers to offer a minimum number of paid days off. Nor does it require or even incentivize employers to provide flexible work arrangements. Our child care assistance is mostly aimed at the poor and even that assistance reaches too few families. Both our basic labor standards and our social insurance system are still based on supporting “traditional” workers and families and so do not accord protection to workers who must cut back on work to care for family members.
Tackling these challenges isn’t going to be easy. For some, acknowledging that most women work challenges deeply held beliefs about what it means to be family and the “appropriate” roles for men and women. In a recent congressional debate over whether the federal government should provide paid parental leave to all new parents, Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA) implied that men do not need additional paid time off for family leave and that only mothers do immediately after the birth of a child, even though fathers report that they want to spend more time with their children and that they are experiencing high levels of work-family conflict.
This report demonstrates that women becoming half of all workers and mothers becoming breadwinners is not a woman’s issue—it’s an issue that affects our entire society. This chapter suggests that a fruitful way for government to address this new economic and social reality would be to reform our existing laws by:
- Updating our basic labor standards to include family-friendly employee benefits
- Reforming our anti-discrimination laws so that employers cannot discriminate against or disproportionately exclude women when offering workplace benefits
- Updating our social insurance system to the reality of varied families and new family responsibilities, including the need for paid family leave and social security retirement benefits that take into account time spent out of the workforce caring for children and other relatives
- Increasing support to families for child care, early education, and elder care to help working parents cope with their dual responsibilities
Updating these government policies so that they account for the reality of the overwhelming majority of today’s workers and families is the challenge we address in the pages that follow.
By Oprah Winfrey
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We women have been having conversations since the birth of this nation. We know when it’s time for a conversation to begin. Expressing ourselves as women, expressing ourselves as people of success and power and influence, it reminds me of a convention held in Akron, Ohio in 1852, where Sojourner Truth, a former slave whom I consider one of my great mentors, gathered together suffragettes asking, pleading, and fighting for the right to vote. Sojourner Truth, a proud, six-foot-tall Amazon-like figure, walked up to the podium and said:
Well, children, where there is so much racket, there must be something out of kilter. I think that ’twixt the negroes of the South and the women at the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what’s all this here talking about? If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back, and get it right-side up again!
Those are the words of Sojourner Truth, who believed that without media, without mass marketing, without any social programs, women joined together had the possibility of turning the world right-side up.
Now, in 2009, there’s so much racket again. Today, it’s about women becoming half of all the American workers, about making more money than men, about what men think about this, and about what our families, our government, and our politicians, bosses, clergy, and aging parents are going to do. Men and women, families of all kinds, are negotiating about household responsibilities, child care, work, and sex. There’s a lot of noise going on in this country and in this report about what it means to live in a woman’s nation.
It seems to me it’s an important conversation to have. Are our political, government, faith, and media leaders out of touch with the realities of how most families live and work today, just like they were out of touch in the day of Soujourner Truth? Some might say our nation has now been turned right-side up, but no one seems to recognize this outside of the families living and working every day. There is something a-kilter.
Where do we go from here? One thing is for sure: Women have a new kind of power in the workplace, in the marketplace, in the boardroom, and in the bedroom. Women have as many definitions of power as there are women to use it.
Forget the idea that being powerful is about how rich or important you are, or whether or not you get your own coffee in the morning. What I find powerful is a person with grace, with courage, with the confidence to be her own self and to make things happen. We have earned the right to celebrate the kind of power that isn’t about landing the corner office, but about stoking an internal fire.
For me, there is no real power without spiritual power. A power that comes from the core of who you are and reflects all that you were meant to be. A power that’s connected to the source of things. When you see this kind of power shining through someone in all its truth and certainty, it’s irresistible, inspiring, elevating. I can feel it in myself sometimes, mostly when I’m sharing an insight that I know will have an impact on someone’s life and I can see that they “get it.” I get real joy from helping other people experience those “aha” moments. That is where my power lies.
“When we align our thoughts, emotions, and actions with the highest part of ourselves, we are filled with enthusiasm, purpose, and meaning,” writes Gary Zukav in his best-selling book The Seat of the Soul. “When the personality comes fully to serve the energy of its soul, that is authentic empowerment.”
Fulfilling your purpose with meaning is what gives you that electrifying “juice” and makes people stand in wonder at how you do it. The secret is alignment: when you know for sure that you’re on course and doing exactly what you’re supposed to be doing, fulfilling your soul’s intention, your heart’s desire, or whatever you choose to call it (they’re all the same thing). When your life is on course with its purpose, you are your most powerful. And you may stumble, but you will not fall.
I know for sure that in every challenging experience there’s an opportunity to grow, enhance your life, or learn something invaluable about yourself. Every challenge can make you stronger if you allow it. Strength multiplied equals power.
We have the power as women, as families, as a nation to rise to the challenges of our time. To hear each other out. To talk it out. To let the conversation begin. Together, we ought to be able to “turn it back, and get it right-side up again!”
A Man’s Viewpoint
A Woman’s Viewpoint
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Battle of the Sexes Gives Way to Negotiations By John Halpin and Ruy Teixeira, with Susan Pinkus and Kelly Daley
Americans welcome women workers, want new deal to support how we now work and live today
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Maria Shriver is First Lady of California, an award-winning journalist and producer, best-selling author and mother of four. As First Lady, Shriver has created groundbreaking programs and initiatives that empower people to become “architects of change” in their own lives and in the lives of others. Shriver has used her voice to advocate on behalf of women, the working poor, the intellectually disabled and families like hers who are struggling with Alzheimer’s disease.
Under Shriver’s leadership, The Women’s Conference has grown into the nation’s premier forum for women, annually uniting more than 100 internationally acclaimed leaders and visionaries with 20,000 women from all walks of life to share enriching stories of transformation and success, inspirational life lessons, practical tips and life-changing tools. The Women’s Conference expanded in 2009 to two full days. In 2004, Shriver created The Minerva Awards—named after the goddess Minerva on the California State Seal who epitomizes courage, wisdom, and strength—given annually at the conference to recognize and reward the achievements of women who make extraordinary contributions to their communities and the state. To extend the reach of the conference, Shriver also launched a dynamic online community at WomensConference.org with the goal of providing a daily gathering place for women everywhere to become architects of change.
With a career in journalism spanning more than two decades, Shriver has been a network news correspondent and anchor for CBS and NBC, winning Peabody and Emmy Awards. She is the author of six New York Times best-selling books. She recently executive produced HBO’s “The Alzheimer’s Project,” an Emmy Award-winning four-part documentary series that took a close look at cutting-edge work being done in the country’s leading Alzheimer’s laboratories and examined the effects of this disease on patients and families. Shriver is a graduate of Georgetown University, with a degree in American Studies.
Heather Boushey is senior economist at the Center for American Progress. Boushey studies working families and trends in the U.S. labor market. She has written extensively on labor issues, including tracking the recession and its impact on workers and their families, women’s labor force participation, trends in income inequality, and work-family policy issues. She has testified for Congress and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission about issues facing working families in this recession.
Prior to joining the Center, Boushey was a senior economist with the Joint Economic Committee of the U.S. Congress. She was formerly a senior economist with the Center for Economic and Policy Research. Boushey received her Ph.D. in economics from the New School for Social Research and her bachelor’s degree from Hampshire College.
Ann O’Leary is a senior rellow at American Progress and is the executive director of the Berkeley Center for Health, Economic & Family Security at University of California, Berkeley, School of Law. CHEFS’ mission is to develop and advance creative solutions to address the economic risks faced by working Americans, with a focus on improving access to health care, developing better protections for workers who are voluntarily or involuntarily on leave from their jobs, and supporting working parents in a flexible workplace.
O’Leary previously served as a deputy city attorney for the City of San Francisco and clerked for the Honorable John T. Noonan Jr. on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. From 2001 through 2003, she served as legislative director for then-Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, and from 1994 through 2000 she served in a number of positions in the Clinton administration, including as special assistant to the president on the Domestic Policy Council and as senior policy advisor to the deputy secretary of education. O’Leary received her bachelor’s degree from Mount Holyoke College, her master’s degree from Stanford University, and her law degree from UC Berkeley School of Law.
Karen Skelton is the executive co-producer and program director for the California Governor and First Lady’s Women’s Conference, managing all aspects of programming for the world’s premier live event for women. She founded the California office of the Dewey Square Group, one of the country’s leading public affairs firms, growing this multimillion dollar consulting practice from the ground up—specializing in political strategies and communications, energy and environmental policy, and government relations.
Skelton previously worked in the White House during the Clinton administration on the political staff and as a member of the defense team that argued against the impeachment of the president of the United States. Skelton served as the first director of political affairs for then-Vice President Al Gore, initiating and managing his first national political program in preparation for his 2000 election campaign. As a lawyer, Skelton prosecuted criminal cases at the U.S. Department of Justice as a special assistant U.S. attorney, and as a trial lawyer in the Division of Environmental Enforcement. She was named chief counsel of the Federal Highway Administration in January 1999. Skelton received her bachelor’s degree with honors in English from UCLA, a master’s from Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, and her J.D. from the University of California, Berkeley School of Law. She currently serves on the boards of the California Arts Council and the UC Berkeley Institute for Governmental Studies.
Ed Paisley is vice president for editorial at the Center for American Progress. He is a 20-year veteran of business and finance journalism who joined the Center after successfully launching the specialist Wall Street print and Web publication The Deal as its managing editor. At The Deal, he was also responsible for the publication’s award-winning coverage of technology finance and international finance.
Before moving to New York to launch The Deal in 1999, Paisley spent a decade in East Asia as an editor and journalist covering business, finance, and politics for the Far Eastern Economic Review and Institutional Investor magazine. Prior to that, he worked for American Banker newspaper in Washington, DC, covering domestic and international financial regulation. Paisley earned a master’s degree in East Asian history from Georgetown University in 1984 and a bachelor’s degree in American studies from George Mason University in 1982.
Laura Nichols is a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and a member of the Center’s executive team. As one of the original architects of American Progress, she has contributed to building the institution, overseeing the construction of its communications operations, and leading its strategic planning since its founding in 2003. As senior fellow, she contributes to the Center’s new media efforts and serves as a liaison to the progressive community, donors, and Capitol Hill. She is also a partner in First Tuesday Media, a media company based in Los Angeles that organizes the entertainment industry to produce political and advocacy media.
Nichols spent eight years as advisor, strategist, and spokesperson for former House Democratic Leader Richard Gephardt. In those roles, she served as Gephardt’s spokesperson and was responsible for developing and managing communications strategies on a wide variety of policy issues for House Democrats. Nichols also served as press secretary to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and former U.S. House Rep. Vic Fazio. She began her career in politics as the Iowa press secretary in 1988 for Gephardt’s presidential campaign. Nichols is a graduate of the University of Missouri.
Leslie Miller is the co-executive director of “A Woman’s Nation” project. She created, built, and managed the cultural components, media partnerships, and national reach of The Shriver Report. She is a veteran communications and political strategist and has worked for some of the most respected and high-profile organizations around the globe, including being a part of a senior communications team with the Obama presidential campaign.
Prior to joining the campaign, Miller led the Dewey Square Group’s California practice in San Francisco for six years, where she specialized in government affairs and was strategic communications counsel. While there, Miller advised Fortune 500 companies and national foundations to develop internal community affairs programs and external affairs plans, and was a co-strategist in developing a bipartisan organization focused on transforming the political process in California. Miller also is a former producer for NBC News in Washington, DC. She covered the 1996 and 1998 elections, Congress, and the Clinton administration. Miller received her bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Berkeley, and resides in California.
Jessica Arons is the director of the Women’s Health and Rights Program at American Progress and a member of the Faith and Progressive Policy Initiative. Prior to joining American Progress, she worked at the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, the labor and employment law firm of James & Hoffman, the Supreme Court of Virginia, the White House, and the 1996 Pennsylvania Democratic Coordinated Campaign. She currently serves on the boards of the DC Abortion Fund and the ACLU of Virginia. Arons is an honors graduate of Brown University and the William & Mary School of Law.
Stephanie Coontz teaches history and family studies at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA, and is director of research and public education for the Council on Contemporary Families, which she chaired from 2001 to 2004. She is the author of several books, including Marriage, A History: From Obedience to Intimacy, or How Love Conquered Marriage (Viking Press, 2005) and The Way We Never Were: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap (Basic Books, 1992 and 2000). She recently completed a new book on the history of women from the 1920s through the 1960s and the impact of Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique (forthcoming 2010, Perseus Books). Coontz has testified about her research before the House Select Committee on Children, Youth and Families in Washington, DC, and addressed audiences across America, Japan, and Europe. Coontz received her bachelor’s degree in American History at the Honors Program at the University of California Berkeley and her master’s degree in European History at the University of Washington in Seattle.
Kelly Daley is a senior analyst at Abt SRBI, where she specializes in survey questionnaire design and data analysis across a variety of subject matters including public health, civic engagement, and women’s studies. Prior to joining Abt SRBI, she was co-director of the University of Chicago Survey Lab. She has been responsible for multiple survey research projects, cognitive testing, pilot studies and qualitative work including focus groups, observational field work, and in-depth interviews. Daley holds a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Chicago and a master’s degree in policy studies from The Johns Hopkins University. Her Ph.D. dissertation examined the impact of the women’s movement and the sexual revolution on the attitudes and behaviors of women who came of age prior to 1960. Prior to her graduate studies, she worked with numerous San Francisco nonprofit organizations to help improve access to health care and raise awareness of women’s health issues.
Susan Douglas is the chair of the Department of Communication Studies at the University of Michigan, as well as the Catherine Neafie Kellogg Professor and Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Communication Studies. She is author of a number of books, including most recently Enlightened Sexism: The Seductive Message That Feminism’s Work Is Done (Henry Holt, forthcoming, March 2010), as well as The Mommy Myth: The Idealization of Motherhood and How it Has Undermined Women (with Meredith Michaels, The Free Press, 2004). Douglas received her bachelor’s degree from Elmira College (Phi Beta Kappa) and her master’s degree and Ph.D. from Brown University. She has lectured at colleges and universities around the country and was the media critic for The Progressive from 1992 to 1998.
Maria Echaveste joined University of California’s Berkeley School of Law as a lecturer after co-founding a strategic and policy consulting group, serving as a senior White House and U.S. Department of Labor official, and working as a community leader and corporate attorney. She is also a senior fellow with the Law School’s Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute on Race, Ethnicity and Diversity. From 1998 to 2001, she served as assistant to the president and deputy chief of staff to President Bill Clinton. Echaveste is also a non-resident fellow of the Center for American Progress working on issues such as immigration, civil rights, and education. She continues to provide strategic and policy advice to a variety of corporate, non-profit and union clients through her consulting firm, NVG, LLC. Echaveste received a Bachelor of Arts in anthropology from Stanford University in 1976 in 1980, and her J.D. from the University of California, Berkeley.
John Halpin is a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress focusing on political theory, communications, and public opinion analysis. He is the co-director and creator of the Progressive Studies Program at CAP, an interdisciplinary project researching the intellectual history, foundational principles, and public understanding of progressivism. Halpin is the co-author with John Podesta of The Power of Progress: How America’s Progressives Can (Once Again) Save Our Economy, Our Climate, and Our Country, a 2008 book about the history and future of the progressive movement. Prior to joining CAP, he was a senior associate at Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, providing strategic guidance and public opinion research for political parties and candidates including Al Gore’s 2000 presidential campaign, the British Labor Party, the Austrian Social Democrats, and a range of congressional, state legislative, and initiative campaigns. Halpin received his undergraduate degree from Georgetown University and his master’s degree in political science from the University of Colorado, Boulder.
Brad Harrington is the executive director of the Boston College Center for Work & Family and an associate professor of organization studies in the Carroll School of Management. Prior to his arrival at Boston College, Harrington was an executive with Hewlett-Packard Company for 20 years. His roles there included global director of management and organization development, chief quality officer and member of the executive committee for HP’s Medical Products Business, and quality director for Hewlett-Packard United Kingdom, Ltd., as well as a number of human resource management positions. Along with Professor Douglas T. Hall of Boston University, he is the author of Career Management & Work/Life Integration: Using Self-Assessment to Navigate Contemporary Careers (Sage Publications, 2007). Harrington holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Stonehill College, a master’s degree in psychology from Boston College, and a Ph.D. in human resource development and organization development from Boston University.
Michael Kimmel is among the leading researchers and writers on men and masculinity in the world today. A professor of sociology at the State University of New York, Stony Brook, his many books include The Politics of Manhood (1995), The Gender of Desire (2005), and The History of Men (2005). His documentary history, Against the Tide: Pro-Feminist Men in the United States, 1776-1990 (Beacon, 1992), chronicled men who supported women’s equality since the founding of the country. His most recent best-selling book, Guyland (HarperCollins, 2008), charts the emergence of a new stage of development among young people. Kimmel consults regularly with non-governmental organizations, corporations, and governments concerning men’s issues. He was in the first coeducational class at Vassar College, where he received his bachelor’s degree. He received his master’s degree at Brown and his Ph.D. at the University of California Berkeley.
Karen Kornbluh was a visiting fellow at the Center for American Progress working on environmental technology financing and work-family policies when she wrote this chapter. Previously, she served as policy director in then-Sen. Obama’s Senate office, beginning in 2005. Prior to that, Kornbluh founded the Work and Family Program at the New America Foundation, where she was also a Markle technology fellow and published widely on the need to update government policies for the new family and new economy. From 1994 to 1997, she filled several roles at the Federal Communications Commission, including assistant chief of the International Bureau, director of the Office of Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs, and deputy chief of the Mass Media Bureau. Kornbluh received a master’s degree from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and a bachelor’s degree from Bryn Mawr College.
Jamie J. Ladge is a faculty member in the College of Business at Northeastern University, where she teaches in the areas of management and organizational development. Ladge is a faculty affiliate of the Boston College Center for Work and Family and an Alfred P. Sloan Work-Family Career Development Award Grantee for the 2009-2011 academic years. Her primary research interests are at the intersection of careers, identity, and work-life integration. Her most recent research work has been published in academic journals such as Organizational Dynamics, Journal of Vocational Behavior, and Negotiation and Conflict Management Research Journal. She also has published a number of Harvard Business School cases and was recently cited in a 2009 article in The Wall Street Journal on parents re-entering the workplace. Ladge earned her B.S. from Babson College, an M.B.A. from Simmons College, and an M.S. and Ph.D. from Boston College.
Courtney E. Martin is the award-winning author of Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters: How the Quest for Perfection is Harming Young Women (Berkley Books, 2008). She is also a widely-read freelance journalist and regular blogger for Feministing. She is a senior correspondent for The American Prospect and her work has appeared in The Washington Post, Newsweek, and The Christian Science Monitor, among others. In addition, Martin consults with social justice organizations, including the Ms. Foundation for Women, the National Council for Research on Women, and the Bartos Institute for the Constructive Engagement of Conflict. Martin has a master’s degree from the Gallatin School at New York University in writing and social change and a bachelor’s degree from Barnard College in political science and sociology. She is a fellow of both the Woodhull Institute for Ethical Leadership and the Women’s Media Center.
Kimberly Morgan is associate professor of political science and international affairs at The George Washington University. She received her Ph.D. in political science from Princeton University in 2001 and was a post-doctoral fellow at New York University and Yale University before coming to George Washington. She teaches courses on European politics, comparative politics, and comparative social policy. In 2008-09, Morgan was a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Her book Working Mothers and the Welfare State: Religion and the Politics of Work-Family Policies in Western Europe and the United States was published in 2006 by Stanford University Press, and her articles have appeared in numerous academic journals. Currently, she and Massachusetts Institute of Technology Professor Andrea Louise Campbell are completing a book titled The Delegated Welfare State: Medicare, Markets, and the Governance of American Social Policy (forthcoming, Oxford University Press).
Mary Ann Mason is currently professor and co-director of the Berkeley Center on Health, Economic & Family Security at the University of California Berkeley School of Law. Mason’s scholarship spans working families, in particular the issues faced by the surging numbers of professional women in law, medicine, science, and the academic world. Her most recent book (co-authored with her daughter Eve Mason Ekman) is Mothers on the Fast Track: How a New Generation Can Balance Family and Careers (Oxford, 2007). Among her other books are two major works on child custody, From Father’s Property to Children’s Rights: The History of Child Custody in the United States (Columbia University Press, 1994) and The Custody Wars: Why Children are Losing the Legal Battle—and What We Can Do About It (Basic Books, 1999). Mason received a bachelor’s degree cum laude from Vassar College, a Ph.D. in American history from the University of Rochester, and a J.D. from the University of San Francisco.
Susan H. Pinkus is the president of S.H. Pinkus Associates, a public opinion company. She was previously director of the LATimes poll at the Los Angeles Times. She is a past member of Executive Council of American Association of Public Opinion Researchers and past president of Pacific Chapter. She is also a member of the National Women’s Media Foundation, the World Association for Public Opinion Research, and a trustee on the National Council on Public Polls. She is on the Board of Directors at the Roper Center and serves on the Journalism Advisory Committee at SUNY Albany. Pinkus earned her bachelor’s degree at the State University of New York at Albany, and completed post-graduate work toward an MBA at City University of New York, Baruch College.
Dorothy Roberts is the Kirkland & Ellis Professor at Northwestern University School of Law, with joint appointments in African American Studies, Sociology, and the Institute for Policy Research. She is author of the award-winning books Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty (Vintage Books, 1998) and Shattered Bonds: The Color of Child Welfare (Basic Books, 2003), as well as six co-edited texts and more than 70 articles and essays in books and scholarly journals, including Harvard Law Review, Stanford Law Review, and Yale Law Journal. Roberts also serves on the boards of directors of the Black Women’s Health Imperative, National Coalition for Child Protection Reform, and Generations Ahead, as well as on the executive committee of Cells to Society: The Center on Social Disparities and Health, the Braam foster care oversight panel in Washington State, and the Standards Working Group of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine. Roberts received a bachelor’s degree from Yale College and a J.D. from Harvard Law School.
Jamal Simmons emerged from the 2008 election as one of the new young voices in the world of political analysis. With an extensive background in Democratic politics and international affairs, he was a strong supporter of Barack Obama’s campaign and became a fixture on CNN’s political coverage. Simmons is a principal at the Raben Group, where he provides strategic and communications counsel to the firm’s clients. Previously, Simmons was a senior aide to several Democratic political campaigns and served as chief of staff to Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick (D-MI), senior advisor to Sen. Max Cleland (D-GA), and as a political appointee in the Clinton administration under U.S. Trade Representative and Commerce Secretary Mickey Kantor. Simmons received his bachelor’s degree from Morehouse College and his master’s in public policy from the Kennedy School at Harvard University.
Sally Steenland is senior policy advisor to the Faith and Progressive Policy Initiative at American Progress. In 2005, she organized the Initiative’s “national conversations,” a series of town-hall meetings and discussions across the country on pressing issues of faith and policy. She guides the Initiative’s work on a variety of policy issues, including faith and science, the role of religion in the public square, diversity and tolerance, economics, the environment, and cultural and social matters. Previously, Steenland was deputy director of the National Commission on Working Women, where she wrote major studies on women’s employment and women in the media and directed projects involving women in nonprofessional jobs. Steenland received a bachelor’s degree in English from Calvin College in Grand Rapids, MI, and a master’s in education from Howard University.
Ruy Teixeira is a senior fellow at both the Century Foundation and American Progress, where he co-directs the Progressive Studies Program. He is the author or co-author of six books, including Red, Blue and Purple America: The Future of Election Demographics (Brookings Institution Press, 2008); The Emerging Democratic Majority (Scribner, 2002); America’s Forgotten Majority: Why the White Working Class Still Matters (Basic Books, 2000); and The Disappearing American Voter (Brookings Institution Press, 1992), as well as hundreds of articles, both scholarly and popular. Teixeira’s recent writings include “New Progressive America,” “The Decline of the White Working Class and the Rise of a Mass Upper Middle Class” (with Alan Abramowitz), “The Politics of Definition” (with John Halpin), “Back to the Future: The Emerging Democratic Majority Re-emerges” (with John Judis), and the New Politics Institute reports, “The Next Frontier: A New Study of Exurbia” and “The Progressive Politics of the Millennial Generation.”
For more research on women and the economy see CAP’s Our Working Nation page.