Women’s employment opportunities have certainly increased since the “Mad Men” 60s, when a powerful glass ceiling precluded their advancement to leadership in virtually every major American enterprise, both public and private. Now, long removed from the days of Don Draper and Co., women have come a long way: they are equal, if not superior, to men in many sectors of the economy and many fields of knowledge.
Wage-wise, women are increasingly dominating the American workplace. According to a recent Forbes article, women control 60 percent of all wealth in the United States, which amounts to roughly $12 trillion. This statistic is only expected to increase, with some analysts having women increasing their control of aggregate wealth to $22 trillion by the year 2020, although this is admittedly a partial function of the demographic demise of male baby boomers.
Although women have not consistently arrived at the highest rungs of the economic ladder – just 15 Fortune 500 companies have women CEOs, and only 73 percent of such companies have female executives of any kind – those numbers are quickly changing as women continue to dominate the halls of colleges and universities across the nation. Indeed, because more and more graduates of higher education are women, the day is fast approaching when men will be a distinct minority in most board rooms and government agency front offices. For every 100 men, 140 women will graduate with a college degree at some level – while in 1960, there were 160 men for every 100 women who graduated.
This presents a problem for those who continue to assert pervasive gender inequality: feminists. Is the decline of one gender in one societal institution (in this case, men in education) something worthy of celebration if it leads to greater gender balance in other areas (more women in corporate leadership positions)?
“Many industries will see a shift in the male-female ratio in the coming decades simply because women are now more likely than men to get a bachelor’s degree,” a recent Scripps Voice column reads. “This trend extends to graduate programs, where 62.6 percent of Master’s degrees and 53.3 percent of Doctoral degrees are conferred to women according to the National Center for Educational statistics.”
“Hopefully over time, this trend in education will transfer to a more gender equitable workplace,” the column concludes.
While the author does appear to see this trend as a means for overall gender equality, she also shows very little concern for the growing imbalance among men and women within the ranks of education.
University of Michigan Economics and Finance Professor Mark Perry writes in his American Enterprise Institute blog that if women had been the opposite end of this educational imbalance, it would be deemed a “national crisis.”
“Just as a thought experiment – imagine the public reaction if the educational degree imbalances of 4.35 million bachelor’s degrees and 9.7 million college degrees overall favored men, and not women?” Perry said. “I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to say that a college degree imbalance that large in favor of men would be considered a ‘national crisis.’ College degree disparities, when women are over-represented, never seem to be much of a concern. And with those enormous gender imbalances in higher education favoring women, do we really need hundreds of women’s centers on college campuses all over the country, women’s only study lounges, and female-only campus housing for STEM degrees?”
It is often said that demography is destiny. As more and more advanced degrees are conferred upon women by the American higher education system – which remains the central arbiter of life-long income and wealth prospects for most people – the rise of women into positions of public and private leadership will be exponential, leaving men behind.
Few would disagree that feminism was instrumental in getting rid of the Pete Campbells of the “Mad Men” world. But we are now in a very different place. Instead of promoting gender equality, the modern movement now roots for women to do better than men at every turn and celebrates women’s achievements at the expense of male failure. The movement would have more credibility if it would call out gender bias against both men and women and if it would champion the day, paraphrasing Dr.King, when children grow up in an America where they are not judged by their gender but by the content of their character.