Whether you agree with Sarah Palin’s politics or not, she sends an inspiring message in her recent ad known as “Mama Grizzlies.” She encourages woman voters to stand up and fight for their children and their country, to prove that women can get things done. While it is clear that women today have taken that message to heart, the tangible results are less certain.
In The New York Times last week, columnist Nicholas Kristof reported that, for the first time in history, men no longer dominate the American labor force. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women were the majority of payroll employees for the five months that ended in March. Women occupy just over half of professional and managerial positions in the country.
Kristoff argued that this phenomenon is partially because three-quarters of the Americans who lost their jobs in the recession were men. But he also pointed to another explanation: perhaps women are “simply better-suited than men to today’s jobs.” He cited Hanna Rosin from The Atlantic, who argues that today’s postindustrial economy values predominately female attributes like social intelligence and communication over men’s physical size and strength.
But have women actually achieved equality -— or even, as Kristof suggests, superiority — in the work place? Jerry Jacobs, professor of sociology, doesn’t think so. He said the number of women in male-dominated professions hasn’t changed significantly. Rather, the number of those positions has decreased, while the number of secretaries, daycare workers and other female-dominated positions has increased.
“The labor force remains segregated by sex,” he said. “We think now that there are lots of women that are lawyers and doctors, ... there is no longer an uneven distribution of men and women across fields. But if you think about it, there are lots more secretaries.”
Still, there is no denying one fact: women are climbing the academic ladder. The National Honor Society reported that about 65 percent of its members are girls. According to a 2010 report from the Center on Education Policy, in math boys and girls are about equal, while in verbal skills 79 percent of elementary schoolgirls can read at a proficient level compared with 72 percent of boys.
At the college level, women also hold their own. According to Jacobs, American women receive more college degrees than men, as well as better grades in school. Women make up a slight majority at several top universities — such as Harvard College, Yale University and Penn.
At Penn, the female average GPA for spring 2009 was 3.45, while the male average was 3.37. According to College Dean Dennis Deturck, 54 percent of the College of Arts and Sciences is female, and slightly more women than men have been selected for Phi Beta Kappa from the College over the last few years.
And while the percentages of women in Wharton and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences remain on the lower end, those numbers are on the rise. Ellen Eckert, of SEAS undergraduate admissions, said the class of 2014 is 36-percent female, while the school was only 31-percent female at the end of 2009-2010.
But the steady rise in female performance at Penn over the past few years has not yet translated into tangible results in the workplace. In 2008, the average starting salary for College men was $5,043 higher than that for College women. Though salaries for both sexes went down over the next year due to the recession, the gender gap widened: on average College men received $7,263 more than College women. Likewise, Wharton men graduated with a higher starting salary on average than Wharton women by about $3,432 in 2009.
So Penn women, take a stand. We’re better-educated and perform better in school than men. Let’s translate that stellar academic performance into professional equality. Kristof may think we’re well on our way, but we can do better.
Lara Seligman is a rising College senior from Wynnewood, Pa. She is a former DP assignments editor. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. July 29, 10:50 a.m. - This column has been adjusted to show that 31 percent of the undergraduate Engineering program was female in the 2009-2010 academic year.Comments powered by Disqus
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