The battle of the sexes. It's been a staple of the movies since the 1940s — Tracy & Hepburn, et al. But it's far older than that, of course, and never will it end (one hopes). About 40 years ago, the battleground moved from the home into the workplace — and has never left. Yet, in their pursuit of true equality with men in the job market, women still fall short.
This edition of The Next Economy, a joint project of The Atlantic and National Journal, examines how far women have come and why they haven't gone further. Our first thought was to use all female writers. But when one of the writers was queried, she objected. Gender in the workplace, she said, also concerns men.
Indeed, it does. As Irin Carmon points out in her cover story, part of the reason for women's relative progress is that less-educated men are dropping behind. Women's progress is real, she learns, but it only goes so far: Women have gone into fields that are growing but mostly don't pay much, and they tend to stall on the corporate ladder at about age 38. The fact that women have leaped ahead of men in higher education, Anya Kamenetz explains, hasn't translated into equality in the marketplace.
The reasons are complicated — the stubborn imbalances between workplace and home, the lack of an old girls' network, stereotypes about what a leader is, perhaps a (refreshing) paucity of zealotry about reaching the top. When Dave Denison, our not-token male writer, looks at the businesswomen who have made it to the top, he learns that there's as much difference between how particular women lead as there is between men and women.
But for all the difficulties, women do get ahead. Consider the story of Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, the daughter of poorly educated immigrants, who, with a high school counselor's encouragement, hard work — and, yes, the aid of affirmative action — forged a path to Congress and, now, into the president's Cabinet. Who says that the American Dream is dead?
If this is a war between the genders, it's one of attrition. The women are slowly gaining, but economists figure that it will take decades before they catch up to the men. In the meantime, why not pursue gender peace? On the back page, Megan McArdle reminds us that men and women may set up house together and share their lives. At the end of the day, often literally, we're in this together.
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