In 1955 Mrs. Dale Carnegie, whose husband wrote the best-seller “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” advised her fellow housewives: “The two big steps that women must take are to help their husbands decide where they are going and use their pretty heads to help them get there. Let’s face it, girls. That wonderful guy in your house – and in mine – is building your house, your happiness and the opportunities that will come to your children.”
Women were second-rate members of society and marriage in the 1950s. Those who went out to work were relegated to low-paying clerical, nursing, teaching, and domestic jobs, and to even lower-paying jobs for the nearly invisible Black female population. The newspaper want-ads had a separate section for women. The same type of humiliation existed in higher education, where many medical schools, law schools, and graduate schools were rejecting the “frivolous” applications of women, while female undergraduate students were often said to be pursuing an M.R.S. (Mrs.) degree.
The women’s rights movement of the 60s and 70s contributed to some dramatic changes in education. Based on data from the Census Bureau and the Russell Sage Foundation:
—–By 2009 women were earning 33 percent more undergraduate degrees than men.
—–In 1970, about 50 percent more men than women completed master’s degrees. By 2010, about 50 percent more women than men completed master’s degrees.
—–In 1970 women earned about 10 percent of all PhDs. Now they earn more PhDs than men.
But despite all the successes of women, and despite their having earned the right to economic equality, the white male establishment has prevailed, like a schoolyard bully muscling lunch money from the smarter but weaker kids. Only one out of five members of Congress is female. Corporate boards remain overwhelmingly male.
The disparagement of women goes well beyond the levels of higher education:
Income: $1 for a Woman, $1.25 for a Man
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that women earn just 80% of men’s pay. Income disparities have worsened since the recession, with only about one-fifth of new jobs going to women. In California, Hispanic women, who do much of our homecare work, make only 43 cents for every dollar made by white men.
Retirement Wealth: $1 for a Woman, $1.80 for a Man
Men average nearly $28,000 a year in retirement assets, while women have just over $15,000. Women over 65 have twice the poverty rate of men. Unsurprisingly, Black and Hispanic women fare the worst, with median wealth of a stunningly low $200 and $100, respectively.
Women’s Health: Congress Cares More About Controlling the Female Body
Income disparities threaten the health of women, especially low-income Black women, who are three to four times as likely to die from pregnancy issues as white women. And now it’s getting worse, with an attack on Planned Parenthood, which saves women’s lives through breast cancer screenings, and reduces abortions by providing contraceptive services. Planned Parenthood is also cost-effective, saving $7 for every dollar spent. But Congress doesn’t want low-income women telling them what to do.
The safety net, with programs geared toward children’s nutrition and infant care, is repeatedly under attack, even though the total cost of assistance is much less than welfare for the rich.
Women Are Respected — In Other Countries
The U.S. has one of the fastest-increasing rates of maternal mortality in the world, putting us in the company of war-torn and impoverished nations. The U.S., Oman, and Papua New Guinea are the only countries that don’t provide paid maternity leave.
Our country ranks #3 on the UN’s 2013 Human Development Index, but when adjusted for gender disparity it drops to #42.
Just about 100 years ago Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood and a tireless advocate for a woman’s right to control her own body, spoke about the poor urban women of New York City: “These poor, pale-faced, wretched wives. The men beat them. They cringe before their blows, but pick up the baby, dirty and unkempt, and return to serve him.”
Women are still getting beaten down today.