The Great Divide is a series on inequality — the haves, the have-nots and everyone in between — in the United States and around the world, and its implications for economics, politics, society and culture. The series moderator is Joseph E. Stiglitz, a Nobel laureate in economics, a Columbia professor and a former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers and chief economist for the World Bank.*
This latest instructional column from the enlightened to the rest of us, How Can We Jump-Start the Struggle for Gender Equality? purports to demonstrate that something went wrong during the Vanguard's Righteous March to Parity Between the Sexes. Besides, that is, all those fussy dimorphic details which, since they are unimportant to the Vanguard are unimportant in fact.
[Starting in the 1960s, the] traditional division of labor by gender was challenged from all sides. Women’s share of the labor force, husbands’ share of housework, the integration of occupations once categorized by gender and women’s share of management jobs all rocketed upward from the 1970s till sometime in the 1990s. Women went from earning fewer than 10 percent of law and medicine degrees in 1970 to earning almost half of them by the early 2000s.
I don't think it is possible to cogently argue that, circa 1968, women were not subject to all manner of legal handicaps due to their choosing poorly as to which team they were to be conceived into. Similarly, I think that no matter how hard you might look, or no matter how many rocks you might wish to overturn, you would be hard pressed to find anyone wishing to reimpose all those petty, demeaning, senseless shackles.
Wonderful, even more indefensible nonsense for history's ash heap. Game over. Post over, sans point.
Not so fast, wonder wings. After making occupational advances across the board for two decades …
… the movement toward equality stopped. The labor force hit 46 percent female in 1994, and it hasn’t changed much since. Women’s full-time annual earnings were 76 percent of men’s in 2001, and 77 percent in 2011. Although women do earn a majority of academic degrees, their specialties pay less, so that earnings even for women with doctorate degrees working full time are 77 percent of men’s. Attitudinal changes also stalled. In two decades there has been little change in the level of agreement with the statement, “It is much better for everyone involved if the man is the achiever outside the home and the woman takes care of the home and family.
There are a couple things worth remembering here. Just as Jim Crow laws were a grotesque imposition on blacks because of their race, women were also subject to nearly endless impositions because of their gender. In the early 1960s, it was difficult for women to own property, obtain credit, and were barred from many jobs. And we must give credit where it is due. Progressives were the ones taking on Jim Crow, and tearing down the equally pervasive, demeaning, and unjustified subjugation of women.
And then they succumbed to Progressivism's twin diseases: submerging individuals within the group, and rampaging hubris. Both are on prominent display in the quoted para above, and throughout the article. It doesn't matter what individual women, or men, want; only that groups adhere to Progressives' insistence upon the only equality that matters — outcome. Attitudinal changes have "stalled", because they fail to adhere to the Progressive notion of what constitutes the correct attitude.
Progressives fancy themselves as being reality based and, ipso facto, correct in their every thought and deed. Whether Creationist or Dawkinsian, there is precious little disagreement to be found that women and men have always faced very different life challenges. Yet it is the Dawkinsian Progressive who falls, and falls hard, for the belief, as religious as anything you might find in revealed texts, that evolution stops at the neck line.
According to Dr. Cohen, sociology professor and author of a coming-real-soon-now book "The Family: Diversity, Inequality and Social Change", the blame lies with men and society. Men haven't moved into traditionally female occupations, and our society has failed to implement work-family policies oriented towards promoting gender equality.
Unfortunately for Dr. Cohen's Progressive vision, reality bites.
Here is a list of “non-traditional” (i.e., less than 25% female) occupations.
As it turns out, there are quite a lot of them, with an average female participation rate of roughly 10%. Taking a for instance, it is hard to imagine how work-family policies, no matter what they might be, differentially impact nursing and being a mechanic. Yet nursing remains overwhelmingly female, and any occupation with the word “mechanic” attached is at least 96% male. (My occupation, pilot, is 98.7% male, despite a cornucopia of job offers for any qualified female.) It appears that the other foot can be shod with the same shoe: women don't appear the least inclined to move into traditionally male occupations.
Maybe something more than stalled attitudes is involved. Maybe a great many women are concluding that, given a choice, they would far rather be nurses than mechanics. And just as many men are wondering why they would want to be primary school teachers when they could be working on cars.
If that is so, and the list of still “traditional” occupations suggests it is, then perhaps evolution didn’t stop at the neck line, and, consequently, equality of opportunity should not be expected to yield anything remotely resembling equality of outcome. Maybe, just maybe, unfair evolutionary discrimination has tilted the playing field in many more directions than just plumbing and upper body strength. Mechanical aptitude is unfairly — by Progressive standards — distributed. So why should we attribute to "stalled attitudes", or defective work-family policies, that which is far better explained by nature itself?
Which points at a fundamental objection to Dr. Cohen's urging us to imitate Iceland's family policies, and chiding "frightened traditionalists" in the US who are, poor benighted dears, averse to state-run child care.
There's even a term for it: Parity Error. So long as women are not eager to become mechanics, pilots, carpenters, masons, welders, ad nauseum, then men must do those things.
According to Dr. Cohen, If you want a society in which men are welcome and willing to be day care workers, you may need a workplace culture that accepts — or encourages — fathers’ spending more time at home with their children. To unblock the path toward gender equality, these policies may be the best ideas we have.
Until he concocts policies that encourage women to do things they resolutely refuse to do, then the best ideas Progressives have are no better than bolting a kick-stand on a tricycle.
* The reality deficits in this piece are so glaring and central that whatever Dr. Stiglitz' brilliance in economics, he is utterly devoid of skeptical moderation.