Just as women have decisively claimed half of all jobs in the U.S. work force, more than half the desks in college classrooms, and the role of breadwinner or co-breadwinner in two-thirds of American families, there is a new spate of studies that delve into our roles and impact at work and at home. It's perfect timing for a fresh look at what we women know we are doing: working hard to earn a good living, working hard to take care of our families, and struggling to get it all done, week in, week out.
Maria Shriver will be on NBC's Today Show and news programs this week with stories related to "The Shriver Report: A Woman's Nation Changes Everything." Shriver, the first lady of California who has transformed the California women's conference into the biggest annual women's gathering in the country, has joined with the Center for American Progress for a survey on women. Here's a taste of what they found:
- Men and women are both accepting of the fact that women are gaining as breadwinners--65.3 percent of women and 61.2 percent of men strongly agreed with the idea that they are comfortable with a woman earning more than a man in a household.
- Four in 10 mothers are primary breadwinners (single parents) and an additional 24 percent are co-breadwinners, bringing home at least a quarter of the family's earnings.
- Only one in five families with children (20.7 percent) have a male breadwinner and female homemaker, compared to 44.7 percent in 1975.7 That year, 4 in 10 mothers with a child under age 6 (39.6 percent) worked outside the home, but by 2008, two-thirds (64.3 percent) of mothers of young children worked outside the home.
- Women's gains in the workplace come at a critical time, during a devastating recession in which three out of four jobs lost have been men's jobs, and now 2 million wives are supporting their families while their unemployed husbands search for work, according to Heather Boushey, the study's lead economist.
Time/Ralph GibsonThe latest Time magazine, meanwhile, leads with its own major study on women in conjunction with the Rockefeller Foundation. Like the Shriver study, it also finds that while women have gained in the number of jobs they hold and as breadwinners, overall, women still lag behind men in pay, earning on average 77 cents for every $1 men earn. Some good news: 76 percent of adults surveyed believe it's a positive thing for society that women make up half of the work force, and a solid majority of both men and women believe women who have children are just as committed to their jobs as women who do not have children.
There's a lot to digest in both studies, and seeing by the numbers how we have transformed the workplace while continuing to bear the brunt of the responsibilities at home lends some credibility to other recent studies that say women are less happy today.
There's a lot of work to do to change workplace and government policies to catch up to the economic changes in the American family. But as we take the time to pore through these findings, let's also take a moment to feel justifiably proud of how far we've come--in sheer job numbers (if not yet pay equity), and in changing attitudes about gender roles at work and at home.
It's going to be an interesting week. Let's get the conversation started: What's your take on some of the findings from these new studies?
More on Shine on The Shriver Report: