The bad news for professional feminists is that the good news is multiplying: Last year more women than men received doctoral degrees. It is ludicrous to argue that women should be regarded as victims in patriarchal, phallocentric America and must be wards of government.
Women live five years longer than men. Their unemployment rate is significantly lower. For years they have received more high-school diplomas, B.A. and M.A. degrees, and now Ph.D.s. Yet the Obama administration wants the government to increase its protection of the (it evidently assumes) weaker sex. This, even though “contrary to what feminist lobbyists would have Congress believe, girls and women are doing well.” So says Diana Furchtgott-Roth.
A senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and former chief economist at the Department of Labor, she is the author of a just-published (from Encounter Books) broadside against the gender politics of the Obama administration and the current Congress, both of which seem impervious to evidence.
The president wants Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act. It would further enrich a Democratic constituency—trial lawyers—by saying that differences in pay between men and women cannot be based on differences of education, training, and experience unless there is a “business necessity”—an invitation to litigation.
Valerie Jarrett, a senior Obama adviser, says: In 1963, when the first “equal pay” law was enacted, “women earned 59 cents for every dollar earned by a man,” and “nearly 50 years later, the wage gap has narrowed by only 18 cents,” so “women are still paid only 77 cents for every dollar earned by a man—and are paid less than men even when they have similar levels of experience and education.”
Well. Women were 49.7 percent of the workforce in August. Because the economic slump hit construction and manufacturing harder than government and health care, which employ more women, by November women may be, for the first time, a majority of workers. In this year’s second quarter, women earned 82.8 percent of the median weekly wage of men. Last year single women working full time earned 95 percent of what men earned. Young, unmarried, and childless urban women earn 8 percent more than similarly situated males. Why? See above: College degrees.
Pay disparities largely reflect women’s choices. But seen through feminists’ ideological spectacles, “a woman’s choice of less time at the office and more time at home with family is not considered an opportunity but a societal problem calling for a government solution,” says Furchtgott-Roth.
The gender-grievance industry—the financial-reform legislation mandates 29 new offices to favor women—has a new project. National Journal reports that the administration is “promising to litigate, regulate, and legislate the nation’s universities until women obtain half of all academic degrees in science and technology and hold half the faculty positions in those areas.”
Although women receive more B.A.s, M.A.s, and Ph.D.s than men in biology and biomedical sciences, not enough women want what the administration wants them to want. There are fewer women choosing to enter many science and engineering programs than the administration wishes, and it assumes that the reason is discrimination against women. To which Furchtgott-Roth replies: Anti-women discrimination even at women’s colleges?
At Bryn Mawr, 4 percent of 2010 graduates majored in chemistry, 2 percent in computer science. At Smith, half of 1 percent were physics majors; 1.4 percent majored in computer science. In 2009 at Barnard, one third of 1 percent majored in physics and astronomy.
Consider NASA, whose administrator, Charles Bolden, has said that “perhaps foremost” among NASA’s missions is finding “a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science.” Now that NASA has undertaken the therapeutic promotion of other nations’ self-esteem, it is not surprising that it has big ideas about how every university should have gender-parity apparatchiks to meet “weekly with the university president, provost, vice president, and deans,” the agency says, and fan out through the institution’s departments, labs, and other learning centers to determine whether “environments” are conducive to women. That such social engineering will not be conducive to science is obvious but, to this hyper-ideological administration, irrelevant.
George Will is also the author of One Man's America: The Pleasures and Provocations of Our Singular Nation and With a Happy Eye But . . .: America and the World, 1997—2002.