For any working mom who's ever slipped into the classroom late for a school event, here's some welcome news: 75 percent of Americans approve of your life choices. I realize that may not be the 100 percent we overachievers would prefer, but it's a pleasant change from 1977, when the majority of our fellow citizens believed mothers harmed their children simply by working outside the home.
A series of papers released today by the Council on Contemporary Families paints a fascinating picture of changing gender roles in America and modern views about working women, including this factoid. The keynote paper documents how far we've come since the 1950s, but concludes that progress toward an egalitarian society has stalled. Other papers address differences by racial group, the impact in the managerial ranks, changing attitudes of men and the sexual revolution.
While we may enjoy the idea of ever-faster progress toward a nirvana of equality, it's important to be realistic. It makes sense that the pace of change is faster at the beginning of a revolution, and now the progress is slower as we -- as a society -- struggle with the very real challenges that come with changes in longstanding gender roles.
It's possible "we have already picked the low-hanging fruit by abolishing the most blatantly discriminatory laws. This leaves us with more complex problems in tackling the remaining inequality," wrote Stephanie Coontz, history professor at the Evergreen State College and co-chair of the council. "Much of the economic discrimination women still suffer is now filtered through the constrained (but not legally imposed) choices that people make in organizing parenthood. The way forward seems less clear to many."
What is your take on the gender revolution -- how far we've come and what distance remains to travel? I'd love to hear what things are like in your part of this big country.
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