"The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Changes Everything" is a new report from Maria Shriver and the Center for American Progress that takes a look at how the role of women has changed over the past generation. The report was edited by CAP Senior Economist Heather Boushey and Ann O’Leary, CAP Senior Fellow and executive director for the University of California-Berkeley Center for Health, Economic, and Family Security.
Women today have more economic power than ever in our nation’s history. In 1967, women were only one-third of the workforce, and today they are half of all workers. They are the co-breadwinners in nearly 60 percent of families, and the primary breadwinners in nearly 40 percent of homes. The "working woman" has become a rule, rather than the exception—and more and more, it is a necessity. The recession has been roughest on male-dominated industries such as construction and manufacturing, making female incomes more important.
But despite the changing American woman and family, women still earn 23 cents less than men for every dollar earned in our economy, and this doesn’t just hurt women—it hurts families. Not only are women working, they still carry the burden for child care and elder care, among other family responsibilities. In order to accommodate this changing role, women need equal pay, flexible schedules, comprehensive child care polices, medical leave, and much more.
"The Shriver Report" also recognizes how working women affect a variety of other institutions, and it identifies the strides that still need to be made.
For instance, the report lauds the growing number of women with advanced and professional degrees, but it also points out the lack of women receiving degrees that will lead to the highest-paying jobs such as science and engineering. Colleges and universities need more parity between the genders, and the report provides recommendations to achieve this, for example by increasing colleges’ compliance with Title IX.
And even though women are regularly called upon to volunteer in church activities, they are rarely welcomed as leaders in faith institutions. Religious institutions are also trying to balance their belief in the spiritual superiority of the traditional family with the needs of their nontraditional congregations.
Women’s role in society has changed since the days of June Cleaver, and "The Shriver Report" is laying the groundwork for navigating this new era. If we are to move forward successfully, we need to rethink our assumptions about women and family, and adjust our policies accordingly.