Panelists question claims of female progress in today’s society

18 02 2011
Editor’s note: The following story was originally published on thewhitworthian.com for the Feb. 18, 2011.

By Kyle Kim

Photo courtesy of John Ritter, The Atlantic

American women might not have been able to vote 100 years ago, but a recent article from The Atlantic claims women today dominate both the boardroom and bedroom in today’s society.Hanna Rosin’s “The End of Men” article for The Atlantic served as a springboard for a faculty-led panel discussion on the progress of women’s rights Tuesday night at Whitworth University.

Rosin wrote that not only are women making up the majority of today’s U.S. workforce and universities, but females are better suited for today’s postindustrial society where the fastest growing jobs require attributes more associated with women.

“The postindustrial economy is indifferent to men’s size and strength,” Rosin wrote. “The attributes that are most valuable today–social intelligence, open communication, the ability to sit still and focus–are, at a minimum, not predominantly male.”

The majority of panelists disagreed with Rosin’s conclusions published in the magazine’s July–August 2010 issue.

The article focuses on too narrow of an American segment to be taken seriously, said Jennifer Brown, panelist and associate professor of modern language at Whitworth University.

Although women are projected to take over the majority of the American workforce within the next seven years, only three of the 20 most common jobs for women in 2009 were of managerial or top-level positions, according to the Labor Department.

The most typical jobs for American women are secretarial and administrative assistant positions. Additionally, the median wage of women who were full-time workers was 20 percent less than men’s salaries in the fourth quarter of 2010, compared to 32 percent less than men’s in 1970.

Data from Whitworth University’s Fall 2010 Tenth-Day Report shows 41 percent of all faculty members are women and the ratio of female and male tenured professors is 1-3.

In 2008, 62 percent of all non-administrative positions and 100 percent of program secretary positions were filled by women, based on data by the Human Resources department at Whitworth.

Rosin’s sloppy research cherry-picked correlational data and made it seem causational, said Kyle Storm, lecturer for Whitworth’s Graduate Studies in Education.

Rosin is not a stranger to controversial writing. The American Academy of Pediatrics challenged the credibility of her research for a story she wrote against breast-feeding in 2009, claiming she omitted certain scientific research to justify her claims.

Panelists critiqued how Rosin did not take other factors such as socioeconomic status of women into consideration.

Race and class in the context of sex and gender provides a more accurate picture of progress for women today than the facts in Rosin’s article, Brown said.

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