The Shriver Report Updates Womens Progress
THE SHRIVER REPORT:
A Womans Nation Changes Everything
By Maria Shriver, edited by Heather Boushey
Available as an ebook or as a free PDF download at www.americanprogress.org/issues
By Elizabeth Buzzelli 11/2/09
Women have come a long way, according to a new study on women published this month as The Shriver Report: A Womans Nation Changes Everything.
The report, available only as an e-book or as a free online download, was authored by Maria Shriver and edited by Heather Boushey (a senior economist with The Center for American progress), and Ann OLeary (Executive Director of the Berkeley Center for Health, Economic, and Family Security).
For the first time in American history, Shriver stresses, one-half of all workers in the workplace are females; a woman is the sole breadwinner in 20 percent of all families; one-half of all families rely on the earnings of two parents; and 70 percent of families include a working mother.
Thats a long way from 1963 when a study chaired by Eleanor Roosevelt and Margaret Mead found the role of women: most generally approved by counselors, parents, and friends is the making of a home, the rearing of children, and the transmission to them in their earliest years of the values of the American heritage.
So, according to Shriver et al, weve come a long way but now that the problems are identified, we still have a long way to goin new directions. It turns out that the title of the report is a little misleading. It isnt really a womans nation any more than it is a mans nation. America is a shared nation. With childcare, elder care, holding on to faith, gender issues, pay, educationissues for all.
The writers of the many chapters given here say what is needed most are changes in our institutions. Government, which still views the roles of women as outmoded stereotypes, needs to: reform our anti-discrimination laws so that employers cannot discriminate against or exclude women when offering workplace benefits; update our social insurance system to reflect new family responsibilities; increase support to families for child care, early education, and elder care.
Corporations must change worker policies. Especially since the United States is the only industrialized country without any requirement that employers provide paid family leave.
Colleges and universities need to take the new student into account since: Only a handful of major research universities offer any paid leave for graduate students and postdocs, and some have no leave policy at all, leaving women of child-bearing years off the fast-track for well-paying research jobs.
Churches pay no attention to women so over-stressed they have no time for their spiritual lives. The marketplace does little to work around womens new job hours. All parts of our culture must come together, the writers say, in order to create the kind of society we want and need to have.
In The New Breadwinners, Heather Boushey looks at where women are working, and what this means for the economic well-being of women and their families. What is new here is pinpointing the failure of institutions to keep up with the realities of American life. Beginning with government and Nixons anti-childcare veto, the author points to families trying to juggle child-care and elder care with no help from corporations or the government.
Political leaders talk about family values, the writer says, but too often real reforms are set aside when it comes time to draw up the federal budget or do the heavy legislative lifting to ensure that women and men can raise their children, care for their elders, and continue to earn the incomes they need to survive and thrive in todays economy.
Government policies, according to the writer, are rooted in the idea that the American family is still a single breadwinner with a woman at home to take care of the: kids, the aged, and the infirm while the breadwinner is at work.
Other chapters in the report look at institutions which have made no move to change how they do business, to their own detriment. In public schools kids are still let out in the middle of the afternoonwhen no parent is available to pick them up. Summer vacation is three months long, a figure parents schedules can never match. The schools, in turn, suffer from the loss of women running PTAs, helping in schools, minding lunchrooms, performing as teachers aideswith no idea how to replace them.
Also feeling the loss are churches, homeless shelters, and fund-raising organizations which find themselves scrambling to fill the jobs volunteers once held.
Doctors and dentists rarely have evening or weekend appointments. Repair people keep to daily work hours though a good half of their customers either have to take time off from work to be there, or arrange for a family member to take over.
What is clear, is that our society, our culture, and our institutions havent kept up with the needs of a rapidly changing world.
In Where Have You Gone, Roseanne Barr?, Susan J. Douglas writer: On any given evening, in fictional television, you will see female police chiefs, surgeons, detectives, district attorneys, partners in law firms and , on 24, a female president of the United States. Reality TV offers up the privileged real housewives of New York, Atlanta, and New Jersey, all of whom devote their time to shopping or taking their daughters to acting coaches. All of this while on news programs there is minimal coverage of women and the issues affecting them. All of these roles are great, says the author, but then she asks: Whats wrong with these fantasy portraits of power? ...and, what happened to everyday women in the media?
Other chapters look at faith in our new society, at the immigrant woman worker, and at the new families. In a section from Dan Mulhern, first gentleman of Michigan, he talks about dealing with his own issues as husband of Michigans governor. I learned what first ladies, executives wives, and just about every girl or woman on the globe felt for decades when someone looked past them as though they werent there. These moments helped me appreciate the ways in which we marginalize people and why inclusion is not only nice and just, but makes incredible sense.
From sex to glass ceilings, the Shriver Report examines every facet of the modern womans life. The people who have worked so hard to identify these new problems facing our nation ask that you join the conversation with your own ideas. A Womans Nation may be reached at www.awomansnation.com.
Elizabeth Kane Buzzelli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org