North Jefferson News, Gardendale, AL

Opinion

September 21, 2012

Steve Flowers: Women are approaching famed "glass ceiling"

COMMENTARY — Since my column appears in most of Alabama’s small to midsize local newspapers, a good many of you liked my column of two weeks ago titled, “Small Town Boys Succeed,” as might be expected.

Amazingly, almost all of America’s presidents and practically all of Alabama’s governors of the past century have hailed from small town America or small town Alabama. My assumption and prediction is that when I am dead and gone and someone analyzes the same subject a hundred years from now it will read, “Girls who grew up in small cities succeed.”

The America and Alabama I grew up in was made up of small towns, and was like a Norman Rockwell picture with kids riding their bikes to school or on their paper routes or to a Saturday matinee with their dog waiting outside the theater for them to go home, then to a game of baseball that began extemporaneously in someone’s front yard. Today, most people in the country grew up in a city like Los Angeles or Chicago.

We are also a very diverse nation. Our demographics are not homogenous. The nation is no longer a white Anglo-Saxon protestant culture. Many of our cities more closely mirror South American and Mexican republics. America is truly a melting pot.

Another observation is that girls are far exceeding boys in academic and career achievement in the United States. This disparity is very clear and pronounced. The proverbial glass ceiling has been broken, and the pieces are falling into the eyes of young males who are looking up at the females surpassing them and exceeding them at every level.

I could observe this trend developing when I was in the legislature. It became obvious to me that at every high school graduation I attended the valedictorian was a female. In addition, eight out of ten of the top academic finalists were female.

Today, over 60 percent of all college students are women. Close to 60 percent of law school seats are filled by women and medical school are now over 50 percent female. Half of the Ivy League universities, including Harvard, are headed by women.

This development will change the nature of American life. This female academic superiority will transpire into superior economic clout that will forever change the fabric of American life. We are becoming, and will continue to be, a country of female breadwinners.

Assuming this current trend continues, by the next generation more families will be supported by women than men. This development will somewhat be driven by the rise in single parent families. However, it is also increasingly true in two-earner families. The most recent figures reveal that presently, four in 10 working wives out-earned their husbands. This is an increase of more than 50 percent from 20 years ago.

If this trend continues, the results will be that eight out of 10 wives will make more money than their husbands in 20 years. What that means is that roles may very well reverse in the next generation in the United States. The women will be the primary family breadwinners and the men will be the homemakers.

The fastest and most pronounced dominance of any profession being taken over by women is the law. Nationwide, law schools are currently 60 percent female and will be 75 percent within 20 years. Because the law is the customary spawning pool for politics, look for women to progressively advance politically. It is only a matter of time before the ultimate marble ceiling — the presidency — is broken. Once that ice is broken, it will be Katie bar the door.

More than likely a cursory look at the nation’s capitol and the Alabama statehouse a generation from now will reveal half men and half women sitting in congressional and legislative seats, and probably a woman occupying the Oval Office and the governor’s office.

See you next week.

Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His column appears weekly in more than 70 Alabama newspapers. Steve served 16 years in the state legislature. He may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.

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