The real glass ceiling is at home

a gem
By Linda Hirshman, The American Prospect

Half of the wealthiest, most-privileged, best-educated females in the country stay home with their babies rather than work in the market economy.

When in September the New York Times featured an article exploring a piece of this story, "Many Women at Elite Colleges Set Career Path to Motherhood," the blogosphere went ballistic, countering with anecdotes and sarcasm.

Slate's Jack Shafer accused the Times of "weasel-words" and of publishing the same story -- essentially, "The Opt-Out Revolution" -- every few years, and, recently, every few weeks. (A month after the flap, the Times' only female columnist, Maureen Dowd, invoked the elite-college article in her contribution to the Times' running soap, "What's A Modern Girl To Do? about how women must forgo feminism even to get laid.)

The colleges article provoked such fury that the Times had to post an explanation of the then-student journalist's methodology on its Web site.

There's only one problem: There is important truth in the dropout story. Even though it appeared in The New York Times.

I stumbled across the news three years ago when researching a book on marriage after feminism. I found that among the educated elite, who are the logical heirs of the agenda of empowering women, feminism has largely failed in its goals. There are few women in the corridors of power, and marriage is essentially unchanged. The number of women at universities exceeds the number of men. But, more than a generation after feminism, the number of women in elite jobs doesn't come close.

Why did this happen? The answer I discovered -- an answer neither feminist leaders nor women themselves want to face -- is that while the public world has changed, albeit imperfectly, to accommodate women among the elite, private lives have hardly budged. The real glass ceiling is at home.