don’t women get to the top? According to a recent
cover story for the New York Times magazine, it’s
because the bright young women who were poised to take over the
world would rather be at home with their kids than climbing the
corporate ladder (Lisa Belkin, The Opt Out Revolution,
October 26, 2003).
The New York Times could have featured a serious investigation of systemic factors
that limit the upward mobility of mothers in the workplace. Or a
more philosophical piece about why our society is still locked into
the idea that mothers, above all others, are responsible for caring
for the nation’s children and how this attitude impacts women
both in and outside the workplace. Even an in-depth commentary about
how U.S. social policy lets down working families, time and time
again, would be welcome. Instead, the Times gave pride of
place to an article which resorts to pop science to make the case that
mothers -- even the really brainy ones -- are biologically hard-wired
to prioritize caregiving over competition.
Perhaps the editors were
hungry for the controversy that followed the publication of Belkin’s
story,(1) or perhaps they were simply content to write off reports of women’s
inequality in the professional arena as a product
of maternal behavior. Either way, The Opt Out Revolution fails to shed new light on the issue it purports to address: the
scarcity of women in political, corporate and academic leadership.
“Why don’t women run the world?” Belkin ponders.
“Maybe it’s because they don’t want to.”
Or maybe it’s because
the world doesn’t want women in charge.