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Washington Examiner


Capitalism is the Ultimate Women's Liberation

March 10, 2010

By Kay S. Hymowitz

International Women’s Day may not have made many headlines on Monday. But let’s consider the irony of this March 8th holiday, which was first proposed by the Socialist Party of America a century ago. As it turns out, women today are thriving as never before — thanks to global capitalism.

By now, most people are probably aware of the progress made by American women. Two decades ago, about 18 percent of women in two-income families made more money than their husbands, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics. By 2007, it was 26 percent. So far, a recession that has hit men so hard it is sometimes called a man-cession has only intensified the trend. Women also start businesses at a higher rate than men do.

As a generation of girl-powered millennials comes of age, the momentum is all in women’s favor. Fifty-eight percent of college graduates are female. They make up almost half of medical and law graduates and more than 50 percent of those earning master’s degrees. The National Center for Education Statistics recently asked tenth-graders how far they expected to pursue their education: 42 percent of girls said they planned to pursue a graduate or professional degree. Just 29 percent of boys said the same.

Less widely known is that female progress is an international trend; call it the New Girl Order. Throughout the European Union, women now dominate university enrollment. In a number of European countries like Denmark, France, and Finland, over half of all women between 20 and 24 are in school. The number of countries where women constitute the majority of postgraduate degree candidates is also growing rapidly. The percentage of women in business schools has always lagged significantly; but according to the Forte Foundation, in the past few years b-schools in both the U.S. and Europe are seeing a surge in female enrollment.

Women all over the developed world are pouring into urban centers in pursuit of career opportunities consistent with their educational pedigree. So many women have moved out of villages and towns in eastern Germany to cities where the best jobs are that the Germans have coined a term — frauenmangel — to describe the trend.

In traditional countries like China, Korea, and Japan, the gender gap is quickly narrowing in the higher education system. Young single women are changing the face of parts of Shanghai, Tokyo, and Seoul, where female-friendly bars, restaurants, and boutiques now sit on every corner.

Celebrants of International Women’s Day might claim feminism is the explanation for this stunning transformation. But the women’s movement never played much of a role in the cultural life of Asia or Eastern Europe.

The deeper reason for the New Girl Order is the productivity-induced decline of manufacturing on the one hand, and the explosion of jobs in fields like media, public relations, design, retail, health, and law on the other. The manufacturing economy relied on brawn and favored men. The service and knowledge economy, on the other hand, rewards people skills and brainpower, areas where women can easily compete with males. In fact, some management experts and psychologists believe the erstwhile second sex has an advantage in the knowledge economy. With women getting all of those university degrees, the experts may be right.

Of course, young women outside of the economically developed world won’t be joining the New Girl Order anytime soon. In Africa, rural Asia, much of Latin America, and the Middle East, they do what women have always done before market-driven progress gave us the knowledge economy: they finish with school at a young age, marry young, bear three-plus children, and carry on with pre-modern domestic chores.

That may change, but not before they become literate competitors in the global market economy.

Original Source:



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