Sex and Power: The State of Women in America
March 27, 2003. Spencer Trask Lectures
At the dawn of the twenty-first century, women in America are richer, more educated, and more powerful than they’ve ever been. So why is it, Susan Estrich asks, that they account for a mere three percent of the nation’s top executives? Why are there only three women running Fortune 500 companies? A quick survey of politics, academia, law, medicine, and entertainment reveals similar troubling inequities. Twenty-five years ago, the women who were “firsts” were supposed to have blazed a trail. Today, fewer and fewer women are choosing to take that path. Why have so many women opted out of the race for power? And why is it that women fail to call into action the power they already have as consumers, voters, shareholders, agents of change? It is Susan Estrich’s belief that until women reach the seats of power-where the rules are made-the deck will continue to be stacked against them. And the consequences, she writes, will be paid by future generations of daughters-and sons. Much of Estrich’s critical focus is trained on the question of ambition: Are women today ambitious enough, both individually and collectively? When a woman chooses the mommy track, is it a victory for freedom of choice or a setback that underscores the limits of her either/or options? Are younger women too complacent, feeling that the battles for sexual equality were won long ago? On the contrary, Estrich argues. The battles were only half won; there is a revolution to finish.