Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Shriver Report

Shriver_coverLate last week, the Center for American Progress and Maria Shriver issued The Shriver Report: A Woman's Nation Changes Everything. The report contains studies and essays on a number of important issues related to women and society, written by a host of scholars, and an epilogue by Oprah Winfrey. The report examines the changes in our society now that one-half of all U.S. workers are women, and mothers are the primary breadwinners or co-breadwinners in two-thirds of American families.

From the executive summary,

Recognizing the importance of women’s earnings to family well-being is the key piece to understanding why we are in a transformational moment. This social transformation is affecting nearly every aspect of our lives—from how we work to how we play to how we care for one another. Yet, we, as a nation, have not come to terms with what this means. In this report, we break new ground by taking a hard look at how women’s changing roles affect our major societal institutions, from government and businesses to our faith communities. We outline how these institutions rely on outdated models of who works and who cares for our families. And we examine how our culture has responded to one of the greatest social transformations of our time.

Some highlights from the press release

A Seismic Workforce Shift

  • The advent of women becoming half of US workers is the greatest transformative force of our time. This is a permanent change in our culture – unlike temporary spikes in female employment in the past when, for instance, men left the workforce and went off to war.
  • Three-quarters of Americans view the rising proportion of women in the workplace as a positive development for society, with fully 70% percent of men saying they are comfortable having women work outside the home. But both fathers and mothers are concerned about the negative effect on their children when there is no longer a stay-at-home parent.
  • This seismic shift is impacting every institution in American life. But many of them – government, business, faith, education, and media – haven’t kept up with the shifting nature of American families. For example, basic labor standards and the social insurance system are based on supporting “traditional” families, where the husband works and the wife stays home to care for children.
  • More than 80% of men and women agree that businesses failing to adapt to the needs of modern families risk losing good workers. And the fact is, businesses that support and retain women do have healthier bottom lines.
  • The current recession has accelerated the workforce shift towards women, because most of the jobs lost have been men’s jobs. But the increase in women’s proportion of the workforce will continue, because future job growth is predicted to be most robust in industries, such as education and health, where women dominate.

One of the key points of the report is that we have moved beyond the "battle of the sexes" to negotiation by the sexes over work, family, and everything else. The html version is here, and the full report in pdf can be downloaded here.

MM

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