Feminism and the Civil Rights Movement

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Sheryl Sandberg poses a perplexing dilemma as she proclaims “women are not making it to the top in any profession anywhere in the world,” especially considering women earn approximately 57% of undergraduate and 60% of all master’s degrees. A rational individual would conclude an aggregate increase in the number of educated women from 1960 to 2010 would yield more women leaders in the 20th century, but the data is not as promising as one might expect—only 9 of 190 heads of state are women and only 15-16% of the corporate sector is female. Sandberg says something along the path from college to career continues to encourage women to “drop out” or “lean back” from the workforce. Why aren’t women “leaning in”? Since the first wave of feminism and the Civil Rights Movement, women have made political and economic gains, —the western world is now supposed to value women that lean in to embrace their careers. Still, gender stereotypes and sticky values maintain a patriarchal gender hierarchy that systematically keeps women out of the meeting rooms and in lower-paying and lower-level jobs. Sticky values have kept generations of women from the top, but Sandberg asserts modern women can create a “new normal” through a more equitable division of labor that changes the cost and benefit structure of marriage and career for men and women. This modern division (or ‘new normal’) alters traditional gender expectations and encourages women to “lean in [to]” their careers rather than conform to stereotypical or systematic bias—or worse, fall victim to the “ambition” gap. I argue women’s history of systematic exposure to stereotype threat has resulted in a “self-fulfilling prophecy” that confined women to traditional roles and kept them out o... ... middle of paper ... ...modern women (and men) face are stereotypes and structural biases. To counter these biases, women can and should manage or lead in whichever way that appropriately strikes a balance between her two halves: mother and leader. The combination of maternal and leadership instincts could potentially reap unforeseen benefits that improve the modern workplace. Works Cited Clayton-Dye, Amanda. “The Political Economy of Gender.” Lectures at University of Washington, Seattle, 1 May, 2014. Pamela Paxton and Melanie M. Hughes. Women, Politics, and Power: A Global Perspective. 2nd Edition. Los Angeles: Sage Publications, 2014. Sandberg, Sheryl. Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. New York: Random House, 2013. Sandberg, Sheryl. “Why We Have Too Few Women Leaders.” TEDWomen Talks. Dec. 2010. .

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