Is the American woman an endangered species?  Is she losing the good fight for equality in the workplace, on television and in our political hearts?

Katie Couric is out at CBS news.  She was the only high-profile woman anchor of a major American evening newscast.  Katie wasn’t very good at delivering a serious newscast and it wouldn’t be hard to argue she was given the job because of her gender and not because of her news credibility.

Ms. Couric isn’t even halfway through her five-year
contract with CBS, which began in June 2006 and pays an annual salary
of around $15 million. But CBS executives are under pressure to cut
costs and improve ratings for the broadcast, which trails rival
newscasts on ABC and NBC by wide margins.

Her departure would cap a difficult episode for CBS,
which brought Ms. Couric to the network with considerable fanfare in a
bid to catapult “Evening News” back into first place. Excluding several
weeks of her tenure, Ms. Couric never bested the ratings of interim
anchor Bob Schieffer, who was named to host the broadcast temporarily
after “Evening News” anchor Dan Rather left the newscast in the wake of
a discredited report on George W. Bush’s National Guard service.

Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign is stumbling and falling and — if she were a man and not a woman — she’d already be pushed out of the race by the “old boy” politico democrats:

“The Clinton campaign has run a very negative campaign,” said Raines.
“They have constantly — but in a very subtle way — had people remind
the public that [Sen. Barack Obama] is black.” Howell later said that the “best thing [Sen. Hillary Clinton]
has going for her” is the fact that Obama is consistently stigmatized
by the fact that “if you’re a black candidate, you have to apologize
for every stupid thing ever said by any black person.”

Singer Elton John, and Hillary supporter, proclaimed yesterday that the USA is a nation of woman haters:

“I never cease to be amazed at the misogynist attitude of some of the
people in this country,” he said. “I say to hell with them.”

Three examples do not necessarily make an argument that the American woman is in decline — but these indicators could point to a trend.

Are women now truly equal in America in that we are all finally able to look past gender and begin judging everyone on who they are a person and not solely on their gender identity?

Or have women come too far too fast and men are now starting to push back a bit to fairly keep them at bay?

I heard on the radio the other day that prestigious prep schools are accepting men of “lesser quality” than female applicants because women currently make up 58% of the applicant population — and to “continue parity” — more substantial women are being turned away in favor of sustaining male equity.


  1. Firstly, a memory from long ago. When asked what I thought of affirmative action today (this was in 1992) I said that the best thing to do when hiring / choosing people for school would be to look at the person from a completely objective perspective. Who has the top grades? Who has the extracurricular activities that interest our school? Who has spent years as a co-anchor and is ready to be the head anchor?
    These are the questions that should be answered, not gender or race. If a black woman has spent years preparing to be the head of NBC Nightly News then she should get the position if she is the best qualified for it. Anderson Cooper didn’t get to where he is on CNN by going to Yale, he got there by making his own video recordings of foreign conflict and thrusting himself in situations that others would dare not approach for fear of death or dismemberment.

  2. I understand your blind test for achievement, Gordon, but the argument goes that without forced equal access under the law, those people won’t “add up” on paper in experience because they are locked out of the competition before it starts by race or gender or socio-economic inequalities at birth.
    That’s why some weighting of those disadvantages in the applicant’s is necessary to equalize and represent everyone until they are able to naturally catch up.
    Without Title IX, we really wouldn’t have women’s sports at the collegiate level today because they were always “money losers” compared to the men’s programs:
    As for Anderson Cooper — his mother is Gloria Vanderbilt — so he was born rich and advantaged and silver-spooned before he took his first breath.
    He also was the original host of “The Mole” on ABC television and those who knew him then believe he was much better on that show than he is on CNN.

  3. David-
    Katie Couric was just a poor fit to anchor the evening news. It’s as simple as that. She was at her best in that AM format.
    Hillary Clinton has way too much baggage and she’s not that qualified to be President. And folks simply don’t like her. I can think of better female candidates for the presidency. I don’t believe that any of this relates to her being a woman. It’s her!
    There’s no question that this is a society of white male privilege. It always has been. But certainly not a sign of the decline of the American woman. It continues to be an uphill battle for women to compete in male-dominated industries. But it can be done–
    Barack Obama comes on the scene at a perfect time. Who can fully explain his success as he’s not all that experienced and he’s obviously not white. It’s a complicated matter that relates more to him and how he’s perceived. They say timing is everything in life!
    Rich and complex topic!

  4. I understand these trends may not point to authenticity, Donna, but don’t you feel, as a woman, that there is a certain backlash against your gender now more than, perhaps, 20 years ago? It seemed in the 80’s we were all more inclined to help each other, but now we seem to seek out reasons — both superficial and genetic — for creating separation and dissonance between people and groups.
    I know there are a lot of traditional White Males who think the “equality” experiment for women and Blacks has been enough to be considered a social experiment failure.
    I agree Katie was lured away from the mornings by a $15 million a year payday — but in the process she lost herself and her reputation. When her first week on the air was spent criticizing her clothing, we all knew she was not a pioneer, but a sort of social Rosarch test for incredulity.

  5. Excellent points, David. I guess in my wonderfully idealistic mind, the Internet and the availability of free public libraries means that everyone has just about the same access to a good education. I realize that is just me being naive. 🙂 I can’t help but think of friends I made at Peddie that came from extremely poor backgrounds and pulled themselves up by their bootstraps to make it huge at Peddie, some getting to the top of the class.

  6. If you had poor friends at Peddie, Gordon, it was likely because those slots were reserved for them and based on need and not necessarily performance and I’m sure they were on full scholarship. I think a certain amount of that backstage helping is necessary to create a dynamic and non-homogeneous societal experience for all of us.
    The biggest problem in the educational urban core is the lack of access to high-speed internet access. Many families can’t afford it. Broadband is currently privatized and all city efforts to offer free WiFi from lampposts have failed in every city in which the experiment was tried.
    So we have all these poor kids growing up, maybe on a landline internet connection if they can afford it, but they can’t get access to videos or learning portals or online research materials because they aren’t connecting at a high enough interactive speed.
    They likely have higher-speed internet at school, but then they’re stuck in a long line with their peers waiting to use a machine that can’t keep up with the overwhelming demand. It’s a sad state.

  7. David–You ask alot of complicated questions! But no I don’t see any backlash against my gender compared to twenty years ago.
    I see women moving ahead all around me much more than they did twenty years ago. We had Enron, Worldcom, the Iraq war–all debacles caused by men. So this is a great time to be a woman. And if you play your cards right, it’s a great time to be a woman over 40!
    Look at Nancy Pelosi. She’s making history as the first female Senate majority leader. She’s a grandmother for heaven sake. Now there’s a woman I would like to see run for president.
    Now I do see that politics has become a more ugly game than it was twenty years ago and the internet seems to have made it even worse. So that is creating a great deal of division between all sorts of groups.

  8. I agree women are much more advanced than 20 years ago, Donna, and it was that generational effort that brought so many women to the forefront. What I’m sensing, in some, is that “enough is enough” now that Hillary is in place and there seems to be a growing effort to stop the natural female majority from taking the power from the male minority.

  9. David, You may be onto something and it might be best for me to see that dynamic. I sometimes miss it in the bigger picture because I have a really supportive spouse at home who loves to see competent women in positions of power.
    I don’t want to believe that men are afraid of the female majority. Because it’s negative and doesn’t help our cause. I want to believe that it has more to do with Hillary than it does her gender. Or that universities simply need to have a balance of gender at their institutions and if it swings the other way, they’ll attempt another balance.
    But certainly this could be a backlash. It’s wise to be aware of this as a woman.
    There may be more here than what I’m perceiving.

  10. You’re smart to be aware of these tremblings, Donna. I was raised by a single mother and I’m married to a strong and independent woman who happens to be a hardcore feminist with humanist tendencies.
    It’s so fascinating to see so many young women find great success in a university setting and they naively think that recipe for success — hard work, reliability, good spirit — will equally translate to success in the workplace beyond the ivy walls. It does not.
    The world — and the business world, in particular — is still incredibly misogynistic, and when these temporal, yet temporary public successes like Hillary, Katie, Condi… make the claim that women have “made it” — a slow turns begins to happen and “You’ve Come a Long Way Baby” becomes, “You’ve Come a Little Too Far, Honey” and subtle and insidious ways are sought to return things to the idealistic 1950’s where women “knew their place.”

  11. It’s so fascinating to see so many young women find great success in a university setting and they naively think that recipe for success — hard work, reliability, good spirit — will equally translate to success in the workplace beyond the ivy walls. It does not.

    My wife would beg to differ with you. She’s worked for some very elite engineering teams, and has seen time and again what passes for “hard work” among the women who come out with big GPAs from college. More often than not, she’s been the one tasked to clean up the crap that they called code.
    Academic success is largely superficial. I’ve worked with women who got nearly perfect GPAs in Computer Science, and yet couldn’t code their way out of a paper bag. So be careful when you equate the two. My department’s valedictorian had a 4.0 GPA, and yet it took her several hours to reimplement a simple version of the UNIX cat command during an intro to C. Several hours to write a program that reads a file and dumps its contents to a command shell is, well, an embarrassment to say the least.
    None of this is to say that there isn’t bona fide misogyny in the workplace. However, I think you kid yourself when you make it sound like most women run into the glass ceiling. Besides, everyone who is halfway observant has figured out by now that the class that controls the corporate world and politics is not a meritocracy. It’s an aristocracy.

  12. I think, Mike T, that women today in the workplace have done well based on the last 20 years of effort to get them “equalized.” We’ll see if the next 10 years continues the advancement or if we see a re-reckoning and a retreat from the current programs intended to lift by gender instead of by competence in the marketplace.
    It is easier for women to compete with men when you’re dealing with absolutes, as you mention, where you’re either right or wrong so writing code and providing internet expertise that either works or doesn’t work — is a great leveler.
    When, however, it comes to judgment and wondering and the instinct of a trained gut, many women I know in the law, finance and academia and the arts are beginning to see a little unfamiliar pushing back — whereas 10 years ago they felt dragged to the front of the line to make up for lost opportunities and time.

  13. When, however, it comes to judgment and wondering and the instinct of a trained gut, many women I know in the law, finance and academia and the arts are beginning to see a little unfamiliar pushing back — whereas 10 years ago they felt dragged to the front of the line to make up for lost opportunities and time.

    I’m personally ambivalent about this because as long as it is subjective, it is up to the tastes of those in power. However, in the case of law and finance, I would hazard to guess that the pushback comes from the fact those two professions are the keys with which the would-be aristocrats control society. After all, he who controls both the execution of law and the flow of capital controls the direction that production flows.

  14. I agree with you, Mike, that the danger is in subjective analysis and in the unquantifiable emotion — but isn’t that precisely where misogyny finds its best foothold?
    You’re right about class controlling the glass ceiling — it’s the “old boy network” in full force.
    Most intimate business deals are done in the bathroom on a handshake — the men’s restroom, in fact.

  15. You’re right about class controlling the glass ceiling — it’s the “old boy network” in full force.
    Most intimate business deals are done in the bathroom on a handshake — the men’s restroom, in fact.

    It’s also a qualitatively different sort of class than just the upper class, David. To call it an “old boy network” doesn’t do it justice. It is an aristocracy every bit as real as the ones from the Ancien Regime of Europe.

  16. I take your fascinating point, Mike, and it’s a hard thing to beat because you’re being judged on a bloodline and never performance.

  17. So gentleman, you go where your wanted and respected and where your value and worth and performance will be respected. There are good men and good organizations out there who recognize talent and performance. Talent will rise to the top. It may take a couple of moves to find the right organization or right fit.
    Or you might have to carve out your own path.
    I’ve worked in business and healthcare, and if you have the talent and desire you can move up rather quickly. The question is do you want to? Do you want to live, eat, and breathe the company seven days a week for at least twelve hours a day.
    And if you’re a woman how can you do that and keep any sort of family life going?
    So I’m not sure if it’s the aristocracy or just a choice many women have made that they don’t want to play the game . . .

  18. I think the physiological issues women have to deal with, Donna, certainly outweigh anything that man has to routinely conquer every month or over nine months. I agree women are often faced with being labeled the “B-word” any time they forcefully express their opinion and taking time off to not only raise a family, but to give birth, is a much tougher task than fatherhood.

  19. I love that article, Katha, and of course, I’d be a “Six Pad Man!” Moo-hoo-harr!

  20. Thanks for that link, Katha!
    Oh, I’m up at all hours. There’s no such thing as “offline” or “sleep” any longer! SMILE!

  21. Yes, I loved the book.
    I am exactly 11:00 hrs ahead of you – that’s what struck me when I saw your reply…anyway…

  22. Hi Katha! You’re only 11 hours ahead of me when I am not bending time. Today, you were 2.3 hours ahead of me. Heh!

  23. I did not attend an ivy league school by any means and I wasn’t a star performer. However, I was blessed to be able to do reasonably well with minimal effort. Reward equalled results, for me at least. All the while growing up and through to the end of university. Then I entered the work place and the harsh realities of inequality truly hit me. It was a rude shock, let me tell you. One I still don’t really like to look at, nor even acknowledge.
    In my ideal world I can have a family and be a successful career woman, equal to any man. Except that’s not really the truth, is it. A woman has to make harsh decisions and often it has to be a either/or choice…a family or a career. I hate it. Let me rephrase. I hated it. Now the organization that doesn’t support me in having a family can go to hell. They are not worthy of my time, effort and devotion. Took me along time to get to that place.
    Has it worsened over the last 20 years? To be truthful, I don’t know. Maybe I’m not old enough to see it yet.
    Have I been given any ‘special’ treatment and positions because I am a woman? I don’t think so. Or not that I recognize anyway.
    I think the whole man/woman equality thing has a long way to come. I used to think I was equal to men. Now I know I can never be equal. I am not inferior or superior either. I am different. What I bring to a workplace is immeasurably different than a man. Both male and female qualities are needed to make successful businesses and countries.
    …Stepping off soapbox now…
    Thanks for a thought provoking discussion.

  24. I love that comment, natzgal. You speak a blunt truth that can be hard to take and your take on this matter reflects the experiences of many “modern” women who have to deal with caveman-like priorities in the workplace.

  25. Thank you David 😉 It’s funny to me that you see some of my comments as ‘blunt’.
    Sometimes it takes me a while to form a strong opinion as I am much more often on the fence, seeing all sides very clearly. As you can imagine, that aspect of me has its pros and cons.
    So when I do form a strong opinion, often from direct experience, I guess with it comes my passion. And I forget the effect that can have. It’s something I should remember as I know it can be taken the wrong way and be offensive. Not that you did, of course. Just your reaction to my comment, gave me pause for thought a while.
    Anyway, thanks for providing a forum for exploring these sensitive issues.

  26. Personally, I think it’s a good thing too.
    However, corporate America showed me differently. Too often I was criticized for exactly this and I had to learn diplomacy. It’s a tricky line to walk.

  27. Right, natzgal! The first time someone at works asks you to be honest with them — they’re really asking you to lie to them because, by default, most people when asked a question with no attachments, will answer honestly! To be told to answer honestly is to implore you to lie and tell them what they want to hear. You’re right it is a game in the workplace and knowing when NOT to talk is the biggest key to finding success.

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