One of the most frustrating things about the War on Women is its laser focus on women's reproductive rights, as if we still lived in pre-1921 America, and women could not control their bodies, vote, or own property. Statistics however show a far different picture. Our grandchildren will live in a world comprised of highly educated, high-earning women, and less-educated men.
Liza Mundy, Bernard Schwartz Fellow at the New America Foundation, and the author of The Richer Sex: How the New Majority of Female Breadwinners Is Transforming Sex, Love and Family, has analyzed research showing that a growing number of women out-earn their spouses, and that by 2050, in the overwhelming majority of countries, more women than men will complete a college education.
A dynamic chart based on research funded by the European Research Council shows this trend.
In 1970, the number of blue (male) college graduates in most countries greatly outnumbered females. The lone outlying red dot where more males than females graduated from college is Canada. The second outlier red dot is Norway, the third, Finland.
Fast-forward to 2012. Notice the shrinking number of blue dots, and explosive growth in red dots, along with the more than doubling of percentage of graduates along the y-axis. This shows that in the past 42 years, more women than men have attended and graduated from college worldwide than ever before.
Japan and Singapore are the two red dots toward the top. The next cluster below them is comprised of the 1970 leader, Canada, along with South Korea, Ireland, and France. Where is the U.S.? In the middle, right next to the Russian Federation, pretty much in the same place it was in 1970.
More women than men graduate from college in the U.S. and Canada, but our rates of college graduation as a percentage of the population are in the middle of countries internationally, far from the top.
Where are we headed, with 42 years of data already collected, projected out to 2050?
The pattern is similar, although only a handful of countries with predominantly male college graduates remains.
The blue countries in 2050 include Chad, Cambodia, Benin, and Mali. Bangladesh is the lone outlying blue dot where the highest percentage of male college graduates is anticipated 40 years from now.
I am one of the 38% of women who out earns her husband, and am more educated than he. I have been engaged in business, and nonprofit start-ups and expansions for my entire life. I have had not one, but three separate careers in which I have achieved some success.
Like anyone else, sometimes I wish I could lessen my responsibilities and workload, but I turned away from the Jane Austen-style project of marrying someone more educated, wealthy, and powerful than myself at a very young age. I always envisioned myself being the exact person I am right now.
The charts show that the 20th Century superpowers, the U.S. and Russia, are stuck in the middle of the international educational pack and are not expected to advance in the years to come. Why? A quick perusal of Pravda shows that Russians are fonder of sexy pinups and UFO stories than the type of articles found in The Economist. Here in the U.S., Honey Boo-Boo, whose mother has three chins, has rocketed to stardom on a diet of "sketti" and Mountain Dew mixed with Red Bull.
I'm going to go out on a limb. Women here in the U.S., and to a certain extent, in Russia as well, achieved rights to education and self-determination earlier than in many other countries. Writing in The Atlantic, Liza Mundy asks, "Why do some feminists get uneasy when women make progress?" As part of the academic establishment, Liza's criticisms of traditional feminism are muted.
I'll go farther than Mundy and say that traditional or old-school feminism, with its emphasis on birth control, resistance to Victorian moral strictures, and refusal to recognize clear, dramatic demographic changes, is destructive, not constructive. Sending out a thundering message of weakness, dependency, and incapacity to women contributes to this country's mediocre performance in objective measures of economic and social well being.
To quote the Rev. Jesse Jackson, "If they can believe it and conceive it, they can achieve it." Every time traditional Western feminists write or research or blast out propaganda like it's 1972, we run the risk of another young woman losing the capacity to believe and conceive of what she, not they, want her to do with her life.
Traditional western feminism operates from a basis of fear—fear that women will be forced to have babies they don't want or can't care for, fear that they will earn less than a man in a similar position, fear that they will be verbally or physically abused, suffer sexual harassment at work, or be victimized sexually.
All of these are dangers. They are bad. No one ever succeeded in any endeavor, be it obtaining a degree, establishing a business, learning a skill, completing a project, or raising a child, when operating out of fear. Other countries don't share this fear-based feminism, and are not beholden to fighting the battles of 1890, 1930, 1950 or 1972 over and over again.
Now it is time for women of all ages to set aside fears someone else has placed on us, and take responsibility for our own lives. We are, and will be the educated ones, and have almost overwhelming challenges. There is a lot of work to do.