Ninety years ago today, the 19th Amendment was ratified, granting women the right to vote. It was revolutionary, for the time—Alice Paul, then a young political activist, was beaten, imprisoned, and force-fed for simply daring to say that women be engaged in political process. But if our grandmothers were born into a world where they weren’t allowed to have a political voice, what will the world look like for today’s young women? On the anniversary of women’s suffrage, a reality check:
* Today a young girl will learn that while she may be able to vote for president, she still probably won’t be one. Even the 3-year-old daughter of NEWSWEEK’s own (outgoing) editor knows this: after the 2008 election, she coolly informed her historian father that "girls can't be president." Ouch. Those faces on our dollar bills—42 men, not a single woman—really say it all.
* She’ll have to work harder if she wants to enter into politics, too. Sarah Palin may call herself a feminist, but women still hold just 16.8 percent of seats in Congress, and there are fewer than 20 female world leaders presently in power.
* She probably already lives on a street named after a man, as one study revealed. But maybe that won’t be terribly surprising—the vast majority of what she’s already watching on television each day is a fluid stream of men and more men. Of the 250 top-grossing movies produced last year, just 7 percent were directed by women; on-screen female protagonists are few and far between.
* If she watches the news, especially the elite Sunday morning political shows, she’ll see white men in dark suits almost exclusively. Last year just 20 of the 148 experts to sound off on those programs were female. It’s the same in print. Just 24 percent of quoted “sources” around the world are female. The implicit message? Expertise is male.
* She’ll realize quickly that she’s going to be held to a double standard (in more ways than one), and she’s surely going to be judged on her looks. That, of course, will follow her all the way into adulthood—and her profession. As 61 percent of corporate recruiters recently told NEWSWEEK, a woman who shows off her figure is more likely to get ahead, but also more likely to be punished.
* That matters in particular because she’ll probably have a male boss. Women may make up a majority of the workforce—and graduate from college and graduate school at higher rates than men—but over time they steadily “vaporize” from the higher echelons of corporate leadership. Women remain just 3 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs and less than a quarter of law partners.
* She’ll probably watch her mother spend just as much time at work as her father but make less money—no matter the field—and once she gets home, she'll do eight hours more housework a week than her husband.
* To learn that all of this is happening, she’ll probably read the news. But most bylines she’ll see will be male—because even though women have made up the majority of journalism graduates since 1977, just one in seven news articles is written by a woman.
* She probably won’t know any of these statistics, or even that not so long ago women like her couldn’t vote. Why? Women’s history is just a slim chapter in American history books. But not knowing their history means not understanding their present, which might mean not being prepared to fight. How's that for "Women's Equality Day"?
Find the authors at The Equality Myth.