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Apodaca: Gender equality to the forefront

November 24, 2012|By Patrice Apodaca

In keeping with the season, I should acknowledge all that I have to be thankful for. I'm grateful for my family and friends, my dog, and UCLA's defeat of USC last weekend. What a wonderful world.

On a broader scale, there's something else for which I give thanks, and that's the renewed attention paid in the last few months to the issue of women's equality. That gratitude is tempered by the knowledge that, despite the many strides women have made toward achieving equal status with men, we remain maddeningly far from where we need to be.

Still, we're talking about it, and that's a good thing.

The recent discussion has been sparked in part by a controversial Atlantic Monthly article titled, "Why Women Still Can't Have It All," by Princeton professor and former State Department official Anne-Marie Slaughter. In the piece, Slaughter acknowledges that even the well-educated, high-powered women in her rarified Ivy League circles still struggle mightily to raise children while continuing to pursue their professional goals.

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Then, of course, there was the much-mocked "binders full of women" line from Mitt Romney. Though the reaction centered largely on the awkward phrasing, the comment also revealed — probably unintentionally — the more disturbing point that no women were obvious candidates for important posts when Romney was governor of Massachusetts.

Nonetheless, the fact that both presidential contenders at least gave lip service to the needs of women was modestly encouraging.

Many of us who were alive in the 1960s and 1970s thought we'd have this all figured out by now. And there's certainly no denying that we've come a long way.

Back in the early 1990s, I wrote a few stories about the only female chief executive of a Fortune 500 company. Today, there are 18 Fortune 500 CEOs who are women; after Jan. 1 there will be a record 21. Among them will be the first-ever female top executives among the nation's largest defense contractors, long a bastion of male hegemony.

There are also now 76 women in the House of Representatives, out of 435, and 17 female senators, compared with 83 men. There are more women in leadership positions in the military. A few years ago, the Oscar for best film directing went to a woman for the first time, and the New York Times now has a female executive editor, the first woman to top that venerable newspaper's masthead.

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