The Shriver Report: The Changing Role of Women in the U.S. History
by Yoon Joung Lee
For the first time in our nation’s history, one-half of the U.S. workforce consists of women. This change has affected many parts of American life. Considering all of the implications, questions like the following arise: How does the changing role of women affect American culture?
In the study, “The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Changes Everything,” the Center for American Progress and Maria Shriver respond to these questions by examining this significant social transformation.
“The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Changes Everything” is a 454-page study that includes a comprehensive national poll of the changing face and attitudes of the American men and women, and 24 essays from economists, sociologists and other academic experts examining this seismic workforce shift and how this transformation will influence our society in areas like media, government, business, and education.
According to the report, in 2008, 50% of employees in the U.S. work force are women and the women in 63.3% of the American households are either the primary breadwinners or co-breadwinners for the first time. Compared to a report conducted in 1967 showing that one third of American workforces were women, the recent percentage of women in the U.S. workplace shows a dramatic surge.
The report notes that this social transformation is not just about change in the American woman’s story, but it signifies a change for men, women, and their families as well as women’s day to day responsibilities with spouses, family members, bosses, colleagues, and employees. Four-fifths of American families do not limit their lifestyles to the traditional family paradigm- men works outside the home and women are stay-at-home housewives.
Rather, many women are leading their families as primary income earners. The report found that the Great Recession, which began in December 2007, was the springboard of this phenomenal transformation. Many housewives started to work outside the home to support their families, as 3 out of 4 workers to lose their job were male.
The findings of The Shriver Report include:
Men, Women, Family and Work in a Seismic Transformation
The Shriver Report emphasizes that what we may have considered as “womens' issues” are no longer only womens’ fare, but are “family issues.” While Ms. Shriver was meeting and talking to men and women around kitchen tables and at The Women’s Conference across the nation, she was able to understand how stressed today’s Americans feel, especially when they are grappling with financial insecurity. Society still believes that childcare and eldercare are womens’ responsibilities even though the responsibilities of women at workplaces have increased. What makes the situation more difficult is that while most workplaces have ignored or chosen to not respond to this transformation, many women are afraid to ask for work schedules with more flexibility to allow them to meet the demands of their domestic lives. The situation has had the effect of forcing many women to start their own businesses. Today, women make up 35% of all self-employed people in the nation and this percentage has doubled since 1979.
How does it change the views of the society regarding the value of womens' contributions?
Another interesting finding according to the study is that the battle of the sexes is over. This battle has been replaced by negotiations. Men and women both agree on a need of negotiations about their domestic responsibilities, childcare, eldercare, work and family. Men also agree with women that our society must pay attention to what today’s American family needs in this period of transformation and respond to those needs with adequate policies and laws. The future of our country may be greatly dependent on women who have achieved high level status and power and made significant changes in every part of our lives, including business, education and home. Therefore, womens’ problems are Americans’ problems that men and women must solve together.
Maria Shriver, the main author of this report, is an award-winning journalist. She has won a Peabody Award and two Emmy Awards. She is also the First Lady of California who married to actor and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and a niece of former President John F. Kennedy. Her study was modeled on the study called “American Women” in 1963 undertaken almost 50 years ago during the administration of John F. Kennedy and later led by Eleanor Roosevelt.
The Shriver Report is available at http://www.awomansnation.com.