Karin Agness

In the late 1960s, radical feminists throughout the United States engaged in “consciousness-raising” sessions, seeking to make women aware of how oppressed they were as married mothers primarily dedicated to raising their children.

Listening to Hillary Clinton’s concession speech last weekend made me feel like an unwilling participant in a 21st century “consciousness-raising” session. Clinton reclaimed the mantel of championing women’s rights, repeatedly referring to her historic moment as the first woman to come close to winning a major party nomination. She also carefully emphasized the existence of a dark cloud of sexism hovering over her campaign.

She said, “But I am a woman, and like millions of women, I know there are still barriers and biases out there, often unconscious.”

Clinton took credit for making it normal for a woman to win primary state victories, for a woman to become close to winning the nomination and for the public to think a woman can be President. She proclaimed, “You can be so proud that, from now on, it will be unremarkable for a woman to win primary state victories, unremarkable to have a woman in a close race to be our nominee, unremarkable to think that a woman can be the President of the United States. And that is truly remarkable.”

She further posed the question, “When we first started, people everywhere asked the same questions: Could a woman really serve as Commander-in-Chief? Well, I think we answered that one.”

Hillary Clinton is one of the most powerful women in America, yet she blames her loss on sexism. I am a 24-year-old woman with one more year of law school left and I will soon be entering the workforce fulltime. This made me wonder—How bad is it out there in the working world? Is this just politics as usual? Or is there really a hidden sexism hovering over the working world?

The doors of education are open to women. This school year, according to the U.S. census, women were projected to earn 59% of bachelor’s degrees, 61% of master’s degrees and 52% of first-professional degrees, such as law and medical. Women are not just earning degrees at the same rate as men, but are actually passing them.

Yet, in examining the top positions in some traditionally male fields, it is clear that women are not achieving at the same rate as men. In 2007, only 13 of the FORTUNE 500 companies were run by women and 26 of the FORTUNE 1000 companies were run by women. According to a November, 2007 report by the National Association of Women Lawyers, just 8% of law firm leaders are women. This year, women hold only 16% of Senate seats, 16.3% of House seats and 23.7% of state legislature seats.

Karin Agness

Karin Agness is President of the Network of Enlightened Women.
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