Suzanne Fields

Wonder Woman got a makeover, but she's still behind the curves. Her designers seem not to realize that for decades women have been in the ascendancy in the marketplace, and it's male action heroes who require a makeover, literally and figuratively. Exceptions still rule the imaginations of children, but in the world where most grown-ups live, the male sex seems to need a Wonder Man to idealize possibilities.

Or to put it bluntly, woman is the new man.

For the first time, women make up the majority of the workforce. Women dominate the numbers in undergraduate education and in professional schools. Three women to every two men will earn a B.A. this year. More women than men are studying to become doctors and lawyers. More women than men are managers. Women who were furious when a talking Barbie said, "Math is hard," now have the chance to disprove that. Women now make up 54 percent of the accountants, and they're running about even in jobs of banking and insurance.

Women are accelerating their rise in politics, too, though so far there's no proof that they'll be different from their male counterparts in effectiveness, even though conventional biological wisdom suggests they bring a different way of looking at legislation as well as life. The female speaker of the House hasn't balanced the budget (and shows little interest in doing so), but traditionally "soft," feminine qualities of empathy and cooperation are in demand in the marketplace.

The familiar aggressive male approaches characterized in the sitcom "Mad Men," about cut-throat ad men in the 1950s, are out. Hierarchical structures that governed positions of leadership a half-century ago are rapidly being replaced by horizontal models. The hard edges of the table, with a CEO at the head, have been sanded and rounded for oval-shaped seminars.

"Men dominate just two of the 15 job categories projected to grow the most over the next decade: janitor and computer engineer," writes Hanna Rosin in an essay titled "The End of Men" in Atlantic magazine. "Women have everything else -- nursing home health assistance, child care, food preparation."

Obviously, these are traditional women's domains, but what's at work here is that women are now getting paid for work for which there is an increasing demand in a service economy. The nanny, in fact, can demand a high salary as her specialty becomes professionalized, and more upper-middle class women seek educated women to be the substitute mommy as they leave the home to enter the workforce.


Suzanne Fields

Suzanne Fields is currently working on a book that will revisit John Milton's 'Paradise Lost.'

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