Suzanne Fields

We pay outsize attention to women at the top, about whether they lean in or lean back, about whether they act like men and even about whether they act like women. After decades of feminism's telling women they can control their own destiny, scoring a seat on the fast-moving monorail to success is finally possible. But the seats are restricted. That's why so many women are so angry at Marissa Mayer, the CEO of Yahoo, who built a nursery next to her office for her baby but insists that her staff members, mothers included, leave their children behind and work at the office.

Like it or not (and some apparently don't), women are still women, which means they continue to wear a different biological makeup than men. When they become mothers, it shows -- and in a lot of ways. As far as I know, no male CEO would build a nursery next to his office. (Maybe a putting green, but a nursery? No.)

No matter how firmly we tell women to be more like men -- to shape, stretch, discipline and work to overcome biological determinants -- biology keeps emerging as a crucial factor. Like everything else in life, it affects the less privileged women in a different, downsized way.

This becomes abundantly clear when we look at women having babies. The good news is that we've lowered the rate of teenage pregnancy. For two decades, the number has been going down. But the bad news is that women in their 20s -- who have entered the age of adult consent, for being responsible for their own behavior -- are not showing the good sense of their younger sisters.

If "30's the new 20" (as rapper Jay-Z puts it), unmarried 20-somethings are the new teen moms, write the authors of the cleverly titled "Knot Yet: The Benefits and Costs of Delayed Marriage in America," a report encouraged by the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia. Women in their 20s are driving America's all-time high level of childbearing outside marriage, which stands now at 41 percent of births.

This statistic is partly a consequence of people's delaying marriage. Marriage occurs later now than ever before: 27 for women and 29 for men. That's up from 23 for women and 26 for men in 1990 and 20 and 22, respectively, in 1960. Delaying marriage -- if it doesn't cause a woman to bump into a biological clock -- has usually been thought to be beneficial to women but contingent on education and economic class.


Suzanne Fields

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

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