An interesting debate is taking place today over at The Economist.  Readers were asked to vote on the following statement: “This house believes that women in the developed world have never had it so good.” 

A strong majority of readers (64%) agree with the statement. But, NOW’s president Terry O’Neill defends the notion that societal constraints continue to hold women in America and other developed nations back.

Oh, please. Really?

O’Neill continues to support this ancient paradigm, which suggests society and the workplace are openly hostile to women and positions women as victims who need greater government protections. 

This is the same backward thinking that informs the effort to expand FMLA, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, and more recently the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act that President Obama signed into law last year.

Apparently O’Neill hasn’t read Katty Kay and Claire Shipman’s recent book Womenomics (reviewed by me here), which discusses how women have real hard-earned, measurable power that gives them tremendous flexibility.  What the authors emphasize is that women’s education, their purchasing power, and their professional experience  — (NOT government legislation) — has earned them the right to negotiate better opportunities with their employers and afforded them a happier work-life balance.

I’m sure O’Neill would point to the “wage gap” as an example of how women continue to suffer at the hands of men, but this is a myth that the left and groups like NOW have been falsely promoting for far too long.  This is a woefully misleading – yet often repeated – statistic.  If you actually control for any number of factors, including level of education, type of education, work experience, years in the workplace, etc, you find that the “wage gap” all but disappears.

But unfortunately O’Neill supports the idea that until Washington has provided women with equal outcomes – not just opportunities – in every corner of life, women will continue to be held back by society’s manufactured gender constraints.

Respondents at The Economist seem to disagree. Maybe O’Neill should reconsider her response.