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It’s still man’s world
by Jake Highton
May 15, 2010 | 699 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Barbara Kellerman writes in the Harvard Business Review that she’s sick of hearing about the “great strides” women are making in society. She cites these grim facts:

Just 3 percent of Fortune 500 companies are headed by women. Just 7 percent of tenured engineering faculty in four-year colleges are women. And women are just 16.8 percent of the Congress.

The figure on Congress places the United States a woeful 74th among the parliaments and congresses of the world. The Inter-Parliamentary Union, reporting on the percentages of women in national legislatures of 186 nations, reveals a stark contrast.

Sweden has 46.4 percent women and Cuba 43.2 in their single-house parliaments. The Netherlands has 42 percent, Norway 39.6 and Belgium and Denmark have 38 percent.

“So far as leadership is concerned, women in nearly every realm are hardly better off than they were a generation ago,” Kellerman laments.

Unfortunately, in America it’s still very much a man’s world. 

Wal-Mart squirms

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco has ruled that a huge class action discrimination suit against Wal-Mart can go to trial.

The suit argues that women have earned less than men in equivalent jobs, gotten fewer promotions and had to wait longer for promotion than men.

Few will weep if Wal-Mart is forced to fork over billions to women it cheated. Abandoned main streets across the country offer mute testimony to the effect of Wal-Mart’s low-cost, high-volume big-box stores.

Wal-Mart employs 1.4 million in America and 2.1 million worldwide. It is the world’s largest private employer with 8,000 stores globally.

Catholic Worker revisited

Several weeks ago this column praised the Catholic Worker. Now comes the CW in its May issue blasting the Catholic Church for its frequent union-busting and general hostility to labor.

It’s incredible that a Catholic newspaper would turn a baleful eye on the Catholic Church.

“Sadly, some Catholic employers continue to harass, intimidate and fire employers who seek to join or form unions,” the paper notes.

To the CW “it is a matter of grave concern that even a minority of Catholic employers engage in scandalous behavior by openly violating Catholic teaching on workers’ rights.”

That teaching goes back to an encyclical issued by Pope Leo XIII in 1891, “Rerum Novarum” (of new things). Discussing the unequal conflict between capital and labor, the pope noted “the misery and wretchedness pressing so unjustly on the majority of the working class.”

His solution? Unions. Working people in America did not get the right to unionize and bargain collectively until the Wagner Act in 1935.

And more than 100 years ago Father John Ryan urged “a living wage” for workers.

Outrage of capitalism

Don Blankenship, CEO of Massey Energy, earned $17.8 million last year even as some of the coal mines he supervised piled up safety violations and injuries that far exceeded national rates.

But that was nothing compared with what happened last month: Massey’s Upper Big Branch coal mine in West Virginia exploded, killing 29 miners.

It is impossible to read those two sentences without erupting in outrage.

Millionaire’s row

The Center for Responsive Politics reports that 44 percent of the members of the U.S. Congress are millionaires. That means 237 of the 535 lawmakers in the House and Senate.

No wonder Congress will not legislate universal health care and unionization by card-signing.

Made in China — alas

And speaking of labor, my wife bought me a beautiful blue sweater. I wore it happily with my “blue boy” look of blue pants and blue turtleneck. But after two weeks holes opened under the armpits.

The sweater was made in China, yet another terrible indictment of capitalism. American jobs are outsourced to foreign workers making about 65 cents an hour.

But as a result of cheap and unskilled labor, shabby products are often shipped to America.

Jefferson out, Calvin in

Deep in the heart of benighted Texas the board of education is purging any textbook that runs counter to right-wing ideology.

The great intellect Jefferson has been replaced by Calvin, the fundamentalist Christian. Jefferson’s huge mistake was to insist on the separation of church and state.

The board also tossed out the word “justice” as one of the virtues school kids learn about characteristics of good citizenship. Too socialistic.

Moreover, the board has transmogrified Joe McCarthy, compelling Texas students to study the “positive” side of McCarthy’s communist witchhunt.

Never mind that McCarthy and J. Edgar Hoover were the two greatest political evils ever suffered by Americans.

Jake Highton teaches journalism at UNR. E-mail him at
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