Estrich: Gender inequalities
By Melissa Kummer
Daily Cougar Staff
More than three decades after the feminist
movement began, women still have not achieved equality with men at the
highest levels of power, author
and law professor Susan Estrich said in
a Tuesday night speech at Rice University.
Johnny Kow/The Daily Cougar
University of Southern California
law professor Susan Estrich discusses the effect of feminism on American
society in a Tuesday speech at Rice
The speech, titled "How Feminism Has Changed
Everything and Nothing," was part of the university's 2001-02 President's
Lecture Series, open free of
charge to Rice students and the general
Estrich is a law professor at the University
of Southern California who has made many landmarks for women.
She was the first woman to serve as president
of the Harvard Law Review and became the first woman ever to head a national
that of Michael Dukakis during the 1988
Her speech focused on the issues of discrimination,
motherhood and ambition for women.
"Whether it's in academics, a law firm
or corporate America, there is an unconscious discrimination," she said.
The equality that many people believe in
is only present at the bottom of the corporate world, Estrich said. For
example, even though 50 percent of
students in law schools are female, the
vast majority of them are never offered partnership positions with a major
"I looked around one day and realized that
all of the men I knew were running the world," Estrich said. "Even I, the
good feminist I am, thought things
She pointed out that only three Fortune
500 companies are run by women. This is the same number as 20 years ago,
"Even the women that make it into that
top little group earn less than the men do," she said.
Estrich, a mother of two, said trying to
balance a family and a job is a difficult task with no real solution.
At age 35, she gave up a tenured position
at Harvard to have a family.
"We talk family values. We preach family
values," she said, "but the reality of the corporate world is that it has
not adjusted to the reality of children."
Parental roles played an important part
in the ambitions of her generation of women, Estrich said. Their ambition
was to break away from living the
same lives their mothers did.
While this ambition has led to a more educated
and financially successful female generation, Estrich said the very idea
of ambition is seen as a
complimentary characteristic only for
men, while women are much more likely to be referred to negatively as being
Estrich believes that many women still
forgo or hide having children to avoid the potential complications and
stereotypes that accompany mixing a
family with a professional life.
"Unless we come together, men and women,
there won't be any good choices," she said.
While Estrich's numbers indicate there
is still a strong inequality between the sexes, the women who came "crashing"
into schools 25 years ago have
helped to pave the way for what could
be a better life, she said.
"We would not be where we are today without
the courage of those before us," Estrich said. "We now have an obligation
to open the door for those after
In addition to her teaching profession,
Estrich is a contributing editor for the Los Angeles Times as well as an
author. Her books include Real Rape
and the Los Angeles Times bestseller Sex