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Author: Economic Changes Opened Doors For Women

Oct 14, 2009 (Morning Edition)

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Women's roles in the workplace and home have changed in the past 50 years, thanks in part to the economy and advocacy from many corners. In When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present, author Gail Collins chronicles that transformation.

"Over the last 50 years, women have taken equal responsibility in many cases for supporting their family," Collins, the first woman to be editorial page editor of The New York Times, tells Steve Inskeep.

"Forty percent of new births are to single women, and women are 50 percent of the work force now, and that's not going to change no matter how many theories you have, how many discussions you have about what women's roles should be. That's the way it is. That's what the economy is dictating, and women just step up to the plate and deal with it."

According to Collins, women were encouraged to take on jobs when there weren't enough men to employ.

"In the 1960s, you had this booming economy, and you didn't really have enough men around to fill all the jobs," she says. "So there was this sudden demand that women come back and perform a lot of the white-collar and pink-collar roles that men had done before or that hadn't existed before."

But while more women are in the workplace today, society has not restructured to reflect that fact, she says.

"The one big, humongous, immense thing that we didn't change, that we didn't figure out how to deal with is, if men and women are both going to work throughout their lives, who's going to take care of the kids?" she asks.

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