HE MAKES, SHE MAKES
San Jose Mercury News: One step forward, two steps back. Is that the story of women in management in the 1990s?
Two members of Congress released a study last week showing that from 1995 to 2000, when America's business engine was in overdrive and everyone in the management ranks seemed to be getting rich, women's salaries actually were falling farther behind those of their male counterparts.
"We didn't spread the wealth; we grew the disparity," said Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y.
The study by the General Accounting Office is disturbing. Yet as Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., noted, it raises a lot more questions than it answers.
Maloney and Dingell say the survey offers proof that it's time to resurrect the Equal Rights Amendment after 20 years. But it's not clear that laws can do much to change the picture. Some of the salary disparity is due to discrimination, but some is due to choices men and women make about the relative importance of career and family.
The GAO study is not very helpful in understanding those factors. For example, it compared salary levels for men and women of equal age and marital status, but it didn't measure levels of managerial responsibility or years of experience in the workplace.
Other recent studies shed some light on the reasons women make less.
Scientists: A survey of 19,000 scientists by the American Association for the Advancement of Science found that men earn almost one-third more than women, and are paid more even for comparable work. It also found that most women scientists felt their careers were constrained by their spouses' careers, while only 7 percent of men felt that way.
An American Bar Association survey found that men were twice as likely to make partner in law firms as similarly qualified women. Two-thirds of those surveyed said work-family conflicts were the greatest barrier to career advancement for women.
These surveys indicate discrimination, but also show that pay disparities result from choices that families make. Those choices may not be entirely voluntary, however.
Too often Mom is forced to make career tradeoffs because Dad can't. Despite paying lip service to family friendly policies, only 10 percent to 15 percent of Fortune 500 companies offer the same parental leave to men and women. Until companies recognize that fathers are parents, too, the career-family juggling act will continue to remain largely a women's problem.
THE ASIAN FRONT
Washington Post: The fight against Al-Qaida terrorists has now spread to Southeast Asia, where the threat is more serious than was understood until recently. The arrest of a large Al-Qaida cell in Singapore has revealed the outlines of a terrorist network stretching through Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia, along with detailed plans for the mass murder of Americans. Officials say that hundreds of foreigners may have visited an Al-Qaida training camp in the Indonesian jungles last year. Al-Qaida and its allies seem to retain breathing space in this region that no longer exists in Afghanistan or Pakistan. Some Indonesian militant leaders believed to be connected to Osama bin Laden are still operating openly; one recently granted an interview to the Washington Post's Rajiv Chandrasekaran in which he defended suicide attacks against Americans. Though most of the governments in the region are friendly to the United States, it's not clear that the Bush administration has yet found the means to adequately answer the threat.
Muslim insurgents: A contingent of some 600 U.S. special-forces trainers and support troops has begun arriving in the Philippines to help Manila's army wipe out a small Muslim insurgent organization in the southern islands of Basilan and Jolo. The deployment seemed to risk destabilizing the government of pro-American President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo; there has been a nationalist backlash in the Philippine Congress. Ms. Arroyo will likely overcome the protests, because polls show an overwhelming majority welcome the U.S. aid. But the fight against the Abu Sayyaf group, though worthy of U.S. support, may prove to be a noisy sideshow: The group probably has fewer than 500 members, and its ties to Al-Qaida are tenuous.
A more menacing threat seems to be emerging in a network known as Jemaah Islamiah, an Al-Qaida branch that authorities say has cells in the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore. Two Indonesian militant groups, Laskar Jihad and Laskar Mujaheddin, may also have ties to Al-Qaida, and one may have cooperated in the operation of an Al-Qaida camp. But the Bush team appears unsure how to handle Indonesia, where a fragile democratic government has been reluctant to move against the Muslim militants for fear of provoking a domestic backlash. While the State Department recently backed the continuation of congressional restrictions on aid to the Indonesian military, the Pentagon separately sought and won an appropriation for a new counterterrorism training program including Indonesia.
Such mixed signals are no longer affordable; the Bush administration needs a strategy and a message for Southeast Asia.