In 1998, a look to the future of working women

Thursday, January 25, 2018
From the perspective of the Women’s March and #MeToo era of 2018, a 20-year-old book that set out to examine “working women and the transformation of American life” offers insight into trends decades in the making.

Here’s my 1998 interview with author Sally Helgesen, who, over the course of three years, put a microscope to women in the Chicago suburb of Naperville—and found dramatic changes, which she documented in her book Everyday Revolutionaries.

One excerpt, as she discussed two-career families:

Helgesen: “Many of the women said to me … ‘My husband is tremendously helpful in the house.’”
Me: “You didn’t talk to my wife about this.”
Helgesen: However,’ they said, ‘I have to decide everything that’s done.’”
Me: “Oh, you did talk to my wife.”

Helgesen on technology in 1998: “The personal computer is what’s enabling the tremendous move toward home-based business, toward individual entrepreneurial efforts … among women. … That’s what permits people to have this freedom from ‘The Organization Man’ way of life, in which individuals were completely dependent on large organizations.”

Helgesen on the wage gap between men and women: “Of more concern really is the wage gap between those who have … something to offer the knowledge economy and those whose services are not as in demand.”

If you were a kid back then, odds are good you’ll recognize a mom or two here.

So: My interview with Sally Helgesen, talking about Everyday Revolutionaries, aired Jan. 25, 1998, on the late WNUA-FM, Chicago.

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