What would Betty Friedan think of Southwestern Connecticut on 50th anniversary of ‘The Feminine Mystique?’

Today marks 50 years since Betty Friedan’s groundbreaking book The Feminine Mystique was first published. In the half-century since her words were first printed, beginning a rush of consciousness raising surrounding what she called “the problem that has no name” — the unhappiness of women across the nation, a lot of progress has been made.

Friedan passed away a few years ago on her 85th birthday, but if she was here today to assess just how much progress has been made toward creating a world of equal opportunity between men and women, she would find a lot of work still to be done in Southwestern Connecticut. (Like, for example, the fact that working women in Greenwich only earn 56 cents for every dollar a working man in Greenwich earns.)

Friedan’s work illustrated the problems associated with a world where women overwhelmingly spent the majority of their time in the home, either working on childcare or general housekeeping, noting that the emotional toll it took on women was mounting. But as the New York Times pointed out in an opinion piece this past weekend, even though the average American has moved past the frame of mind where women’s work was thought to be in the home, there are still cultural inequalities that make it improbable to have true equality in the home realm. Here’s how the Times put it on Sunday:

When family and work obligations collide, mothers remain much more likely than fathers to cut back or drop out of work. But unlike the situation in the 1960s, this is not because most people believe this is the preferable order of things. Rather, it is often a reasonable response to the fact that our political and economic institutions lag way behind our personal ideals.

One of the main reasons the inequality still exists is because women “are still paid less than men at every educational level and in every job category,” according to the Times. And that’s certainly true here in Southwestern Connecticut.

According to figures from the 2011 American Communities Survey, conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, the average American woman who worked full-time made 78 cents for every dollar made by the average American man who worked full-time over the five-year period between 2006 and 2011. And in Connecticut, the gap was even larger.

Women in the Nutmeg State earned 75.5 cents to a man’s dollar during that time period, landing Connecticut among the worst states in the country for income inequality. At No. 36, Connecticut ranked just below Oklahoma; Washington, D.C. had the most equal income, with women earning 88.2 cents to a man’s dollar and Wyoming had the most inequality, with women earning 64.5 cents to a man’s dollar.

When compared to other women around the country, Connecticut women actually earn a pretty penny. The median income for a woman in the state was $46,408, making it the fourth best-paying state for women, behind Washington, D.C., Maryland and New Jersey. In part, it’s the extremely high income of men that creates the gap here; Connecticut’s men, who earned $61,481,  were the second highest earning in the country, behind Washington, D.C.

We drilled down to a local level to see which towns had the most and least equality when it comes to the wage discrepancy between men and women, and found that Derby has the smallest income gap in Southwestern Connecticut, with women earning 97 cents to a man’s dollar.

Wonder how your town stacks up in terms of the income gap? Here’s a few more examples:

  • In Stamford, women earned 83 cents to a man’s dollar.
  • In Norwalk, women earned 82 cents to a man’s dollar.
  • In Danbury, women earned 80 cents to a man’s dollar.
  • In Milford, women earned 74 cents to a man’s dollar.
  • In Newtown, women earned 65 cents to a man’s dollar.
  • In Greenwich, women earned 56 cents to a man’s dollar.
Maggie Gordon