This morning I read an interesting blog by Nancy Folbre on The New York Times website. She wrote that the term cougar is now being used to decscribe all mature women who beat men at their own game. Needless to say, I am thrilled that brains, and financial independence are finally replacing the image of an predator on the prowl for young men. Nancy used Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina to illustrate her point and calls it "Cougar Capitalism".
As chief executive of Hewlett-Packard, Ms. Fiorina topped Fortune’s 50 Most Powerful Women in Businesslist from 1998 to 2004. Ms.Whitman’s success in managing eBay carried her to the top. Both women successfully are now investing their own money in successful Republican primary campaigns in California, prompting considerable debate about the implications for feminism.
Nancy says, "the expansion of employment for women outside the home, along with collective feminist mobilization, created new opportunities for female empowerment". Paradoxically, however, the very expansion of paid employment and the success of feminism have weakened gender solidarity. They have also intensified inequalities in family living standards".
Relatively few women in the workplace have made it into Ms. Whitman’s and Ms. Fiorina’s league. Still, earnings differences among women have been growing over time in the United States.
Married women’s rapid movement into paid employment between the 1960s and the mid-1990s helped prop up family incomes. But high-earning women tend to marry high-earning men, while low earners tend either to marry one another or — increasingly — not to marry at all. As women have garnered higher incomes, this marital sorting has intensified family-income inequality.
The movement of women into professional and managerial jobs has intensified competition for the best-paying positions, contributing to rat-race dynamics at the top. In the middle and bottom of the earnings distribution, most women remain concentrated in relatively low-wage care occupations, and also continue to pay a high penalty for commitments to family care.
Nancy says, and I agree, that cougars are a relatively new feature of our economic ecology. But it’s not too early to ponder the contrasts between cougar capitalism and the more purely masculine cowboy capitalism of an earlier era.
Nancy has lots more to say so take a moment to read her blog article in it's entirety.