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Americans Finally Consider Women as Competent as Men


Eagly and her colleagues examined public opinion polls representing the views of more than 30,000 adults from 1946 to 2018, looking specifically at how they rated communion (compassion, sensitivity, warmth); agency (ambition, aggression, assertiveness); and competency (intelligence, organization, creativity) along gender lines.

In 1946, 35 percent of people thought men and women were equally intelligent. In 1995, 43 percent thought so. Last year, 86 percent believed men and women were equally intelligent. And those who favored one sex over the other thought women were smarter.

As Eagly told me, this represents “massive social change.” Part of that, she said, has to do with the fact that for many years, we simply didn’t see examples of women leading — not as journalists, not as scientists and not as politicians.

But that’s changing. Just this year, college-educated women edged out college-educated men in the work force. And tonight, the first of two Democratic presidential debates this week will air. There are, of course, a record number of women running.

[Join us for live analysis on debate night. Download the NYTimes app now to get ready.]

Which brings me back to this newsletter. Some may still wonder why we need a newsletter devoted exclusively to women. But that competence study — while encouraging — shows we still have far to go.

Soon, you will have a new writer to guide you. I’ll be moving into a new role as a culture editor (blending two of my favorite subjects: gender and pop culture), and this will be my last newsletter.

But not to worry, In Her Words isn’t going anywhere. Jessica Bennett, our gender editor, will be filling in for the next month, and we’ll have lots more in store for you very soon.


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