Women rising

I doubt she would have guessed that by the early twenty-first century, women would be running the governments of countries as powerful and widespread as Germany and Ireland, Bangladesh and New Zealand, Chile, Mozambique, and Jamaica. Or that the wife of one U.S. president would spend months in 2008 as the national favorite to become president herself and, barely failing in that quest, would become an outspoken Secretary of State, or that the Speaker of the House would be a woman, or that John McCain would choose a moose-hunting, helicopter-riding, crowd-pleasing mother of five as his running mate because she'd stared down oil companies as governor of the tough state of Alaska.

How about education? I'm sure she would have forecast that more women would be completing high school and attending college, but do you think she'd have predicted that during the 2008 school year, 59 percent of all the bachelor's degrees and 61 percent of all the master's degrees would be earned by women, not by men? Or that by 2009, four out of the eight Ivy League universities—Harvard, Brown, Penn and Princeton—would have female presidents?

And work? Again, she would probably have bet that, in the future, more women would be working, but would she have guessed that October will be the first month in which women outnumber men in the workforce, that women would be holding more management and supervisory positions than men, by a margin of 37 percent to 31 percent, that in like-for-like work women and men with the same amount of work experience would be earning the same, and that women's pay would actually be increasing faster than men's? I doubt it.

Yet the biggest surprise would have come if you had asked her just one more question. Given all the evidence of women running corporations and universities, hospitals, media empires, branches of government, army divisions, and countries, do you think women in the future will be happier?

Of course they will be happier, she would have said. With all these opportunities and achievements, how could they not be?

Well, as it turns out, too easily.