Girl Power: What has changed for women—and what hasn’t

From Harvard Magazine:

Girl_2 Kindlon is a clinical psychologist and adjunct lecturer at the Harvard School of Public Health. The more he coached his youngest daughter’s team, the more he understood he was observing a new generation of girls and young women. “People who say that girls aren’t competitive and don’t enjoy winning have never gone to a game and watched!” he says with a laugh. “My own daughters are so different from the girls I grew up with, in terms of the things they think they can do.” Linking those observations with accumulating data that show girls outperforming boys in grades, honors, and high-school graduation rates—and with the historic reversal in U.S. college enrollments (58 percent today are women, the 1970 percentage for men)—convinced Kindlon that today’s American girls are profoundly different from their mothers. “They were born into a different world,” he says of girls and young women born since the early 1980s. He began to think of them as “alpha girls.”

These girls—Kindlon uses the term because his research focuses on female development up to age 21, the period covered by pediatric medicine—were not the self-loathing, melancholic teens at risk portrayed in such former bestsellers as Schoolgirls: Young Women, Self-Esteem and the Confidence Gap (Peggy Orenstein), Failing at Fairness: How America’s Schools Cheat Girls (Myra and David Sadker), and Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls (Mary Pipher). Girls today “take it for granted that it is their due to get equal rights,” Kindlon says. “They never had to fight those battles over fertility control, equal educational and athletic access, or illegal job discrimination.” As a result, “girls are starting to make the psychological shift, the inner transformation, that Simone de Beauvoir predicted” in 1949 when she wrote, in The Second Sex, “sooner or later [women] will arrive at complete economic and social equality, which will bring about an inner metamorphosis.”

More here.