The struggle for gender equality (9/9/2015)

An upcoming conference in Sun Valley will address one of the leading issues of our time, writes David Adler.

By David Adler

The aspirations of American women to gender equality deserve and require fulfillment if the words and vision of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution are not to be merely rhetorical.

Early on, those aspirations were denied by the laws of coverture and lack of voting rights. In our time, they have been denied by unequal pay for equal work, the absence of paid maternity leave, under-representation in the political, governmental and corporate worlds and the pervasiveness of crude stereotypes.

Donald Trump, the front-runner for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination, called Fox News anchor, Megyn Kelly, a “bimbo,” and accused her of rancorous questions and behavior born of hormonal irrationality.

Hillary Clinton, still the likely winner of the Democratic nomination, despite the controversy surrounding her email practices while serving as secretary of state, remains unfairly subject to sexist scrutiny of her hairstyle and clothing styles-standards to which no male candidate would be subjected.

The mistreatment of serious, thoughtful women for reasons of gender, in the context of the commemoration last week of Women’s Equality Day, marking the 95th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, reminds us that America, despite progress in overcoming sexism, has miles to go before the phrase, “gender equality,” becomes a reality and not merely an aspiration.

As a nation, we need a serious conversation about the challenges and hurdles that women have overcome and those that remain. On September 17-18, The Sun Valley Institute, in partnership with The Community Library in Ketchum, will host a forum, “Conversations with Exceptional Women,” to probe the challenges, hurdles and success stories that have marked their ascent to leadership and acclaim.

Caroline Heldman, a frequent commentator on Fox News and MSNBC programs, will explore the fascinating question posed by the title of her insightful book, “Rethinking Madame President: Are We Ready for a Woman in the White House?”

Other speakers include Pulitzer-Prize winning authors Annette Gordon-Reed, a Harvard law historian, and Diane McWhorter, whose book, “Carry Me Home,” remains one of the best treatments of the Civil Rights Movement.

They will be joined by, among others, Gina Bennett, the CIA super-analyst who first warned senior officials of the menace of Osama bin Laden and the terrorist network that he was building; Karen Crouse, the New York Times’ golf columnist, who was instrumental in persuading Augusta National Golf Club to open its doors to women; Missy Franklin, the most decorated female swimmer in the world; Anne Taylor Fleming, the award-winning PBS essayist; and prize-winning film producer and director, Christine Walker.

Understanding the reasons behind gender inequality is the first step toward rectifying it. To register for the forum, go to