Nowadays, many women in the United States have more educational, employment, and political opportunities than they did in the past. But a number of women are also underpaid, lack health care and an adequate retirement pension. How do these problems affect the average American woman? VOA's Deborah Block looks at what it means to be that typical woman today.
Although the United States is a melting pot of cultures and races, U.S. census data indicate there is a general profile of someone who could be called an average American woman.
"A white woman, she's 40 to 44-years-old; she's married. They have just about two children," says Susan Scanlan. She heads the private, National Council of Women's Organizations, which includes 200 women's groups. She says the average American woman has also finished high school but did not go to college, owns a house with her husband, and has a job to help support her middle-class family.
"In order to afford a house, have two cars, to put your children through college in American society, the woman must work," she adds.
Doreen Sciappattia, a hairstylist from the state of Maryland, fits the profile. "I like being the average American woman because I worked very hard to be where I am and the thriving family and a good job and living in America."
Eleanor Smeal is a women's rights activist and founder of the Feminist Majority Foundation in Arlington, Virginia. She says the typical American woman not only works, but is the major caretaker at home.
"I think one of the big concerns is managing time -- both working inside the home and outside the home. Although we (women) have made tremendous gains in employment, we still are paid less than men," says Ms. Smeal.
Avis Jones-DeWeever, with the Institute for Women's Policy Research in Washington, says the average woman worries about her financial security. "They tend to work in the service sector: sales, clerical opportunities; and those types of jobs tend not to be paid very well.”
Ms. Sciappattia says it is hard to catch up financially, especially since many parents, like herself, are paying for their children's education.
"College is expensive,” says the hairdresser. “Parents are working longer, and there's just not enough money to go around."
The average woman often cannot afford health insurance, and is concerned about having enough retirement money. Many favor government-funded childcare programs.
Ms. Jones-DeWeever says minorities, such as African-Americans, do not fit the average profile, but not because the typical minority group member is better off.
"She's probably working more than one job. She's probably going back to work sooner after having children. She's less likely to stay at home period after having children. So basically, woman of color are working longer, working harder," she told us.
Ms. Smeal says, despite the difficulties women face, the average woman, in particular, will probably have a secure future as she grows older.
"I think their future is that they will be more independent. I think they'll be able to take care of themselves more. I think they're going to have more successful retired years."
Susan Scanlan, with the National Council of Women's Organizations, says the profile of the typical woman will change with the next generation. Many of these women have a higher education, and are marrying and having children later. But they will probably still earn less than men.
Doreen Sciappattia hopes women will hold more key political positions in the future. "I'd like to see a woman president. I believe that would show equality. I don't think women are still equal."
Many American women are still looking for equality -- both at home and in the workplace.