Christie's debate comment turns back the clock 60 years
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As the final Republican debate of 2015 opened in Las Vegas, one candidate turned the clock back about 60 years. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, in discussing the recent closure of public schools in Los Angeles because of a terrorism threat, said:


"Think about the mothers who will take those children tomorrow morning to the bus stop, wondering if their children will arrive back on that bus safe and sound. Think about the fathers of Los Angeles who tomorrow will head off to work and wonder about the safety of their wives and their children."

Talk about a throwback! It was like watching "Father Knows Best," which aired on radio starting in 1949 before moving to TV in 1954. Remember the dad Jim Anderson, played by Robert Young? His wife Margaret was the perfect stay-at-home mom with perfect children. The problem for Christie is that America has changed a bit and the facts don't paint the same picture as he did.

According to New Jersey's Department of Labor and Workforce Development, more than 4.5 million females live in New Jersey and they are both well-educated vis-a-vis men and increasingly gainfully employed. In fact, an increasing number of married women in the state have achieved higher educational levels than their spouses. A May 2014 report, "NJ Women Stronger in Education, Entrepreneurship & Employment," states that "during the past two decades, the size of New Jersey's workforce (persons 16 and over) would have declined without the influx of women workers, as male participation was down."

Christie needs both a fact check and a reality check about shared parenting responsibilities. A little research would tell him that women today are more like rival Republican candidate Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, than Donna Reed, another sitcom stay-at-home mom from the 1950s (not that staying at home to raise kids is a negative). But times are changing.

Again, New Jersey's own labor statistics provide the data:

Owing to the rising educational attainment of women, lower fertility rates, more available child care services, better healthcare systems and other factors, women have significantly enhanced their employability and increased their labor force participation nationally from 37.7 percent in 1960 to 51.6 percent in 1980, peaking (60.2 [percent]) in 2000 before stabilizing in recent years. In New Jersey, the labor force participation rate among women is hovering around 58 percent during recent years while men's participation declined gradually from near 75 percent in 1990 to around 70 percent.

As for fathers, real men do carpools and drop-offs at bus stops. Some, like my husband, even picked up the kids after school. The number of dads who are opting to stay home to raise their children, leaving their wives to take the role as the family's primary breadwinner, is growing. The Pew Research Center reports that this figure has roughly doubled since 1989, to more than 2 million American men. While rising unemployment rates since the financial crisis of 2008 and the recession that followed have played a role, the research finds that fathers now account for 16 percent of all stay-at-home parents, up from 10 percent in 1989. That is not a huge number, but it is rising.

Working women still face many obstacles on equal pay, balancing home and work, childcare options, and discrimination. But they are working hard. Of the 123 million women age 16 years and over in the U.S., 72 million (58.6 percent) are labor force participants. And women are projected to account for 51 percent of the increase in total labor force growth by 2018.

Candidates for political office don't like apologizing. But Chris Christie owes us one. Stereotypes and caricatures undercut progress on diversity. The governor's portrayal of parents today needs a bit more texture and color instead of an image from a black-and-white television set in our grandparent's era.

Sonenshine is former under secretary of State for public diplomacy and public affairs. She is active on issues related to women and girls.