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Letter: Blue-collar men must retool skills

A landscaper sprays to kill grass growing in

A landscaper sprays to kill grass growing in the parking lot of the closed Gold Toe factory in Burlington, N.C. Blue-collar men must adapt their skills to a changing world, writes Antonia Petrash. Credit: AP

I read with interest the column by Daniel Akst, "Can Women Have it All? Wrong Question" [Opinion, July 9]. He changes the focus of the debate on whether women can achieve all their professional and family goals to a protest about the demolition of the earning power of blue-collar men.

While I will agree that this group faces challenges from a changing economic and technical landscape, Akst forgets one very important fact: The economic opportunities open to women had for centuries been limited, mainly by their sex. Women had to fight to attend universities, medical schools, law schools. Until not too long ago, they were shunted into then- low-paying jobs as secretaries, nurses or teachers, and they were paid less than men doing the exact same work.

Their answer to these challenges was simple, but not easy: Get an education, find a job, juggle home and child care, and very often the care of older relatives. At the same time, women had to fight for equal wages and the ability to enter previously closed professions. It is only in the past 40 years or so that women have finally enjoyed some parity regarding salaries and the ability to rise to the top in their chosen careers.

If the women can do it, why not those blue-collar men, many of whom are being supported by working wives or mothers?

Antonia Petrash, Glen Cove