AS

JOAN RIVERS

would say, can we talk? Today's subject is women and - gulp - race.

Yeah, I know. Not the most comfortable subject, particularly when you're having the discussion across racial lines.

But bear with me. Because as much as some folks hate to admit it, race remains a factor in America. A study just out attempts to show how that manifests itself in the lives of women. In other words, it tries to reveal how life is different for the "Sex and the City" crew vs. the one on "Girlfriends."

It's not often that you hear much about differences between the lives of black women and white women. Two friends - one black and one white - were discussing why this is and came up with the idea of doing a national study. More than 1000 women responded to the survey they posted on the Internet.

"The purpose was pretty personal. We both wanted to have a dialogue," explained Leslie Morgan Steiner, a co-author. The reality is that, despite the many things that black women and their white counterparts have in common, there are differences, too. Take, for example, whom you socialize with. The survey found that black women are more apt to have high-school friends of a different racial background (53 percent) than white women (29 percent).

"We have a hard time talking about these things," Steiner said. "White women live in a much more segregated world. Black women live in a much more integrated world because they are forced to.

"It's easier to be a white woman in a majority group . . . and not interface with black women all that much."

Among the other findings was that 88 percent of black women felt white women benefit because of their color. In comparison, only 47 percent of white women felt that their race was an advantage to them.

Researchers also found that black women (54 percent vs. 14 percent of white women) worry about appearing "sensitive and/or angry." Meanwhile, more white women (40 percent vs. 10 percent of black women) didn't want to be seen as "self absorbed and unaware of others."

Also, the research showed that more black women (34 percent) expect their children to attend graduate school than white women (22 percent). Steiner met her co-author, Paula Penn-Nabrit, last year while promoting her anthology, "Mommy Wars" (Random House, 2006).

Penn-Nabrit, who couldn't be reached for comment yesterday, is president of a consulting company specializing in demographic research. She's also the author of "Morning by Morning" (Random House, 2003), which is about home-schooling her three teen-aged sons.

But back to the survey: The authors, who admit that it's unscientific and skewed toward upper-income females, initially hoped for 1,000 responses during the first two weeks. Instead, more than 1,000 responded almost immediately.

"I find that women really want to talk about it. Women of all ages have something to say about it," said Steiner, who runs a blog for the Washington Post about work-life balance. "If you're a woman in America, how can you not pay attention to this subject? It's wallpaper in our lives.

"We have a long history of interdependency upon each other. It's sort of funny that we don't talk about it more," she said.

"If you're American, you're living in a kind of denial if you don't confront it. We are all sisters. There's something to be learned from talking to each other." *

Have you peeped a hot trend that hasn't been reported? E-mail heyjen@phillynews.com and let me know what you know.