womanonladderEqual Pay Day (April 20, 2010) reminds us that the average US woman would have to work this far into 2010 in addition to what she worked in 2009 to make the same wage that the average US man made in 2009 alone. There are lots of parts to this wage inequality — part-time vs full-time work / discrimination within the same job / channeling of women into lower paid industries, etc — but for women they add up to an undue big-picture disparity, higher rates of poverty, lower status and diminished influence on policy.

Why are things still so far behind after all the progress we know we have made in the past 50 years?

One reason is RECESSIONS. Historically, though affirmative action initiatives and expanded educational and work opportunities have given women a leg up in good times, in tough times those advances were often reversed, as women were pushed down ladder or out altogether. So when the recession ended, we’ve had to start over. (Click here for earlier post with more on this.)

Though we’ve heard a lot about this recession affecting men’s jobs more than women’s, the jobs that we’ve heard that women have no trouble holding on to are the low paid jobs in traditionally female fields. In the past, where women had made inroads into better paid, traditionally male fields they were often disproportionately represented in the layoff pools. Is that still the case – or have we turned a corner?

Quick Survey
1. From what you’ve observed, have the women in your industry been losing ground, holding onto it, or gaining in the recent recession?

2. What is that industry?

3. What about women in other fields you have contact with?

4. And, whatever you’ve described, what’s your take on why it’s playing out that way?

Just plug in 1, 2, 3, 4 beside your answers in the comments section below.

Thanks for playing “Track that Trend”!

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4 thoughts on “Track That Trend: How Is the Recession Affecting Women in Your Industry?

  • April 21, 2010 at 10:20 am

    I read a couple of blogs for Equal Pay Day that pointed out one reason men should advocate for equal pay. The suggestion was that when women are paid less than men, men are the ones more likely to be let go during a recession since their salaries are higher.

    Men, reduce your risk of being laid off by making sure a woman is just as attractive a target for the layoff! That’ll teach those libbers. Amirite, fellas?

    I’m willing to bet that the the kerfuffle about men losing more jobs than women turns out to be not quite the trend the media and talking heads make it out to be. Call me cynical, but I am guessing that one way or another, women are taking the hit in this recession just as we have in others.

  • April 21, 2010 at 9:15 pm

    Yes – I guess equal targeting could be a sign of equality achieved and even a goal of sorts!

    One question is whether layoffs actually work on the bottom-line basis that that kind of argument assumes — which i guess assumes that women also would have an equal chance of being kept on. Could it have something to do with who makes the layoff decisions and where their loyalties lie?

    Will be interesting to see data down the line on who held onto jobs in 2009 on Wall Street and in the bigger law firms…. Early indications were that there was a gender skew, but only the fuller info will tell.

  • April 26, 2010 at 7:00 am

    I’m in higher education in New Jersey, and there is a pitched battle going on between public educators and Gov. Christie, who wants to freeze teacher salaries and trim benefits and pensions in order to balance the state budget. My colleague Ann Marie Nicolosi detects a hidden gender politics in the way that the attack on teachers is playing out. She has a provocative essay on the subject here: http://fightbacktcnj.org/2010/04/19/ann-marie-nicolosi-the-silent-politics-of-gender-in-teacher-bashing/
    I hope you find it helpful.

  • April 28, 2010 at 1:22 pm

    She’s dead on. Essentially, women have been underwriting the education system forever because they’ve operated in an artificially constrained labor pool (limited number of trades open to them) and faced lots of competition (all the other women) within those few trades. So their wages have been low.

    They’ve been stuck in these constrained pools both because they had limited education (due to early childbearing) and because they needed flexible schedules to care for kids. All of their opportunities were linked to the work they were doing at home for free — (teacher, nurse, cleaner, sex worker). The fact that they were done for free at home, contributed to the general expectation that they were not worth much.

    Though it’s clear there’s lots of anger involved in the debate in NJ, the basic motive seems not to be anger per se, but a desire for cheap workers and a failure to recognize that the system has been transformed by birth control. Women aren’t stuck the way they used to be in the depression. I’m writing about that right now and will post it in a few days. But there’s still a lot of fighting to do to rewrite the gender rules of the work world.

    Great input. Thanks!

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