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Posted by on Jul 22, 2008 in Economy, Society | 4 comments

Women Achieve A Kind of Work Place Equality (Dep’t of Good News/Bad News)

The New York Times came up with what I’d call a strange title for this article: Women Are Now Equal as Victims of Poor Economy.  And the key points are oddly framed:

[F]or the first time since the women’s movement came to life, an economic recovery has come and gone, and the percentage of women at work has fallen, not risen, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports. Each of the seven previous recoveries since 1960 ended with a greater percentage of women at work than when it began…

The proportion of women holding jobs in their prime working years, 25 to 54, peaked at 74.9 percent in early 2000 as the technology investment bubble was about to burst. Eight years later, in June, it was 72.7 percent, a seemingly small decline, but those 2.2 percentage points erase more than 12 years of gains for women. Four million more in their prime years would be employed today if the old pattern had prevailed through the expansion now ending..

Economists first assumed that this was because women didn’t need the money or had ‘other priorities’ (such as staying home with the kids and living on welfare). Whimsical little souls, those economists.

When economists first started noticing this trend two or three years ago, many suggested that the pullback from paid employment was a matter of the women themselves deciding to stay home — to raise children or because their husbands were doing well or because, more than men, they felt committed to running their households.  (NYT)

Now, it seems, they’ve worked out that this is actually because in a declining economy, women can’t afford to hold jobs. 

After moving into virtually every occupation, women are being afflicted on a large scale by the same troubles as men: downturns, layoffs, outsourcing, stagnant wages or the discouraging prospect of an outright pay cut. And they are responding as men have, by dropping out or disappearing for a while.

“When we saw women starting to drop out in the early part of this decade, we thought it was the motherhood movement, women staying home to raise their kids,” Heather Boushey, a senior economist at the Joint Economic Committee of Congress, which did the Congressional study, said in an interview. “We did not think it was the economy, but when we looked into it, we
realized that it was.” (NYT)

It may take them awhile, but those economists always eventually do get there in the end.

The article includes illustrative anecdotes. What it doesn’t do is point out that inequality in pay — might have a little something to do with this trend..  You gotta love the parenthetical in the following:

Pay is no longer rising smartly for women in the key 25-to-54 age group. Just the opposite, the median pay — the point where half make more and half less — has fallen in recent years, to $14.84 an hour in 2007 from $15.04 in 2004, adjusted for inflation, according to the Economic Policy Institute. (The similar wage for men today is two dollars more.)  (NYT)

Remember the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act?  Nancy Pelosi, April 24:

The Ledbetter legislation, which the House proudly passed last year, provides a remedy for women and men who have been victims of pay discrimination. It corrects a Supreme Court decision that severely restricted the right of workers to have their day in court.

Senate Republicans blocked this legislation just one day after we recognized Equal Pay Day. Women make just 77 cents to each man’s dollar, and in an uncertain economy, equal pay for equal work is about daily survival for millions.

Republicans have once again halted the efforts of the New Direction Congress on behalf of justice and equality. They stand only with the President in blocking this legislation for pay equity and against discrimination. These are fundamental differences in values, and Americans now know who supports equal pay for equal work, and who does not. 

Oh yeah: by the way, John McCain was one of those Republicans who opposed equal pay for women. I’m sure the so-called ‘McCain Democrats’ won’t find this (or anything else) persuasive, but I thought it might be worth noting for those who are women, financially dependent on women, or who know any women who actually need money. 


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