Why Women Should Care about the President’s Jobs SpeechSeptember 02, 2011
Next Thursday, September 8, President Barack Obama will give what’s being touted as a major speech that will pressure the so-called debt “super committee” to focus on job creation and tackling the nation’s high unemployment rate, which stood at 9.1 percent in July 2011. While the speech is of interest to all Americans, it’s particularly important to women. Job creation and economic opportunity are critical issues for women, many of whom continue to struggle with economic insecurity and wage discrimination.
The last few years have been particularly unkind to American women. Between June 2009 and May 2011, women lost 218,000 jobs and saw their average unemployment rate increase 0.2 percent. By contrast, men gained 768,000 jobs and lowered their unemployment rate by 1.1 percent. According to the Pew Research Center, “Employment trends during the recovery have favored men over women in all but one of the 16 major sectors of the economy.” Even in sectors traditionally associated with women, such as education and health services, men gained jobs at a faster rate than women.
Yet when women have found jobs, wage discrimination remains problematic. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, women who work full time earn about 77 cents on average for every dollar men earn. Because of the wage gap, since 1960 the real median earnings of women have fallen short by more than half a million dollars compared to men.
This gap has real consequences. With 71.4 million women in the workforce as of July 2011, wage discrimination hurts the majority of American families. Women are increasingly the primary breadwinners in their households, so the wage gap undermines families’ economic security. Additionally, wage discrimination lowers total lifetime earnings, thereby reducing women’s benefits from Social Security and pension plans and inhibiting their ability to save not only for retirement but also for other lifetime goals such as buying a home and paying for a college education. Researchers have calculated that the average 25-year-old woman will earn $523,000 less than her male counterpart over the next 40 years.
Women deserve not only equal employment opportunities but also equal pay for that employment. Women play a critical role in our nation’s economy, and we must not leave them behind as we recover from the recession.