Are Women Economic Equals in a Poor Economy?July 31, 2008
Last week, the New York Times published an article entitled “Women Are Now Equal as Victims of Poor Economy.” I was immediately skeptical. The article, citing a study conducted by the Joint Economic Committee, argues that the poor economy affects women and men in the same way: through layoffs, pay cuts, outsourcing, and downturns. The conclusion is that women are suffering equally under our declining economy.
This argument does not work for me for several reasons. For one, we know that women are already earning less than men do for the same work. AAUW’s research report Behind the Pay Gap showed that, one year out of college, women are earning only 80 percent as much as their male colleagues earn. Ten years after graduation, women are earning only 69 percent as much as men. We also know that women constitute a far greater percentage of single-parent households. The statistics show that 10.5 million women are single parents, compared with only 2.5 million men. In addition, the Joint Economic Committee found in another report that women are more susceptible to layoffs than men are. All these factors add up to an extra burden on women as our economy struggles.
I was glad to see the responses to the article. For example, the president of the National Partnership for Women and Families points out that many women leave the workforce because their workplaces fail to accommodate women’s caregiving responsibilities. Linda Basch, president of the National Council for Research on Women, notes that women in single-parent households make up 62 percent of the 5.8 million American families who have children and are living in poverty. Recognizing the diversity of issues affecting women’s lives presents us with a more holistic view of how women are coping with the problems the economy presents.
As our economy struggles, what do you see as the greatest burden facing women? What kind of steps should we take to provide extra support for women who are hardest hit by economic instability?