One Mancession Later, Are Women Really Victors in the New Economy?
Six years ago, the housing bubble imploded, igniting the recession. Construction and manufacturing soon crumbled, taking jobs mostly held by men down with them. Not long after, AEI’s Mark J. Perry referred to the “mancession” when testifying before Congress, and hand-wringing trend pieces, worrying that men would experience a permanent slump in employment and wages, began to appear.
From The Nation:
The apotheosis of this genre, Hanna Rosin’s “The End of Men,” appeared in The Atlantic in the summer of 2010, going one step further to suggest that an “unprecedented role reversal [was] now under way.” What if, Rosin asked, women are better suited to today’s economy? What if the mancession presages a new economy in which women’s skills and talents are prized over men’s, and men’s economic prospects never recover? (To see how this trope lives on, just watch the trailers for ABC’s now-defunct show Work It in which two out-of-work—male—mechanics resorted to dressing in drag to score jobs.)
Women make up almost half of the workforce today, up from about thirty percent in 1940. We hold over half of middle management jobs. More women than men are employed in growing industries like healthcare and retail sales. Shortly after Rosin’s article appeared, a study found that young, urban, childless women make more than similar men do.
But anyone who declares that women have “won” the new economy is premature at best. Women may be over-represented in growing sectors, but those jobs pay poorly, offer few benefits, come with grudging work and provide little opportunity for advancement. The edge on wages experienced by young women evaporates as they progress in their careers. When women do get to middle management, they’re paid less than men and they struggle to advance much further up the ladder. And women with children are left far behind.