As the granddaughter of a woman engineer (and also someone who struggles to assemble her Ikea furniture but loves her new toolkit anyway), it was an honor to be surrounded by tradeswomen at the Institute for Women and Work’s panel last Thursday night up at Cornell. We were gathered to discuss how the economic crisis and recovery efforts in New York impact women, particularly tradeswomen. For me, though, it was an education in a history I didn’t even know existed: the history of tradeswomen in the U.S. and their fight for recognition and rights. After 30 years of activism, women still only comprise 3% of the construction labor force. As one panelist said, “do we really believe that men have 97% of the answers?” I think not. Although frustration with this slow-moving progress was evident in the room, the Cornell event was more celebratory than anything else. Susan Eisenberg shared slides from her multi-media installation, On Equal Terms. The theme of the installation: Women in construction—30 years and still organizing. The most provocative exhibit was the bathroom shack, literally a 6 foot by 6 foot plywood replica of a typical bathroom tradeswoman encounter on the job, complete with documented misogynistic and explicitly sexual graffiti.
May 1, 2009 posted by Shyama Venkateswar The recent health alert on swine flu has serious implications for those surviving at the margins of society without health care, paid sick leave, or other benefits. Women working in low-skill jobs are particularly vulnerable. Judith Warner's piece in the NYT brings much-needed attention to this issue: how to provide economic security for millions of women, particularly those who are single heads of households, working part-time jobs that are tenuously held at best.
April 28, 2009 posted by Kyla Bender-BairdI post this today, in honor of Fair Pay Day, with a sense of both frustration and hope. I’m frustrated that three decades have gone by after the passage of the Equal Pay Act and we still don’t have pay equity. I’m frustrated that what progress we’ve made has been achingly slow and small. According to the National Committee on Pay Equity, the wage gap has closed by less than half of one cent per year since the Equal Pay Act of 1963. At the current rate of progress, it will take 50 years to close the wage gap. This is simply intolerable. It is unacceptable that after decades of feminist lobbying, women continue to earn only 78 cents for every man’s dollar. In some occupations, the gap is even wider. Among finance and insurance occupations, women earn 55.2 cents on the dollar and the wage gap among physician surgeons is 63.5%. Even as I write this, I’m struck by Michael Kimmel’s recent comment at a panel I attended , questioning why we discuss women’s wages as a function of men’s wages. Why not make male privilege and the gendered dynamics of the economy more visible by reversing the equation? Men make $1.28 for every woman’s dollar. Despite this frustration, however, I remain optimistic. This optimism springs from an unlikely source: the economic downturn.
April 24, 2009 posted by Kyla Bender-Baird 60% of young black girls in New York City surveyed by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research indicated they worry about their personal safety. 89% attributed their concern to frequent fights at school. Despite this and other harsh realities, the study reveals the strength and resilience girls embody. Produced by IWPR and The Black Women for Black Girls Giving Circle, Black Girls in New York City: Untold Strength and Resilience documents the lives of girls living in New York City. The report discusses the daily challenges girls face as well as their modes of survival. To read the whole report, click here.
5.1 million jobs have been lost since December 2007.
The subprime lending crisis has particularly hit hard women and people of color because of predatory lending practices. NCRW’s research has shown that African American and Latina women borrowers are most likely to receive sub-prime loans at every income level. Women are 32% more likely than men to receive subprime mortgages.
In the financial sector, men’s unemployment in Feb was 6.9% while for women it was 6.6%
April 3, 2009 posted by Kyla Bender-Baird Last night I attended a dynamic panel hosted by Legal Momentum on Women’s Economic Equality: The Next Frontier in Women’s Rights. The brilliant panelists duked it out, discussing the current economic situation, its impact on women, and in what directions we should be heading. Legal Momentum President, Irasema Garza, discussed the frustration that while historic legal victories were secured decades ago, this hasn’t translated into systematic equality for the majority of women in the U.S. Women continue to be steered away from training opportunities, segregated into low-wage jobs, and are 42% more likely to be poor than men. In the midst of this stalemate came a ray of sunshine: the election of Obama. With this historic election comes the opportunity to set new goals, reframe old debates, and shift the focus of our advocacy. In this light, Legal Momentum is calling for a Second Bill of Rights for Women. The bill must provide pathways to employment for women through job training and education; secure rights and supports to ensure women earn a living wage; ensure that public benefits provide an adequate safety net; and expand legal rights and support services for survivors of domestic violence. Heather Boushey brought her economic expertise from the Center for American Progress and laid out the current stark reality:
April 1, 2009 posted by Deborah SiegelDeborah Siegel is the author of Sisterhood, Interrupted: From Radical Women to Grrls Gone Wild, creator of the group blog Girl w/Pen and a long-time friend of the Council. The following was originally posted on Recession Wire as Deborah's latest installment of her weekly column, Love in the Time of Layoff. Those who read this column know that I’ve been writing very personally about how the downturn has affected my relationship. In all honesty, I’m starting to fear that by focusing on what’s happening inside relationships, we may be losing sight of larger contexts—what could and should be happening in the structures that govern our lives. The personal is political, after all! Whoever invented the notion that a wife who earns less than her husband has a career that is, by definition, “expendable”? The ubiquity of this sentence—“she has an expendable career”—was brought home to me once again when I read Diane Clehane’s “Recession Marriage Wars” in yesterday’s Daily Beast. Clehane poignantly shares her frustration that for her, and for many working mothers she knows, “The recession means wives are under pressure from their husbands who tell them a sitter is now a luxury they can’t afford.” These are working mothers, mind you—women who have defined themselves by their careers for most of their lives and who know that being a good mom and having a great career are not mutually exclusive. As someone with big hopes of starting a family, and as a feminist, I’m thinking government-funded or employer-subsidized childcare is sounding like a pretty darn good idea right about now.
March 30, 2009 posted by admin Last week, the Insight Center for Community Development convened 75 assets-building experts of color from around the nation for the Color of Wealth 2009 Policy Summit . During the Summit, experts met with members of Congress and policy staff to discuss the gap between people of color and whites in economic security and mobility. While most people are familiar with the stat that people of color are three times more likely to receive a sub-prime mortgage loan than white borrowers, even when qualified for a prime loan, the picture is actually much more stark. As Meizhu Lui, director of the Closing the Racial Wealth Gap Initiative at Insight, discusses in her recent Washington Post op-ed, white families are five times more likely to have bank account than families of color. Furthermore, the racial wealth gap is actually widening. Says Lui,
“The gap between the wealth of white Americans and African Americans has grown. According to the Fed, for every dollar of wealth held by the typical white family, the African American family has only one dime. In 2004, it had 12 cents. This is not just a gap. It’s a deepening canyon. The overhyped political term ‘post-racial society’ becomes patently absurd when looking at these economic numbers.”