Mr. President-Elect, Where Are the Jobs for Women?

Today, in the Op-Ed section of the NY Times, Linda Hirshman asks a very important question about Obama’s proposed public works program to stimulate the economy: “Where Are the New Jobs for Women?”

In the weekly address on Saturday, Obama said the administration will build roads and bridges, upgrade public schools, build out broadband, make public buildings energy efficient and modernize medical record-keeping. As Hirshman points out: “there are almost no women on this road to recovery.”

Here are some other highlights from Hirshman’s piece:

[W]omen constitute about 46 percent of the labor force. And as the current downturn has worsened, their traditionally lower unemployment rate has actually risen just as fast as men’s. A just economic stimulus plan must include jobs in fields like social work and teaching, where large numbers of women work.

The bulk of the stimulus program will provide jobs for men, because building projects generate jobs in construction, where women make up only 9 percent of the work force.

A public works program can provide needed economic stimulus and revive America’s concern for public property. The current proposal is simply too narrow. Women represent almost half the work force — not exactly a marginal special interest group. By adding a program for jobs in libraries, schools and children’s programs, the new administration can create jobs for them, too.

The article does not include some important contextual statistics: 12.5 percent of American families are headed by women, and according to 2004 data, about 23 percent of American children are being raised by single moms. This means that any jobs program that does not take special care to keep women employed will leave a disproportionately large number of children exposed to economic hardship.

Remarkably, as SusanG at the Daily Kos points out, Obama’s Saturday address was directed at women. When he said, “Will your job or your husband’s job or your daughter’s job be the next one cut?” it was very gender-specific. Since the President-Elect was talking to us, we should not hesitate to talk back: Mr. President-Elect, please take care of the people who take care of everyone else — making sure women have jobs is the surest way to not only shore up the American economy but American families through these trying times.

Obama will not be rolling out the program until he takes office, which means he’s STILL WORKING ON IT. We have the opportunity now to shape the end result by speaking up. Women were outraged by how Hillary Clinton was treated during the primaries, and also by Sarah Palin’s treatment, despite the fact that many of us didn’t even like her. This is much, much more important, because families are at stake — we need policy that takes care of the most number of people, with a particular mind to those who are the most vulnerable and can’t take care of themselves. Women need to get online and start emailing our friends, informing our communities, joining online discussions and just let everyone know how Obama’s proposed public works program is deeply flawed.

Be outraged. The incoming administration will notice.

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  • Gloria,

    Thank you to you and to Linda Hirshman for working to make the public more aware of the need to have a national jobs program that benefits men & *women*, not just “workers”.
    It hadn’t occurred to me (and I bet it was an “aha” to a lot of NYTimes readers) that the initial public works/recession resistance jobs plan suggested by Obama would actually EXCLUDE women’s jobs to such a degree.

    What’s also interesting here is the way that overlooking women-focused industries (e.g., teaching, childcare, social work) in an economy-wide stimulus plan mimics the ways that we overlook (traditional) women’s work in the home & community. Why must the idea of “infrastructure” be limited to roads and bridges?

    This is exactly the kind of insight and awareness that we need more of, because it takes so much more effort to see sexism in big economic policy.

  • Gloria Pan

    CV – I completely agree that “infrastructure” has been too narrowly defined. After all, a beautifully built and maintained city of steel and concrete is only a shell without people. Social infrastructure is what defines any society, and we can’t ignore it. That’s worth a whole blog post on its own, and I thank YOU for helping me see it more clearly.

  • Gloria, a group of women’s historians has drafted a letter to President-Elect Obama (see copy at Knitting Clio) that makes a historical case for addressing the needs of women workers in his economic recovery plans. They are looking for individuals to sign on to the letter by 5pm (PST) on Monday, December 15 (TODAY). Take a look and send an email with your name and affiliation to Alice O’Connor: aoconnor@history.ucsb.edu.

  • The flip side of this coin is that all need to continue to support women entering into nontraditional fields like engineering and technology, the fields that will be boosted most by President-elect Obama’s plan. While Linda Hirshman touches on this briefly, I think it deserves more attention.

    AAUW has worked hard for years to open up these male-dominated fields for women and girls with programs like the National Girls Collaborative Project. (http://www.aauw.org/education/ngcp/) In addition, we’ll be launching a major study
    (http://www.aauw.org/About/newsroom/pressreleases/NSF_101608.cfm) of the causes and dynamics behind the low participation of women and girls in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields, with the help of a grant from the National Science Foundation. The study has the potential to garner public support for policies to even out the disparities in the higher-paying, male-dominated STEM fields, in which women are woefully underrepresented, so that if (god forbid) we’re even in need of this type of economic stimulus package again, women won’t be shut out.

  • renuga

    i want job in only womens section at vellore or chennai i expect salary is minimum25000