The economy and gender discrimination

Most people are well aware that unemployment continues to rise to its highest levels in 25 years, above 8% nationally and approaching 11% in California. What is less apparent is that this rise is not evenly distributed for men and women. About 14 months ago, men and women had the same level of unemployment (around 4.4%); today 8.8% of men in the labor force are without work, compared to 7.3% of women.

Women appear to be weathering the economic storm slightly better than men. Does this mean that social trends and policies such as affirmative action have reversed gender discrimination in labor markets? As analysts point out, the mostly likely reasons for these trends are that hard-hit sectors such as construction, manufacturing, and financial services tend to be male-dominated; while female-dominated sectors such as healthcare and education have not seen such high levels of job loss. Also, college graduates are half as likely to be unemployed as those who have not gone to college; and more women today are a third more likely than men to have graduated from college.

So, women are doing better than men by some measures, but this doesn’t mean that gender discrimination has disappeared. Despite the gains women have made in education, for example, they still earn less than men on average, even when controlling for hours, occupation, parenthood, and other factors known to affect earnings. In many ways, the proverbial “glass ceiling” still exists. According to Amy Osler from the Chicago Network, which tracks the advancement of women in the workplace, “it’s like climbing straight up an ice mountain.”

So, women, take heart that you’re keeping your jobs at a better rate than men; but watch out for likely budget cuts in education, healthcare, social work…

Published by Bill

Social justice advocate and collaborative leader

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