I’m taking a break from my usual legislative updates to discuss something that has been urking me for almost a week now. I simply can’t talk about issues relating to women without at least bringing this up once, so here it goes:
No doubt we’ve all been excited with the recent news coming out of the Shriver Report regarding the male to female ratio statistics in the American work force. I agree that it is a very exciting and historical time for women to now make up, not just half, but almost a majority of the labor force in a country that has historically refused to acknowledge the accomplishments and contributions of women. However, in reading and analyzing the Shriver Report, and the information contained in it, I came to a disturbing and familiar realization….
Not a lot has really changed.
Now, to elaborate, i do not mean to belittle or disregard the amazing fact that women are kicking ass when it comes to getting out of the confines of their house and running down their own unique paths to personal expression and success through the careers they are choosing. What i find alarming though, is the fact that while this report emphasizes the statistical numbers of women to men, it fails to examine why this phenomenon might be occurring now, versus 5 years ago. The report goes into detailed analysis of breaking down the post WWII American workplace and how it has changed. It also gives great detail into the shifts regarding women as homemakers to women as breadwinners. But, while the report does highlight, in detail, the gender wage gap that still exists, my own personal conclusion is that we must pay very close attention to the recent financial crisis and crash that has occurred over the past few years to truly analyze the report’s findings. While many people believe this crisis is but a year old, beginning after the housing market crashed last fall, there were many Americans, and more importantly, many people world wide, who began feeling this hardship half a decade ago. Layoffs in the job market began to spike in the first few years of the 21st century, in what many people felt was simply the end of the “technology/Internet business boom”. Unfortunately, in hindsight, many people are beginning to see a connection between the job losses and stock market dips back then, to the current situation we are in now. However, i digress, my point is that, over the past 5 years, we have seen countless layoffs and job market closures leaving hundreds of thousands of Americans out of work. The majority of these people however, are not women.
My point, is that the Shriver Report outlines the fact that women are working in almost equal numbers with men for the first time in history. However, it does not address that due to the economic crisis, companies have been forced to lay off employees that are costing them the most money in salary pay, yet also are employees they can replace at a lower cost. Interestingly enough, these are usually the men who have been working at the top of the corporate ladder and making the most money for it. While their female counterparts have been empirically placed in subordinate positions with lower salaries. Now, companies that are able to stay afloat in this economy find that they can lay off the high priced male employees and executives and simply promote women to these higher positions, and save 22 cents for every dollar they would have had to pay the previous male employee. (Remember, the current wage gap sits at a woman’s 78 cents to a man’s dollar)
Again, I want to celebrate with every other feminist who has been waiting for women to be properly appreciated when it comes to their contributions to the American labor force, and i applaud anyone, male or female, who can thrive in this economy. However, I do not want anyone, especially women, to lose sight of the fact that the wage gap is still one, if not, the biggest, issue standing in the way of equal rights in the work place between men and women. It will not matter if in another 5 years, women make up 99% of the labor force, if those women are still being cheated out of money that would have been paid to men otherwise. Women do not need to be promoted to these executive and leadership positions if it at the cost of remaining a 2nd class employee in terms of benefits and wages.
The Shriver Report has done a great thing to spotlight women in this way and show that women are just as capable, talented, and necessary to the American labor force as any man. I am pleased that the conversation has been started and the buzz around the topic is still going nearly a week later. (That has to be a near record compared to other women’s issues in pop culture) However, a lot of the buzz has turned people to believe that we’ve reached the end of the road when it comes to the fight for women’s equality. I heard someone on my campus the other day, in a conversation about the Shriver Report comment,“I’m really glad that women are finally getting equal treatment, I believe in equal rights, and this was really the last big issue that separated men and women” While good intentioned, i believe this is just one of many examples of severely misinformed people who will read this report and think that there is nothing left to fight for.
In the end, i simply want to help make people aware of the dangers that lurk when we settle for good news, at the expense of logic. We must always keep in mind that women may very well make up the new majority in the labor force in the coming years, but are still no where close to being treated as absolute equals.
To view the Shriver Report on the economic status of women in the American work force: CLICK HERE