Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Women's Economic Equality

What does the stimulus package mean for women? And how does it affect victims of domestic violence?

Legal Momentum helped answer these questions last week at a panel discussion titled "Women's Economic Equality: The Next Frontier in Women's Rights" at Cornell University's NYC campus. The panel included Irasema Garza, President of Legal Momentum, Heather Boushey, Senior Economist, Mimi Abramovitz, Professor of Social Work, and Linda Hirshman, professor of women's studies and self proclaimed "feminist mouthpiece".

Even if the economy were not in such a sorry state, inequality for women in the workplace has always been an issue; and one that generations of feminists have fought to see improved. For example, pregnancy and family responsibilities have hindered women's jobs significantly more than men's, and nearly 90% of people receiving government assistance are women.

In what is being hailed by Heather Boushey as the "worst economic crisis in this lifetime" there has been a disproportionate impact on gender, in terms of both jobs lost and how the stimulus package provides help. Here is how:

1) Four out of every five jobs that are being lost in this recession are men's jobs, which means women are re-entering the workforce or becoming the sole breadwinner. Since women still make about .78 cents to every $1 men can earn, their earning power is much less. This is a problem.

2) The stimulus package, as Linda Hirshman points out in her NYTimes OpEd, "Where Are the New Jobs for Women", is mostly aimed at creating new jobs in infrastructure and alternative engergy - - for construction workers and engineers, both areas where women make up a small percentage of the workforce.

Furthermore, the stimulus package leaves out plans to help areas of the economy where women make up the majority of workers, such as teachers, nurses, caretakers, etc.

Now what about women who are already disadvantaged by abusive relationships? We have discussed in the past that economic hardship can lead to an increase in violence, but what does the current economy mean for women who are trying to leave their abusers and become self sufficient? With enough obstacles already in front of them, now there is the disadvantage of hardly any jobs available and not much aid from the stimulus package.

Now is the time to draw attention to women's economic equality issues, while we re-make the economy through policy and practice. To read more about the work Legal Momentum is doing, check them out here.

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