The economy might be better off now than it was in 2008, but that doesn't mean women are reaping all the benefits of the country's improving economic situation.
Feministing reports that of the 5.3 million jobs added during the economic recovery over the last few years, only 30% went to women. Perhaps more importantly is the question of what kind jobs those that actually went to women were, and what the future holds for the economic stability for everyone in the country.
Three years after the term was coined, the “mancession” perspective on unemployment has lost most credibility. But there hasn’t yet been significant discussion about the real implications of our unemployment numbers for women alongside this rejection of an economy disproportionately impacting men’s employment rates. Think Progress notes that this is especially concerning as the economy recovers while women still lack sustainable employment.
In January, 54.6% of women over the age of 20 had jobs, the lowest proportion since 1993. Recovery or not, women are still not adequately employed. Since two-thirds of households in the U.S. have women as a partial or sole breadwinner, the employment issue is concerning for everyone worried about economic recovery.
It seems in part that this gap in gendered employment is due to the preponderance of women doing precarious work, a term used in Deirdre McCann’s Precarious Work, Women, and the New Economy: The Challenge to Legal Norms, to indicate jobs that are low paid, without benefits, and typically temporary, freelance, or technically self-employed.
In the winter 2013 issue of Dissent, Madeleine Schwartz states that in 2010, the Department of Labor calculated that up to 30 percent of companies routinely misclassified regular employees as independent contractors in order to avoid paying benefits. Access to full-time jobs for women has always been hard to come by, and the gender gap is readily apparent when comparing the number of women employed in precarious positions in the U.S.: women are almost twice as likely as men to work part-time. Precarious workers also struggle to communicate their concerns to their employers, not able to join with other workers to bring their concerns to those they work for and without recourse when their rights as workers are infringed upon. It is crucial to recognize that the gender gap in employment goes far beyond women’s ability to have a job: one must also wonder what kind of job women can get.
As the new economy driven by technology and globalizing forces continues to advance, we must question the role of women in the workforce. More important than the number of women employed is perhaps the question of the quality of the employment: are the jobs that women hold appropriate in their compensation and able to provide women with a living wage?