Unleashing the Female Workforce

Posted: November 22, 2011 in Culture War, Discrimination, Education, Healthcare, Women's Issues
Tags: , , ,

I saw this quote by Rep. Nancy Pelosi the other day and she makes an excellent point about women in the U.S.

Of the need for child-care legislation, she says, “I could never get a babysitter — have five kids in six years and no one wants to come to your house. . . . And everywhere I go, women say the same thing” about how hard it is to find the kind of reliable care that would make their family lives calmer and work lives more productive. When it comes to “unleashing women” in a way that would boost the economy, she says, “this is a missing link.” 1

It got me to thinking about women’s issues just a little bit deeper and a whole lot wider. For instance, did you know that there is a direct link between the education of women and the economic prosperity of their entire nation? It’s true. Recently we’ve seen quite a few studies come out that pretty conclusively positively correlate improvements in education for women and improvement in economic welfare to families and communities at large.  The link should be common sense and is, if you really think about. But we’re just now getting scientific proof that this common sense feeling is correct.2

And the research shows that it doesn’t have to be a doctorate education, but simple things.  Here’s some educational items found to be highly effective in improving the economic security of women and children around the world.

  • understanding different forms of birth control and how to use them
  • how to get access to birth control and medical treatment, if necessary
  • understanding how to be safe if they want to leave a violent domestic situation
  • understanding their rights within their particular society regarding property, education, child custody, protection from violence, equal opportunity and treatment at work (if any), etc.
  • childcare options and possible solutions where options don’t exist
  • educating women on how to report if a crime has been committed against themselves or their children, their civil litigation options, and victim services available to them3
  • educating children on these same topics (age appropriately and in light of risks they face)
  • and many more I can’t touch on here

Of course the greatest positive results were seen in studies conducted in developing nations.  However, we should not be too sanguine about the economic security in the U.S. comparatively speaking.  There have been a lot of reversals, or attempted reversals, in recent years in women’s rights that directly affect the very items listed above.

One of the main points of contention recently is reproductive control and education.  In the U.S.

In the first three months of 2011, legislators in 49 states introduced 916 measures related to reproductive issues….More than half of the measures — 56% — seek to restrict abortion access. In 2010… only 38% of bills concerned with reproductive health sought to restrict abortion…Few initiatives are aimed at expanding access to reproductive health services….Fifteen of the bills introduced this year have been enacted into law, and more than 120 others have been approved by at least one legislative chamber.4

This is actually very frightening to me, that within a couple of years decades of progress could be undone by the states.  It’s probably great news if you’re anti-abortion5.  Believe me, this along with the coordinated effort by conservatives to push abstinence education in schools will increase the number of unwanted pregnancies even higher6.

On some other issues, too few actually, we have made progress.  Off the top of my head I can think of only one–The Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.  It was signed into law in 2009 by Pres. Obama.  Let’s do a fun, quick exercise…shall we?  The first Women’s worker association to press for better working conditions and pay actually began in 1844.   So that’s 167 years of fighting to be treated better, much less equal for the same qualifications as a man in the same job.  Now let’s be generous and say that a generation is 20 years, although the actual number of years does vary depending on who you talk to. 167 years translates into 8.35 generations.

Okay, if you take 8.35 generations and then look at how many women were estimated to be in the U.S. every 20 years.  For each generation, you can assume that a certain percentage of those individuals in that generation passed away.  So when you add up the population counts of women, you’d need to subtract the percentage that were likely to have died for each generation and minus the surviving the members, and add that remainder to your total.  That would give you how many women who could have worked outside the home in that 167 year period and therefore been potentially harmed by discriminator pay practices7.  My how those numbers do add up, don’t they?

Now take that number of women, take the total number of years and figure out the potential work hours (assume 40 hour work week).  Now take those hours and multiply it by 33 cents.  Why 33 cents?  Because as of 2010, women still earned only .77 to every 1 dollar a man did in the U.S.   Guess what?  It amounts to a shitload of money…..I know this is a VERY rough number but even if you narrow it down to include things like maternity leave for children,  retirement years, any predictable non-working time periods in their lives, etc, it would still be a HUGE amount.

And all that money could have been invested domestically into making this nation even greater than it already was.  Hell, we might have been able to help other nations rise above poverty and despair.  But who wants that right?  Easier to keep the females here and abroad leashed and quiet, because control  is much more important to conservatives than defeating poverty or helping others.  That is  until the country finds itself declining into third world status, which is what will happen if we allow them to keep chipping away at the economic security of women here and around the world.  Then again, maybe conservatives want that because the rich will get richer and the rest of us, particularly the women and children, will simply remain leashed and poor.

1. from this article
2. online sources include Unesco, Duke University, YWCA Canada, UN, U.S. Congress and many,  many more-Google is our friend!
3.   often this means directing them to attorneys who will take on female clients–not an easy thing to find in the developing world

4. from Los Angeles Times article, citing study by Grummacher Institute
5.  I refuse to use the term pro-life any more.  Pro-choice advocates are pro-life too and the labels that we’ve used for decades divide us further.
6. Here’s some great stats on how badly abstinence has failed our teens re: the rise in pregnancies and STDs.
7.  Not to mention the assignment of benefits to include medical and dental insurance, paid time off, potential raises and all kinds of sexual harassment suffered…..

  1. […] the generations since women have been demanding economic parity to the present can really add up (I’ve written about this before). Pres. Obama recently signed into legislation the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act which is attempting […]

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