More on women and the US economy: UPDATED

Today’s NYT letters to the editor have a number of authoritative voices discussing women and the economy.  Here are some of the facts we should know about:

… low-income women and women of color … face multiple barriers to economic security: race, gender and class.

Today, despite decades of struggle for job access and pay equity, women are paid 77 cents for each dollar a man makes; the disparity is worse for African-American women, who earn 62 cents, and Latinas, who earn 53 cents.

Nearly 10.5 million women are single parents (as compared with 2.5 million single fathers). For them, opting out for any reason — like motherhood or education — is not viable.

.Sara K. Gould/President and Chief Executive/Ms. Foundation for Women

To the Editor:

These women (single women who are heads of household) have about one-half the income and less than one-third the wealth of other households. They make up 62 percent of the 5.8 million American families with children in poverty and are more likely to hold subprime mortgages. Many women from this category would like to leave the work force in order to take care of children or other family members but simply cannot afford to do so.

Linda Basch/President, National Council for Research on Women


To the Editor:

There is another compelling reason that women are leaving the work force: in addition to an unfriendly economy, many face a hostile work environment that fails to accommodate care-giving responsibilities.

Many women have jobs that do not offer paid sick days that we can use for ourselves or our children, no flextime, and only unpaid family and medical leave.

In addition, the Supreme Court took us backward last year in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, which made it more difficult for victims of wage discrimination to win justice by limiting when lawsuits can be filed.

 Debra L. Ness/President, National Partnership for Women and Families



NOW invites you to take action now to get legislation through to help women and families.

Women’s Work Choices: Post-feminism or Brutal Economics?

In her post on girls’ abilities in mathematics, Jender said:

Prediction: if this comes to widely accepted, expect lots more stories about how girls are innately predisposed not to like doing stuff that involves maths– gotta explain the dearth of women in science and maths in such a way that nobody has to worry about it.

Turns out, no surprise, that that pattern of explanation is showing up elsewhere.  Judith Warner in the NY Times remarks:

It has happened like clockwork. In the past two economic downturns, as job losses have forced women out of the workplace, a sort of angel has appeared to guide their way and re-label their unfortunate circumstances as virtuous “choice.”

Economists, sociologists and other academics who rigorously track workplace trends and work-life issues have been saying for years that this self-realized creature with her new, post-feminist home and hearth priorities, is a chimera.

So why or in what ways are being forced out?  Warner’s explanations:  Child-care costs equal one’s take home salary, the workplace is hostile, and/or one is let go.  And recently the latter has become a particularly serious factor:

While prior recessions tended to spare women’s jobs relative to men’s, that trend has been reversed in the current downturn, thanks in part to women’s progress in entering formerly male industries and occupations, and in part to the fact that job sectors like service and retail, which still employ disproportionate numbers of women, have suffered disproportionate losses. And this — not a calling to motherhood — accounts for the fall, starting in 2000, of women’s labor force participation rates.

I can’t wait for the hiring figures for 2009 in philosophy to come out.   Ours isn’t even a formerly male occupation.

There are two particularly nice features of Warner’s report.  First, she stresses that the picture of women’s choices is being construction by in part ignoring the research of “economists, sociologists and other academics.”  You know how that goes; let’s ignore the elites and say what we feel is true.  Secondly, she links to a very recent congressional report that puts paid to the myth of choice and calls for some sensible remedial measures.


Sunday Spanish Cats

Some cats in Spain have it good. This cat door was built over 100 years ago, and is still being used, even though it is now attached to an abandoned building. Yes, those are balconies– though not ones that would actually hold cats. It’s dedicated to two cats who apparently were louder than any other cats. (The rectangular bit in the lower right is a plaque with dedication.)

So who is taking care of your children?

Female Science Professor has posted some useful answers to those awful questions and comments an academic woman easily gets.  My favorite response is to the question, “So they had to hire a woman…?”  Of the answers offered, this one gets my vote:

Answer 3: Yes, they finally realized they had hired enough mediocre men. 

Some of the questions assume you are in a heterosexual relationship.  No  one will be surprised, I expect, that we/I’ve used these:

Question (said to male person): Who takes care of your kids when your wife travels?
Answer: The cats.

Question (said to married/partnered female person): Who takes care of your kids when you travel?

Answer: The cats.

Question (said to academic couple): Which of you is the trailing spouse?
Answer: Our cat.


Philosophy facts, thanks to the Splintered Mind

Our friend, Eric Switzgebel, has posted some revealing  figures about women in philosophy.  In studying philosophers’ voting patters, he and his collaborator gathered a lot of data about philosophers.  Though the sample was just 5 states, they covered them very thoroughly.  In addition, there were age data for philosophers in 4 states. 

They’ve reused the figures to look at men’s and women’s comparative progress in the profession.  Switzgebel concludes that the record shows women move through the profession more slowly than men. 

Another dismal fact emerges; the comparative perceptage of non-TT positions women occupy.  For those young women with birth dates ranging from 1970-1979, 36% are in non-TT positions!  That’s compared with 13% of the guys.

Switzgebel mentions an obvious factor which may slow women’s progress:  marriage and/or  children.  In addition, women are more often “the trailing spouse” in the sciences, and this might well apply in philosophy also.  Of course, we need to be careful not to conclude that sexism isn’t operating.  Not only may it still be at work at a number of junctures, including what makes a male partner a hotter property on the market, but also there’s the institutional sexism of the university and college structures that are still geared to male biological lives more than female.

So thanks, Eric!  For the study!

Male Veto For Abortion in Ohio?

In teaching about abortion, one position the students *here* find so appalling as to be barely worth discussing is the idea of a male veto for abortion decisions. But in Ohio, a bill mandating this is being considered. Planned Parenthood of Ohio writes:

One year ago, State Rep. John Adams (R-Sidney) introduced one of the most outrageous pieces of legislation we have ever seen. House Bill 287 would require a woman to have the written informed consent of the prospective father of her fetus before being allowed to have an abortion.

That’s right… If the man says “No,” there will be no abortion.Period!

This bill may actually be scheduled for hearings in the coming weeks. To raise awareness about this offensive bill, Planned Parenthood Affiliates of Ohio is partnering with ProgressOhio, an outreach organization that builds awareness of legislative issues.

You’re not going to believe this… HB 287 also requires that, if the identity of the prospective
father is unknown, a paternity test must be performed to determine his identity so that his consent could be obtained prior to performing the abortion.

What is left unsaid is that prenatal paternity testing: cannot be performed until at least the 10th week of pregnancy, near the end of the first trimester; is an invasive procedure using a long needle through the abdomen to collect fetal cells; is expensive – up to $2,000 per test;
and poses a potential medical risk. The practical effect of the paternity test requirement would
prevent some women from obtaining an abortion during the first trimester.

Once paternity is established, if the man says “No,” there will be no abortion.

Even worse if… If the pregnancy resulted from rape, the woman would be required
to provide a police report proving it. If the pregnancy resulted from incest, the woman would be
required to provide a paternity test or a police report. If the woman chooses not to identify the prospective father (perhaps out of fear for her own physical well-being), her only recourse would be to continue the pregnancy against her wishes or have an illegal abortion, a first degree misdemeanor.

To sign a petition against it, go here. (Thanks, Jender-Parents!)

Guess what?

Girls don’t suck at maths. See also here. (How many times does this need to be shown?) Prediction: if this comes to widely accepted, expect lots more stories about how girls are innately predisposed not to like doing stuff that involves maths– gotta explain the dearth of women in science and maths in such a way that nobody has to worry about it. (Thanks BTPS and Jender-Parents!)

Socialist Feminism Conference

I’ve just been sent an announcement for this interesting conference:

On October 3-6, 2008 Radical Women is hosting The Persistent Power of Socialist Feminism conference at The Women’s Building in San Francisco.

The conference features activists and scholars from Central America, Australia, China, and the U.S. The agenda includes panel discussions, keynote speakers such as civil liberties attorney Lynne Stewart, organizer-training workshops and strategy sessions. Topics include: multiracial organizing in a society divided by racism, the dynamic leadership of youth and queers, a labor revival ignited by immigrants and women of color, and the need for an independent grassroots feminist movement.

In today’s tumultuous political climate, we hope this event will produce concrete plans to energize and focus the women’s movement on the many issues that affect us all. The event is open to all genders.

Which is worse?

Being addressed as ‘Dear Sir’ by someone who has sent a letter to my department which came to me due to my particular role in the department? Or being addressed as ‘Dear Miss Jender’ in an email from the university bookshop about what books I need ordered for the Autumn semester? Both in 48 hours. What next? I eagerly await. Do feel free to share similar linguistic annoyances here!