Thursday, March 01, 2012

A Look Back at the "Mancession"

In 2010, there were many handwringing stories by the mainstream media about the "mancession." Their view was that men were losing their jobs, while women were doing just fine. Much pearl clutching about the future ensued, where some breathlessly wondered what if this was the new economic reality - a world where women actually dominated the work place.

Naturally, the "mancession" ended as quickly as it began. By January 2011 the media was reporting upon its demise, as I did, here at Working America. In May of 2011, I wrote about the 'womancession" that was going to be created by federal and state budget cuts to k-12 education, and other public sector jobs. Because I really hated the phonied up "mancession," in both pieces I made a point of saying things like this:

Out there in the land of working families, the cutesy terms created by the media are meaningless. What these families know is that if both partners lose their jobs foreclosure and homelessness are moving ever closer.

Now, over a year later, The Nation takes a look at the great "mancession" and how women are faring in this economy:

So what happened to the “mancession” once the recovery officially began in June 2009? Women’s unemployment has continued to rise as men have gained their jobs back. Women gained less than 8 percent of the 1.9 million jobs added, and now men’s and women’s unemployment rates have converged at 7.7 percent. Public sector layoffs have hit women particularly hard. Across the country, women have lost 414,000 government jobs, many due to teacher layoffs. As of October, 300,000 educator jobs had been lost, accounting for over half of those lost at the local government level.


But women were stuck in disposable, low-income jobs long before the recession. One of the trends that got Rosin excited is that women dominate many of the industries projected to grow over the next decade, including retail sales and healthcare. It’s true that women disproportionately hold retail sales, home health and personal care jobs, all of which are set to see the most growth. But these jobs not only pay poorly and have few benefits; they are also unstable and are poorly protected by labor laws or unionization.


If women are thriving in growing industries, they should also be proportionally represented in the higher ranks of these companies. But that’s not the case. In healthcare, only 16.4 percent of Fortune 500 companies’ executive officers are women; only 18.7 percent of executive officers in retail are women.

According to research done by Catalyst, an organization focused on women in business, this is evidence that a broken “pipeline” isn’t moving workers from the lower ranks to upper-management jobs. Women make up about half of middle management, an impressive statistic when one considers that they made up about a third of the entire workforce just sixty years ago. Yet they only count for 14 percent of executive officers in Fortune 500 companies, 16 percent of board seats in those companies and just a measly 3.6 percent of CEOs. On top of this, only 7.5 percent can be counted among the top earners at these companies. Research does not suggest that women are dropping out of the race for these higher-earning jobs. As Ilene Lang, president and CEO of Catalyst, put it to me, “Often women get stuck having to prove themselves over and over again. That’s a block; they’re not going up.”

In other words, when men are losing good paying jobs while women are keeping their lousy jobs, it's a "mancession." When the men go back to work at good paying jobs, and the women are still stuck in lousy jobs, it's a non-story. It's just business as usual.

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