Thursday, July 22, 2010

Half the Sky

The latest volley in the so-called Gender War is a peaceable, even handed one, aimed at men by a man. Nicholas Kristof's column today makes the point why gender equality is necessary. "[M]en have typically benefited as women have gained greater equality." []

Kristof makes the point today that my father realized, and what made my father call himself a feminist, back in the seventies. Men do not want to witness their daughters and wives coming up against sexual harassment, pay inequity and inequality in the workplace.

While in this recession women are making up more of the labor force currently employed, they are paid substantially less--25 to up to 40%less-- than males in the same or comparable jobs. In households that are relying on this paycheck, that is a significant amount of money, which in turn means less discretionary spending money.

Before Kate Millett, Barbara Love and others picketed outside the New York Times in 1968 demanding that help wanted ads not be sex segregated, the jobs women could apply for were teachers, nurses, housekeepers, secretaries, stewardesses, waitresses. If women applied for a man's job, the employer could offer it to her, at a 25% pay reduction. Today, while job ads are not segregated, men still earn more, even if they are working in jobs that historically had been female ones.

Pay inequity is actually an holdover from when men were considered to be the primary breadwinners and head of households--this was actually a negotiating tactic for labor unions in the 1890s! If women are now the breadwinners, and head of households, shouldn't their pay be equitabloe to that of a man's?

In a working lifetime (40 years), men on average earn $431,000 more than a woman (Center for American Progress, via Kristof's article). This is very substantial, especially since it also impacts how much women earn towards social security and their pensions, and since women live longer. . .do the math: more elderly women live in poverty.

The Chinese have a saying: "Women hold up have the sky." We need everyone to work towards equality so we do not have a lopsided sky.

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