Women and President-elect Obama’s Economic Stimulus Plan

Two recent op-eds in the Boston Globe and New York Times have examined what effect President-elect Obama’s proposed economic stimulus plan would have on women. And they’re finding that women are practically shut out of the plan altogether.

First, let’s look at the types of jobs President-elect Obama wants to include in this stimulus package. From his weekly address:

“We’ll put people back to work rebuilding our crumbling roads and bridges, modernizing schools that are failing our children, and building wind farms and solar panels; fuel-efficient cars; and the alternative-energy technologies that can free us from our dependence on foreign oil and keep our economy competitive in the years ahead.”

As Randy Albelda says in her Globe piece:

“Yes, we need bridges, roads, and schools. And yes, we should invest in green jobs – stimulating the economy as well as building a strong basis for economic growth in the future. However, there is a crucial missing link in this package – both on the employment side and the investment side. That link is women. This might as well be called the macho stimulus package.

Jobs in construction and many of those that come with green investment often pay decent wages with benefits. But they are overwhelmingly held by men. Outside of trickle-around effects, this stimulus package will not create jobs for women in any close proportion to the numbers that will be unemployed. Almost one-quarter of families with children under the age of 18 are headed and supported by women as are the majority of single-adult households without children. This package will not put food on their plates.”

This quote is put even more in perspective when you take a look at this article in the Cleveland Plain-Dealer about the cutbacks Hard-Hatted Women, an organization that promotes women in construction and other blue-collar jobs, is having to make this year. According to that article, women represent only 3% of construction workers nationwide. So approximately 97% of President-elect Obama’s plan would benefit men and only 3% women.

Linda Hirshman, in the Times op-ed, has some ideas about how the stimulus plan can benefit women, who, she notes, are 46% of the U.S. workforce:

Fortunately, jobs for women can be created by concentrating on professions that build the most important infrastructure – human capital. In 2007, women were 83 percent of social workers, 94 percent of child care workers, 74 percent of education, training and library workers (including 98 percent of preschool and kindergarten teachers and 92 percent of teachers’ assistants).

Many of the jobs women do are already included in Mr. Obama’s campaign promises. Women are teachers, and the campaign promised to provide support for families with children up to the age of 5, increase Head Start financing and quadruple the money spent on Early Head Start to include a quarter-million infants and toddlers. Special education, including arts education, is heavily female as well. Mr. Obama promised to increase financing for arts education and for the National Endowment for the Arts, which supports many school programs.

During the campaign, Mr. Obama also promised that the first part of his plan to combat urban poverty would be to replicate a nonprofit organization in New York called the Harlem Children’s Zone in 20 cities across the country. The group, which works to improve the quality of life for children and families in the Harlem neighborhood, employs several hundred people in full- and part-time jobs. By making good on this promise, Mr. Obama could create thousands of jobs for women in social work, teaching and child care.

Unlike the proposal to rebuild roads and bridges, the Harlem Children’s Zone program is urban, and thus really green. If cities become more inviting, more people will live in them – and that means they will drive less, using less fuel. The average New Yorker’s greenhouse gas footprint is only about 29 percent as large as that of the average American; the city is one of the greenest places in America.

You can encourage President-elect Obama to include women in his economic stimulus package by submitting your thoughts and ideas to him and his team at their transition website.

About womenslawproject

The Women's Law Project creates a more just and equitable society by advancing the rights and status of all women throughout their lives. To this end, we engage in high-impact litigation, advocacy, and education.
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