Since it is Women’s History Month, I thought I would write a few posts on women and the green economy. Since the stimulus was just passed, I thought I would address the impact of the stimulus on women.
Over the past few months, numerous articles have popped up raising the alarm bell that the stimulus package, with its emphasis on green jobs and infrastructure will short-change women. I disagree. I see it as an opportunity for women to change the playing field. Additionally, I believe that these critics have overlooked the fact that stimulus funds have been allocated for education and healthcare – both fields dominated by women.
The green stimulus is looking at the needs of the whole country and the world, not specific groups. Our way of life is unsustainable and the economy is at a standstill. The green stimulus, if managed well, might just address both those critical issues, while creating a skilled workforce that is inclusive of women.
We urgently need to kick start the economy and most economists believe that the best way to accomplish that is do initiate programs that will both create jobs and generate a significant and lasting return on investment. We need to become sustainable. Not addressing that point could prove to be calamitous.
“The particular challenge is to make the transition to a greener economy in a way that does not impose disproportionate costs on working families.’ says Ron Blackwell, AFL-CIO chief economist. “We need to shift from an economy driven by asset inflation—equities in the 1990s and housing since 2000—to more sustainable, public-led growth to restore the competitiveness of our national economy.”
The issues raised by critics who our concerns that women will be excluded are valid. Many of the projected new jobs in any green area are in engineering and other male dominated fields in which women are poorly represented. Some argue that there should be a comprehensive stimulus plan that promoted “pink collar jobs” — in healthcare, education, child care, social services, home care, etc. They advocate creating what they call a “carework economy.” There are numerous problems with taking this approach in place of green and infrastructure programs.
Many pink-collar occupations are overcrowded and overall the wages are low. It seems to me that the green stimulus is an opportunity for women to break out of this rut. Women are more likely to be employed part-time and work without benefits. Single women typically earn $12,000 less annually than single men. In the typical household headed by heterosexual couples, the woman contributes just 35 percent of the income. Creating pink collar jobs will place even more women on that track.
Another important reason to avoid steering the stimulus toward pink collar careers is that there have been massive losses in the manufacturing and construction sectors. Men have been particularly hard hit as a result and their rate of unemployment is rising faster than women. Historically, women’s level of unemployment tends to rise later in a recession. If one of the major goals of the stimulus is to stem the flow of job losses, focusing on pink collar jobs in place of green collar jobs would have little positive impact.
I’m a little offended that some “feminists” and policy advocates do not see green jobs and infrastructure jobs as fitting for women. The idea of steering women away from certain fields sand toward others that are more traaditional seems to be reinforcing the very gender bias that these critics of the green stimulus are up in arms about. If sustainability is where the demand for jobs will be, why create a separate path for women. I would be more concerned about whether women will obtain wage parity with their male counter parts and whether they will be able to crack the glass ceiling in these male dominated industries.
Instead of developing a pink collar stimulus, I hope there will be some focus on programs designed to encourage women to train for these types of jobs and to pursue leadership roles would be a more effective approach. The green stimulus and the global efforts to create a green economy present a unique opportunity to encourage women to expand into non-traditional occupations that are likely to provide higher wages, benefits and more job security.
© 2009 – 2010, Tracey de Morsella. All rights reserved. Do not republish.