Apparently, women must still remind men to do the right thing.
“Honey, take out the trash, pick up milk, include women in the government spending spree, and put down the toilet seat, please.”
Yes, that was the voice of a woman asking for some cash – in this case, women’s fair share of the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
See, these days 40 percent of women are the sole breadwinners for their families. So there will be no full recovery for the American economy if only men are put back to work.
Women got the first inkling that the stimulus bonanza was going to be lopsided in favor of male employment when the buzzword of the moment became “shovel ready.”
Shovels? How many women work with shovels?
Not that many. Fewer than 15 percent of the people employed in construction are women. And their jobs in the industry tend to be lower-salaried administrative roles.
Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization for Women, made it her mission to bring this message to members of Congress and the Obama administration. She began pointing out the folly of “shovel ready” if more “people ready” jobs weren’t also included in the package.
“It really would not have occurred to them,” she said, recounting the lobbying work. “Sometimes you just have to say it.”
Gandy and her colleagues in the women’s movement never did come up with a phrase as pithy as “shovel ready,” but they made their point successfully, with key input from industries that rely heavily on female labor.
The American Library Association made the case for funding that would keep cash-strapped libraries open because 70 percent of people using the nation’s public libraries do so not to find a good read, but to find a job. So closing libraries isn’t such a good idea.
The YWCA advocated for funding for childcare, given that even Americans who still have a job can’t perform if they have nowhere safe to leave their children while they work. The National Association of Social Workers made its pitch for funding by pointing out that demand for social workers’ services went up as the economy went down.
Nursing organizations made the point that staffing shortfalls in their field resulted from scarce funding for training, not a lack of willing workers. Educators spoke to how states’ budget-cutting was chasing good teachers from the field, maybe forever.
Like a well-orchestrated dinner party, it worked.
Ideas floated by the women-dominated groups made their way into the final stimulus bill. A subsequent study determined that about 42 percent of the jobs created by the stimulus will go to women.
But the women’s groups’ work is not over. The same pitch now has to be made in 50 state legislatures, which have tremendous leverage in deciding how their shares of the stimulus plan will be allocated.
So please note, gentlemen: It’s all well and good to build roads and buildings and other infrastructure, but if women aren’t driving on those roads to job in offices and classrooms and hospitals, what good does all that heavy lifting of shovels do for the economy anyway?
By Mary Sanchez, Kansas City Star columnist
Distributed by Tribune Media Services, Midwest Voices