Remember the Ladies

"In the new code of laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make, I desire you would remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors."ABIGAIL ADAMS TO JOHN ADAMS, MARCH 31, 1776

One of the most important pieces of legislation we'll soon be acting on in Congress is a national economic recovery package. A large portion of the new federal spending--perhaps  as much as 20 percent--will be focused on infrastructure construction, including transportation and school projects, energy efficiency improvements, and green economy investments such as smart grid expansions.

While President-Elect Obama is to be applauded for proposing a recovery plan that focuses on a wide number of areas, including education and healthcare,  the proposed infrastructure spending in the plan overwhelmingly benefits men and won't be of much help to unemployed women. In 2007, only 9.4 percent of the 11.9 million workers in the construction industry were female and in major infrastructure occupations with an employment base of 100,000 jobs, women held only about 3.9 percent of jobs. Without efforts to increase workforce diversity, this could lead to a massive shift of hundreds of billions of dollars of wealth from women to men.

Women make up nearly half--46 percent--of the total U.S. labor force of 153 million. While the overall unemployment rates of women and men have been similar since 2000, women with children experience much higher unemployment rates. Worse still, there is evidence that women who lose their jobs face a harder time finding new jobs than their male counterparts.

We must not let disparities between men and women in employment and compensation worsen as a result of the recovery act. A few simple steps, if incorporated into the economic recovery package, could help ensure that infrastructure investment can and will benefit women.

1. Expand Training for Women in Non-Traditional Jobs:

We should expand the U.S. Department of Labor's Women in Apprenticeship and Non-traditional Occupations (WANTO) grant program that "awards competitive grants to recruit, hire, train, and retain women in apprenticeships and non-traditional occupations."

Also, the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Improvement Act of 2006 allows states to use funds for "preparing students for employment in fields that are traditionally dominated by one gender." Not only should funding for the Perkins Act increase, but the program should be more narrowly geared toward gender diversification in infrastructure-related jobs through gender equity set-asides and the reestablishment of equity coordinators.  

2.Emphasize goals for hiring and retaining women in non-traditional jobs funded by federal contracts and enforce contracts for full compliance:

We should increase the targets for female employment by federal construction contractors and require them to design and implement plans for hiring and retaining qualified female workers.  Selection criteria for contracts could include assessments of these strategies and past performance.  The Office of Federal Contract Compliance should rigorously enforce implementation.

3. Provide Incentives for Companies Employing Women:

The Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) encourages employers to hire members of families receiving benefits under the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF, commonly known as welfare) program, among other disadvantaged populations, whose beneficiaries are overwhelmingly women.  Increasing the size of the credit would make it an even stronger incentive for employers.

Another option entails assisting contractors that meet a certain threshold of female employees in non-traditional sectors.  There is already a program in place to help women obtain federal contracts.   While we must do a better job at ensuring that female-owned businesses access more contract dollars, we should also explore a similar assistance program for companies with female workforces above 25 percent in non-traditional occupations, especially in construction.  Gender parity goals should be expanded beyond the capitalist class to the vast majority of women who do not own companies.

I further describe these options and others in a letter to the Predident-Elect.

These steps can be implemented swiftly; during World War II, with the urgent need to ramp up war production, women entered traditionally male jobs that necessitated skilled training--welding, iron molding, skilled machine work--within months.  We must ensure that the biggest jobs program since the Great Depression does not redistribute America's wealth away from women and funnel their federal taxes and debt obligations into paying for jobs for men.

Responding to the Obama Analysis

The incoming administration has been pro-active in addressing concerns regarding the demographics of the beneficiaries of the act. A recently released report states:

Summing across industries suggests that the total number of created jobs likely to go to women is roughly 42% of the jobs created by the package. Given that so far in the recession women have accounted for roughly 20% of the decline in payroll employment, this calculation could reflect that the stimulus package skews job creation somewhat toward women, possibly as a result of the investments in healthcare, education, and state fiscal relief.

The shortcomings with their argument are:

1) 42% is not reflective of the 46% of the workforce composed of women.

2) The jobs they count on for reaching gender parity, like "retail", "financial activities," and "leisure and hospitality" are NOT directly created by the stimulus bill and are optimistic that the economy actually recovers quickly. While some of the areas like education and government jobs are directly created, their formula showing overall gender parity uses extremely optimistic projects for secondary job creation not directly caused by the recovery package.

3) Also, their own analysis shows that women will likely get most of the lower-paying jobs and fewer of the good-paying jobs in construction and "green" areas.  As for the 13% of women they cite in the construction industry, apparently it includes lower-paying clerical jobs (boosting it from under 7% to 13%). The data on the higher-paying occupations, like carpenter and electrician, only emphasizes the point that women need equal access to good-paying jobs, in which they have traditionally been underrepresented.  

The truth is that it's extremely difficult to reach gender parity when 20% of the money spent is going into an area that benefits 93+% men. The best way to address this is to take this opportunity to provide for more opportunities for women in construction and infrastructure-related jobs to narrow that gap and lead to a more balanced overall package.

Incorporating some of these ideas and others to promote an increase of women in construction-related jobs into the recovery act would meet both the immediate needs of the recovery package and the long-term goals of improving the skill and preparation of our workforce by offering a future filled with greater economic security for women and their families.

You can help by contacting your Representative and encouraging them to sign the Polis letter on gender equity or by emailing the Obama transition team. You can also read the full letter to the President-Elect here.

Let's work to ensure hope and opportunity for all Americans.

Jared Polis
Member of Congress
Colorado, 2nd Congressional District

Tags: Barack Obama, CO-02, Colorado, Congress, economics, equal rights, equality, Jared Polis, recovery, stimulus, women's rights (all tags)



Re: Remember the Ladies

I think it would also help if the government went after "dead beat dads" who don't pay their child support.

by venician 2009-01-13 10:29AM | 0 recs

they do this here in canada.  and i concur that this is a great diary jared.  highly rec'd.

by canadian gal 2009-01-13 04:00PM | 0 recs
Re: incidentally...

They do it here too. In California, they'll suspend your driver's license for failure to pay child support.

by LakersFan 2009-01-13 04:10PM | 0 recs
Re: incidentally...

cool.  i think here that that if it goes far enough that they actually withhold salary.

by canadian gal 2009-01-13 04:42PM | 0 recs
Re: incidentally...

They withhold salary here too. That's not uncommon at all.

by LakersFan 2009-01-14 07:56AM | 0 recs
Re: Remember the Ladies

Thanks for giving so much attention to this very important issue.  There needs to be space for everyone to participate in the economic recovery.

by Steve M 2009-01-13 11:05AM | 0 recs

Recession is no excuse for inequity.

by atdleft 2009-01-13 01:31PM | 0 recs
Re: Remember the Ladies

This, by the way, is how you write a diary advocating for women.  Got that, Nancy K?  Notice no gratuitious glorification of Sarah Palin.  Notice no claims that Obama is a sexist.

Doesn't seem that hard, eh?

by XoFalconXo 2009-01-13 11:20AM | 0 recs
Re: Remember the Ladies

The last time I saw a diary advocating for gender balance in the stimulus package, there were a whole bunch of snarky, nasty, and generally dismissive comments along the lines of people not wanting to clog up the stimulus with affirmative action crap, etc.  I'm pleased the Congressman is getting more respectful treatment.

by Steve M 2009-01-13 11:24AM | 0 recs
Re: Remember the Ladies

Sometimes, its the messenger and not the message.

by XoFalconXo 2009-01-13 11:59AM | 0 recs
Re: Remember the Ladies

Then people need to make clear they are criticizing only the messenger, as it's positively sickening to see so-called progressives ridiculing progressive arguments solely because they don't like the person making them.  That's my last word, as I will not clog this excellent diary with more meta.

by Steve M 2009-01-13 12:43PM | 0 recs
Re: Remember the Ladies

When the messenger only shows up to do a drive-by hit job on Obama every so often, after spending months advocating for McCain/Palin, I would have to disagree with you.  Those people are not taken seriously.  Nor should they be.  Hi Nancy!

by XoFalconXo 2009-01-13 12:54PM | 0 recs
Aren't workers construction workers married

by and large? And doesn't that perhaps drastically affect the notion that there will be a major shift of wealth from men to women if there is a boom in construction work?

by fairleft 2009-01-13 12:44PM | 0 recs

should say 'from women to men'

by fairleft 2009-01-13 12:46PM | 0 recs
Re: Oops,

Roughly half of American men are married.  I have no reason to believe the number is significantly different for construction workers, do you?  

Regardless, you seem to be proposing a sort of gender-based trickle-down that I can't really get on board with.  Particularly since single moms are far more likely to face economic difficulty than married ones in the first instance.

by Steve M 2009-01-13 01:16PM | 0 recs
60.8% of adult males were married, and 11.8%

60.8% of adult males were married, and 8.6% were divorced, so that's roughly 70%. Nearly all divorced men are required to provide child support and other payments to their former wives and children. I'm proposing that the income of many families will be boosted by construction work, that this income will have a major positive effect on the lives of many women, and that looking at family income as if it is only an individual male's income is incoherent, very misleading and biases the debate.

by fairleft 2009-01-13 01:45PM | 0 recs
Re: 60.8% of adult males were married, and 11.8%

That was from the 2000 census. There are also indications that construction workers tend more often to be married, by roughly 10 percentage points, than the rest of the population.

by fairleft 2009-01-13 01:48PM | 0 recs
Re: 60.8% of adult males were married, and 11.8%

Wow. Is this 1952? Should we prohibit women from working like after WW II so the men can get the money to take care of the women?

Bizarre to see this on a progressive site. You think it is trolling?

by redwagon 2009-01-13 07:20PM | 0 recs
Yes, it's darn odd

Especially under a picture of Rosie the Riveter, symbol of all those women who were trained and hired to support the world war II effort, and then fired after the War was over so that the men coming home could take their jobs.

by LIsoundview 2009-01-14 04:20AM | 0 recs
Re: Aren't workers construction workers married

We discuss this in the full piece.
Insofar as married couples are single economic units, so the gender impact is less (although it still has a social impact).

The biggest impact is a shift of wealth away from single women and towards single men.

Great observation!

Jared Polis

by Jared Polis 2009-01-13 03:02PM | 0 recs
Thank you, Rep. Polis.

This diary is much appreciated! There's no reason the stimulus bill should favor men over women. Working women deserve some relief as well, so I'll email my Congresspeople & Obama's office with your proposals.

by atdleft 2009-01-13 01:29PM | 0 recs
Re: Thank you, Rep. Polis.

THanks! I actually heard from a member who said they heard about this from a constituent today, so it really has an impact.

Jared Polis

by Jared Polis 2009-01-13 03:03PM | 0 recs
Re: Remember the Ladies

Wow, you just gained a fan.

Charles Lemos
San Francisco, CA

by Charles Lemos 2009-01-13 03:31PM | 0 recs
Re: Remember the Ladies

Charles, you should read (if you haven't) some of Congressman Polis' earlier diaries, particularly about his trip to Iraq.  Very very interesting stuff.

by Steve M 2009-01-13 03:44PM | 0 recs
Re: Remember the Ladies

I hadn't. Thanks. It is amazing how rich the diaries are on myDD.

by Charles Lemos 2009-01-13 07:47PM | 0 recs
Not to mention

that the two industries that are currently receiving massive and highly-publicized federal relief efforts, auto manufacturing and financial services, are extremely male-dominated.

by JJE 2009-01-13 08:05PM | 0 recs
Re: Not to mention

I have to disagree that financial services is male-dominated.  I worked for insurance and investment management companies for about six years, and have been auditing them for another two years.  I have frequently been either the only male on a given team or been in a gender-minority.  And I have worked directly for about as many men as women.

by Dreorg 2009-01-14 04:58AM | 0 recs

Well, I was a Wall Street lawyer for three years, and all our clients tended to be heavily male.  Battle of the anecdotes!

by JJE 2009-01-14 06:09AM | 0 recs
I found an article

stating that the financial services industry is only about a quarter female.

by JJE 2009-01-14 06:13AM | 0 recs
Re: I found an article

It doesn't really say that, though.  It says that the memberships of the major Financial Planner professional organizations is about 25% female.  And brokerages and investment banking do tend to be male-dominated.  But financial services is much more than that given late 90s deregulation.  Commercial banking, insurance, annuities are part of the financial services paradigm.

My background is in the operations, accounting, and regulatory/compliance side of the business, in Boston and in Hartford.  Multiple companies over about a decade.  The difference probably between the Wall Street-lawyering and the people I've worked with is that the functions I've worked in/with most are 40 to 45 hour work week functions, rather than 24/7 functions.  

Accountants go home at 6 pm.  Investment bankers do not.  The pay in those areas is lower, relatively speaking, but the work-life balance is much, much, much more sane and sustainable long-term.

by Dreorg 2009-01-14 07:51AM | 0 recs
fair enough

But have those broader organizations received much in the way of TARP and other bailout largesse?  My understanding is that most of it has gone to investment banks and similar entities, although perhaps AIG doesn't fit neatly into either categories.

by JJE 2009-01-14 08:41AM | 0 recs
Re: fair enough

Most of the investment banks are being absorbed into larger entities, such as Citi and Bank of America.

Either way, it is an interesting object lesson on how experiences shape perceptions.

by Dreorg 2009-01-14 07:50PM | 0 recs


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