Last week, the New York Times published an article on how the slowing economy is affecting women equally to men, which claimed that:

After moving into virtually every occupation, women are being afflicted on a large scale by the same troubles as men: downturns, layoffs, outsourcing, stagnant wages or the discouraging prospect of an outright pay cut. And they are responding as men have, by dropping out or disappearing for a while.

The discussion continued on Girl with Pen, where Virginia Rutter’s detailed the research behind the, gasp, realization that women workers may not be choosing to “opt out,” as the anecdotes go, but instead leave work for the same reasons men do: because of downturns in the economy.

I wanted to post a few remarks from our commenters, who had their own angles on the “opt out” question.

Marjorie noted: I’d also be interested in seeing if the researchers accounted for women who “opted out” of the labor force in order to start their own businesses. I left traditional paid employment for good earlier this year to pursue a career as a freelance writer, for example.

I wonder if there are any statistics on the percentage of women versus men in the nontraditional, freelance workplace– does anyone have any idea?

And anniegirl1138 had the following insight: I am curious though about what impact the rising costs or child and elder care might play and the fact that in a down employment cycle men might be taking jobs in service sectors that typically went to women.

Which was a very keen observation. In a letter to the editor yesterday, Sara K. Gould, President and Chief Executive of the Ms. Foundation for Women, made a similar point: women are not the “equals” of men in the poor economy, but instead:

Today, despite decades of struggle for job access and pay equity, women are paid 77 cents for each dollar a man makes; the disparity is worse for African-American women, who earn 62 cents, and Latinas, who earn 53 cents.

Nearly 10.5 million women are single parents (as compared with 2.5 million single fathers). For them, opting out for any reason — like motherhood or education — is not viable.

Already disadvantaged by years of workplace and legislative failures, women and their families face an increasingly insecure future if policies are not adjusted to meet their ever more pressing needs.

Am I naive to be surprised that a long article giving a vast overview of women’s place in the American economy, failed to make the very basic, and in light of the article’s argument, primary point that women and men cannot be “equally” affected by the economy if women begin 23 to 47 cents behind?


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