While I mostly keep up with news online, once in a while I like to be nostalgic and watch world news on TV. Last night I managed to catch the news on ABC and learned a new term – the “he-recovery.” As Diane Sawyer said, “The race is on for jobs” and men are definitely winning over women. While during the recession men lost twice as many jobs as women, now the tables are turned. According to ABC, of the 1.3 million jobs gained in the recovery, 1.1 million (that’s 90%) have gone to men and 113,000 (10%) to women.
Why is that?
Some of it has to do with the kind of jobs that have been created through stimulus efforts… think construction and transportation in which women only make up a small percentage of the workforce (13% women in construction and 5% in transportation – also according to ABC). But even in retail, which has traditionally been dominated by female workers, men have gained 100,000 jobs while women have lost 100,000. Others that were interviewed in the segment last night also hypothesized that men were given more jobs because they needed them more as the traditional breadwinner of the family. Yet women are the chief breadwinners of 40% of households in the US. Hmmmm.
I’ve officially been in the workforce for 36 years, and I had summer and part time jobs (sometimes more than one) while I was in school for 7 years before that. During that time I would venture to say that I’ve seen it all. I’ve been associated with some male-dominated environments, and others that are not so much. My first job out of college was working for a manufacturing company. There were plenty of women, but one other woman and I were the only two that were salaried and managers. Later I worked for a software company started by a woman who was then the president and CEO. I had plenty of women peers but I carried the title of Manufacturing Consultant (or a Manager of that same position) and I looked about 18 years old (I was in my 30’s). I knew when I went into a company for the first time I had about 37 seconds to prove my credibility or they would write me off. Nobody wrote me off.
I went to college in the early 70’s, during the height of the feminist movement, but I have never been much of a feminist. I always just concentrated on getting the job done and expected to be paid fairly for it. But I have also worked for companies where I experienced a glass ceiling in spite of the fact that I am damn good at what I do. This tended to be where the “old boys’ network” was firmly in place, but I have experienced a “young boys’ network” as well. Same result, but it hurt more.
The bottom line is there is still a gender gap. A different ABC news segment also reported that the amount women earn (as compared to men) had increased by two cents over the past year. That’s the good news. The bad news is that means women (in aggregate) still earn $.81 for every $1 earned by men in similar positions in spite of the fact that women are now as well-educated as men. There is always speculation about why that is. Men tend not to interrupt careers for babies, but then fewer and fewer women today do any more. Some point to personality differences, but let’s face it, women are not all alike just as men are not all alike.
I do however think that women in general need to be assertive, not aggressive and younger women need more female role models and mentors. I’ve done my part through the years in working for corporations mentoring both men and women. As I start my own company, I start down a new and different path – one that by definition has no ceiling at all, glass or otherwise. Any women out there in need of coaching and support, give me a shout (firstname.lastname@example.org) .
For those that would like to listen to the ABC news segment….