“Women are taking over the workforce. Soon they’ll just start getting rid of the men,” says a character on ABC’s new sitcom, “Work It.” Obviously the writers and powers that be at ABC failed to check the facts before creating a comedy based on the mythological “mancession” that simply does not exist.
A recent national jobs report showed that unemployment for women is not declining: rather, 300,000 women fell out of the workforce. While more men are going back to work, fewer women are able to find jobs. From October 2010 to October 2011, only 27% of the 1.5 million jobs added to payrolls across the country were filled by women. That means 1,753,000 men found jobs compared to 258,000 women. Worse yet, women have regained only 17% of the jobs they lost during the Great Recession (approximately), while men have regained some 30%.
A mancession? Hardly.
The premise of “Work It,” men dressing up as women to find jobs? Probably not the best idea these days, especially if you want a job that pays enough to take care of your household’s basic needs.
According to a report issued by the organization I lead, Wider Opportunities for Women, Living Below the Line: Economic Insecurity and America’s Families, a shocking 45% of all Americans are unable to cover their basic needs. The numbers are much worse for women who head households. On average, an unmarried, childless worker needs about $30,000 a year to cover the real cost of living in this country. That is nearly twice the current minimum wage. Single parents need nearly $58,000 to support two children, and dual-income households with two children must earn almost $68,000 to cover baseline costs that do not include things like cable television, internet access or even cell phones.
For women who are working, the news is troubling. Of all women, 42% earn less than what it takes to be economically secure; 63% of African American women and 66% of Hispanic women earn less than the income they need to provide the basics of life for their households. And for single mothers, the news is tragic. Only 12% of African American moms and 9% of Hispanic moms earn wages that cover their families’ expenses.
To be clear, this is not because they are working part time. Workers living above and below the economic security line work full-time on average. The problem arises because the quality of wages varies so dramatically with workers living above the line earn median annual wages near $48,000 while their neighbors living below the line earn $18,000.
While ABC’s new show suggests that life is good as a working woman, we know this is often not the case. With women highly concentrated in just a few job categories, wages continue to stagnate. One-third of all working women (34.2%) are clustered into 13 occupations, including Secretaries/Administrative Assistants, Cashiers, Retail Sales, Waiters/Waitresses, Receptionists, Child Care Workers, Nurses, and Elementary/Middle School Teachers. While the last two pay significantly better, teachers are being laid off in astounding numbers as the public sector ‘tightens its belt’. Two-thirds of women are clustered into 51 of the 505 occupational categories tracked by the Department of Labor, leaving more than 450 occupations dominated by men.
Adding insult to injury, when wage comparisons are done between men and women in these 51 job categories, we find the median weekly wage for men is $10,000 higher per year than for women. This dramatic wage gap between men and women creates a drag on women’s present earnings, future earnings, and on retirement earnings through Social Security – if they qualify for Social Security at all.
A mancession? Hardly.
Dress up as a woman to find a job? I wouldn’t recommend it.