Rather unfortunately for those of us who care about the English language, “mancession” is seemingly all the rage. Google it and you get more than 75,000 results. Everybody’s talking about how men are hit hardest by the recession.
And the logical extension seems to be that women are just rocking it. The Times of London goes to so far to scream in a headline that “Gender roles are being rewritten in America as men bear the brunt of job losses”.
But let’s hold on a minute before we create another heinous term such as “femcovery”. True, if you look at one economic indicator, the unemployment rate, the gender gap in unemployment is at 2.5% nationally, with men facing 10.5% unemployment and women experiencing 8% jobless rates.
That means that men have been losing more jobs proportionally than women during this recession. But that doesn’t mean that women are living it up right now. To state the obvious: women are still experiencing an 8% unemployment rate.
And then let’s think about the more structural issues that the unemployment rate doesn’t tell us. A majority of the job losses in this recession have occurred in industries dominated by men, including construction and manufacturing. Nine out of ten construction workers are male, and seven out of ten manufacturing workers are men. Those sectors alone have lost more than 2.5 million jobs.
It’s not that women are trying to avoid sectors like construction, remember. These industries have long closed themselves off to women entering their ranks. That is, there’s an institutional barrier preventing women from entering the very sectors that are hemorrhaging the most jobs (although I guess it’s an instance of luck now for those women who tried to break through the plywood ceiling).
Women typically dominate sectors such as retail, hospitality, nonprofits, education and healthcare, most of which have been some of the few industries to experience job growth in the last several years.
But they are also some of the industries with the lowest pay. And then compound that with the fact that women still only make 78 cents for every dollar a man makes in the same job.
So women may be proportionally holding on to their jobs more than men right now but they’re still scraping by in low-end jobs with few benefits and meager pay. Of course any job is better than no job right now but that doesn’t mean we can declare gender disparities in the workforce a struggle of the past.