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Thursday, March 12, 2009

When Do We Get Some Good News?

There was one piece of good news this week. President Obama announced the creation of a Commission on Women and Girls in his administration.

This is one of the recommendations of the CEDAW process - and the goal of that is to provide programs and policies that really do help women and girls have equal rights.

Many people in this country think we already do - but that just is not the case.

Here are just a few examples:
1) Women in this country make up 51.7% of the population. However, women in all parts of our supposedly representative form of government amount to just under 17%.
2) Women still earn on average only 76 cents for every dollar a man earns. The fact that we had to pass the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act speaks to this - even when a woman is doing the exact same job - she is still paid less. Never mind pay equity between 'so-called traditional' women's work (nursing, teaching) and traditional men's work (construction, police, fire etc).
3) If a married couple applies for a loan the man's name is almost always listed first - unless the woman objects. This happens even if the woman is the main negotiator, the larger money-earner, and if the man only shows up to sign the papers at the end of the deal.
4) If a single woman applies for a loan, she is more likely to be either turned down, or asked to get a co-signer, regardless of her credit score and earnings history.
5) Women are still discriminated against in hiring on the basis of the 'baby factor'. It is assumed by HR people that career women will at some point 'take time off to have a baby' and therefore, if a similarly or even less qualified male applies, they will be hired so the company doesn't have to deal with maternity leave, and the insurance for this.
6) Studies of the outcomes of divorce show that the majority of men are better off financially one year after a divorce, while the majority of women are worse off. This has mainly to do with the fact that women still retain physical custody of children and that child support payments are woefully low compared to the actual costs of raising a child. Some states have pretty good laws for joint/shared custody and or equal treatment of fathers requesting custody. But the majority presume the woman is more qualified/better suited to care for children - even when she patently is not.
7) In government contracting, women are still treated as a 'minority' - which does qualify them for some preferences - but this speaks ill of a society and the place of women in it.

I won't even get into the mess that minority women face - just take the list above, add about fifty racist things to it and then double up on the whole thing.

Women have been making gains in getting equal education, in fact in some areas of the country, women now make up a majority of graduates from college. This has disturbed the status quo so much they are thinking about putting limits on the number of female students that will be allowed to enroll in the impacted programs (kind of like the limits they talked about in the 1970s and 1980s for Oriental people in the math and sciences).

And despite all the ranting and raving by the Mormons and the Catholics and the Religious Right-wing about saving traditional marriage, the truth of the matter is that over 62% of women are now raising children alone, or are single with no children. The majority of women are now in the workforce - by necessity. The so-called traditional family of the 1950s has, for all intents and purposes, ceased to exist.

So this new commission is good news. I am hopeful it means what it says - that the issues that face women and girls will finally get some real and focused attention, and that some new policies and laws will be put into place to stop some of the discrimination that is faced on a daily basis by the biggest "minority" on the planet.

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