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'Mancession' brings new majority to the workforce: women

By Rachel Metea
On October 4, 2010

"Mancession" is the new nickname being thrown around for the recession which began in 2007. The majority of those who lost their job were men, a gender that continues to be a minority in higher education. While men continued to be the victims of job loss, women surpassed men in the workforce.This year, for the first time in American history, women make up a majority of the workforce in highly paid managerial and professional positions, holding down the fields at 51.4 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.


Men accounted for 75 percent of the labor market who lost their jobs between 2007 and 2009, according the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Additionally, of the 15 jobs that are projected to grow over the next decade, men are the majority in only two of them: janitors and computer engineers. Women dominate the remaining 13 in jobs such as nursing or childcare.


Over a five-month time period in 2008, nearly 700,000 American men lost their jobs while women gained close to 300,000 jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. While only 3 percent of the Fortune 500 CEO list were women, last year female CEOs out-earned their male counterparts by 43 percent and on average, received bigger pay raises.


According to the James Chung of Reach Advisers, who spent over five years analyzing data from the Census Bureau's American Community Survey, in 147 of the 150 biggest U.S. cities, the median full-time salaries of young women are eight percent higher than those of men in their age group. In Atlanta and Memphis, young women are making about 20 percent more. In New York City, Los Angeles and San Diego, they are earning roughly 15 percent more than young males. However, this only holds true for childless, unmarried women under 30.


The study found that the cities where young women were out-earning men were in places that either had primary local industries that were knowledge-based or were manufacturing towns where industries had shrunk. Cities where men out-earned young women were in places that tended to be built around heavily male-dominated industries, such as military technology or software development.


"We need to look at how we are raising our sons and daughters," said Chicagoan Veronica Arreola who runs the blog, Viva La Feminista. With most of the fastest growing jobs in nurturing professions, Arreola said, "If we are we telling them that only women are caretakers, then only women will go into nursing. We need to get to the point where male nurses are respected as much as male doctors."


While not all of these jobs are essentially high paying, they can lead towards a steady accumulation of working women. But not all believe this is good economically.


"Who said that being a home health assistant is a good job? It is a very low paying job," said Dr. Claudia Goldin, the director of the American Economy program at the National Bureau of Economic Research, "Just because a sector is growing does not mean that it has lucrative jobs."


While women have surpassed men in the workforce as a whole, in some fields their numbers are declining. In finance, 2.6 percent of women have disappeared from the industry while men have grown by 9.6 percent, finds the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.


At the same time, women continued to be the majority of those enrolled in higher education institutions, giving way to a new dynamic in the white-collar workforce.


Thirty years have passed since women started to receive more bachelor's degrees then men. Since then, the gender gap in college enrollment has continued to grow. At DePaul University, only 41 percent of last year's entering freshman class were male.


"We were just held back for so long, it was a pressure building up," said Arreola. "On some level, women know that they need this college degree to even survive in this economy," Arreola said.


As the proportion of male and female college enrollment continues to grow, instances of an affirmative action-type method have quietly begun to spring up. Several schools such as the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have asked if it is time to institute affirmative action for men.


Being male raises the chance of college acceptance by 6.5 to 9 percentage points in selective liberal-arts schools, found economists Sandy Baum and Eban Goodstein in a 2003 study. Last December, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights said it would investigate whether some colleges were discriminating against women in admissions by admitting males at a higher rate or by offering them more generous aid packages.


Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 bars gender discrimination in all education programs at institutions receiving federal funds. But this does not apply to private institutions.


In a 2006 Op-Ed piece to The New York Times, Jennifer Delajunty Britz, who was on the board of the admission committee at Kenyon College, confessed that qualified female applicants were given hesitation in the admittance process based on their gender alone. When recalling a women applicant that was over-qualified in every realm except her middle-of-the-pool test scores, Britz wrote, "We had to have a debate before we decided to swallow the middling scores and write "admit" next to her name. Had she been a male applicant, there would have been little, if any, hesitation to admit."


"Rest assured that admissions officers are not cavalier in making their decisions," wrote Britz.


The growing gender gap in college enrollment has led many to speculate what is to come next in the workforce.


"Women will go into jobs that require a college education and fewer men will be able to," said Goldin. "But there is a lot of retooling and retraining that goes on. Males mature later and many will realize at age 40 that they need better tools."


American women are now the breadwinners or co-breadwinners in two-thirds of American households. In a survey conducted by The New York Times, when jobs are scarce, 85 percent of people polled in the U.S. believe that men should not get priority for jobs.


"Part of my Christian upbringing in a predominantly Christian nation is that God is the head of man and man is the head of the household," said Mustafaa El-Scari, a program specialist for the Administration for Children and Families. "There are very few men in the nation that can ask their wives to stay at home because they don't have the financial resources to do so."


"The lines have been blurred over jobs that are supposed to be for men and supposed to be for women," said El-Scari who heads support groups for men that are late or delinquent on child support payments. Since 2008, El-Scari said his support groups for men have seen a dramatic increase in enrollment.


The recession has made stay-at-home dads a reality, said Arreola. "Hopefully in the future, men will know they have the choice to stay at home or work. With the increase of women in the workforce, they will also know that they have that option.

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