Author Archives: Mary Gatta, Ph.D.

I’m “Not on the Menu”: Sexual Harassment in the Restaurant Industry

Living off tips not only contributes to high levels of economic insecurity for workers and their families; it also makes all workers, and in particular women, vulnerable to a great deal of inappropriate behavior from customers, co-workers, and management. In collaboration with the Restaurant Opportunities Center, Forward Together, and several other organizations, Wider Opportunities for Women today released the report The Glass Floor: Sexual Harassment in the Restaurant Industry.  This report dramatically details how sexual harassment is endemic to the restaurant industry.  One of the most powerful findings is that the tipping structure – where workers are paid a sub-minimum wage of $2.13 an hour—creates an environment and a dynamic that actually fosters sexual harassment as part of the work environment.

Surveying workers throughout the country, it is staggering to learn that two-thirds of female workers and over half of male workers had experienced some form of sexual harassment from management; nearly 80% of women and 70% of men experienced some form of sexual harassment from co-workers; and nearly 80% of women and 55% of men experienced some form of sexual harassment from customers.  And ALL restaurant workers in states that have a sub-minimum wage of $2.13 an hour, report higher rates of sexual harassment, than workers in states that pay a higher minimum wage.

Why is the tipping structure so important to this? Since restaurant workers living off tips are forced to rely on customers for their income rather than their employer, these workers must often tolerate inappropriate behavior from customers, co-workers, and management. Not surprisingly then, the restaurant industry is the single largest source of sexual harassment claims in the U.S.  While seven percent of American women work in the restaurant industry, more than a third of all sexual harassment claims to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) come from the restaurant industry. What is even more disturbing is that the high levels of complaints to the EEOC may actually underreport the industry’s rate of sexual harassment. Restaurant  workers reported that sexual  harassment is “kitchen talk,” a “normalized” part of the work environment.  And many restaurant workers are reluctant to publicly acknowledge  their experiences with sexual harassment.  This is the everyday work life for the 11 million restaurant workers in the United States.

Close to 20 years ago, when I conducted my own ethnographic research on restaurant workers, tipped workers earned the same sub-minimum wage of $2.13 an hour that workers today are paid.  And the restaurant workers I spoke with, almost two decades ago, talked about the ways that sexual harassment and sexual behaviors were institutionalized into the work environment.  So despite the passing of 20 years, some things have just remained the same. Tipped workers continue to remain vulnerable—both in terms of their economic security and the prevalence of sexual harassment–in America’s restaurants.  Isn’t it about time we do something about this?  Not only is it time to raise the minimum wage and eliminate the tipped sub-minimum wage so that workers can earn enough to support themselves and their families, but we need to improve the working conditions for the people who serve our food and mix our drinks.

roc

 

 

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President’s Budget Proposal Would Eliminate the Only Workforce Program Dedicated to Expanding Women’s Access to High-Wage Jobs

Women are increasingly their families’ primary breadwinners, yet continue to earn less than their male counterparts, are segregated into the lowest wage occupations, and lack the supports necessary to balance work and family obligations. WOW’s research finds that single mothers and their children disproportionately face economic insecurity: 69% of white single mothers, 80% of black single mothers and 85% of Hispanic single mothers lack the incomes needed to afford the cost of basic expenses. In his State of the Union address in January, President Obama stressed how critical women’s economic security is to their families’, communities’, and our nation’s well being. In fact, the president agreed that “When Women Succeed, America Succeeds.”

Despite these commitments, the president’s proposed 2015 budget proposes eliminating the ONLY workforce program that is dedicated to providing opportunities for women to prepare for and enter high-wage, nontraditional jobs. Women in Apprenticeship and Nontraditional Occupations, or WANTO, supports community-based organizations that provide training to women in pre-apprenticeship programs and technical assistance to employers and labor unions.

WANTO is critical federal workforce program because it addresses one of the principal sources of women’s economic insecurity: occupational segregation. The majority of US women do not work in jobs where they have an opportunity to get by, let alone get ahead. Today, fifty percent of women are concentrated in just 26 occupational categories, or only five percent of the 504 occupations tracked by Bureau of Labor Statistics, and over two-thirds of women are concentrated in just 51 occupations. Today, as was true 60 years ago, ‘secretary’ ranks as the top occupational category for women. Other leading occupations include cashiers, retail salespersons, home health aides, and jobs in the hospitality sectors, such as waitresses and housekeepers at hotels. Many of these jobs are our economy’s fastest-growing and the lowest-paying. With average wages of between $8 and $12, these jobs do not enable women to afford the basics, let alone care for their families. Men, on the other hand, with similar levels of education are much more likely than women to access training in the trades or STEM fields, which generally offer higher pay and better career prospects.

Gender stereotypes and women’s lack of knowledge and awareness of these jobs and their entry paths are significant obstacles to increasing their representation in these fields. Women may also lack the preparatory skills to be competitive in the selection process, and selection requirements and procedures still have a disparate and unfair impact on women’s acceptance into apprenticeship programs. Still worse, women who overcome these barriers and enter these field often find discriminatory practices ranging from minimal support, inequitable training, hostile work conditions and job opportunities limited by employer hiring bias.  Programs that support women throughout this process, which is the work offered by many of the groups funded by WANTO, can help women succeed in these jobs – a real pathway out of poverty for these women and their families.

Overcoming the historical and cultural obstacles that prevent women from accessing these higher wage nontraditional careers is challenging and requires direct interventions. Targeted, effective workforce programs, such as WANTO, are critical to the success of individuals and communities facing these significant barriers to employment. WANTO provides the needed specialized technical assistance to address these barriers, which other WIA and workforce programs cannot and do not offer.

And despite its modest funding level, WANTO has consistently produced outsized impact. In a recent grant year, trainees enjoyed a job placement rate after their WANTO participation of nearly 90 percent.  An independent study has shown that when programs funded by one of the two federal grant initiatives that supported nontraditional training for women, (the Nontraditional Employment for Women Act and WANTO), was implemented in an area, local women were 25% more likely to hold a nontraditional job, and that even in years after the policy intervention, women were still more likely to hold nontraditional jobs.  For example, in 2006 alone, Chicago Women in Trades (CWIT) provided 4,525 women with information about high-skill, high-wage nontraditional careers. CWIT’s WANTO-funded programming enabled 66 women to enroll in CWIT’s Technical Opportunities Program and 88 women to enroll in apprenticeship programs. These women earned average wages of $14.28 an hour – more than 25 percent higher than the national median hourly earnings for women that same year.

Addressing the challenges that women face in today’s labor market is a key strategy for restoring security and opportunity to America’s families and workers. WOW strongly encourages President Obama to reconsider his proposed elimination of WANTO. This lone and effective program dedicated to promoting opportunities for women in nontraditional jobs is is a critical strategy for building women’s economic security, promoting diversity in our future workforce and ensuring America’s success.

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Chickie’s & Pete’s: What it Teaches Us about the Economic Security of Tipped Workers

Last week the US Department of Labor announced that a popular sports bar—Chickie’s & Pete’s —had agreed to pay $6.8 million in back wages and damages to its tipped restaurant workers.   Among the wage violations cited was that restaurant mangers forced servers to contribute a portion of their tips to an improper “tip pool,” or tip-sharing arrangement, which comprised about 2 to 4 percent of a server’s daily tables.  Restaurant owners then retained about 60 percent of the tip pool in what was referred to as “Pete’s Tax.”  The servers were required to pay “Pete’s Tax”   to the restaurant’s manager in cash at the end of each shift, even if the server received his or her tips through credit cards.

The Labor Department also found that Chickie’s & Pete’s restaurant management: did not follow the tip credit regulation to ensure  wages were at the full minimum wage; did not always pay the initial $2.13 an hour tipped minimum wage, and often did not pay time and a half when employees worked more than 40 hours a week. Under federal law, restaurant owners are required to pay a minimum of $2.13 an hour toward a server’s wages as long as customers’ tips lift the waiter’s pay to the $7.25 federal minimum wage. But if the tips are too small to reach the minimum wage, the restaurant is legally required to top off the waiter’s pay as a tip credit.

Chickie’s &Pete’s case was one of the largest ever brought against an employer for violating the law on tipped wages, and highlights the extreme economic insecurity that tipped workers in the US often find themselves.  In fact the federal tipped minimum wage of $2.13 has not changed in over twenty years, and many workers find themselves in analogous situations to those of the servers and bartenders at Chickie’s & Pete’s. While federal law states that employers must ensure that tips make up the difference between $2.13 and $7.25, survey data gathered by ROC United indicate that employers frequently ignore this requirement.  Nationally, 19% of restaurant workers report earning a wage less than the federal minimum wage.

And in our recent WOW research report of 100 Jersey Shore restaurant workers we found that 82% of tipped workers reported earning a base wage less than the federal minimum wage of $7.25. The majority of surveyed workers reported earning a base wage of less than $3.50 per hour, and 39% earned exactly the tipped minimum wage of $2.13 per hour.  Even more distressing is that tips often did not make up the economic security gap the workers faced on a daily basis. Even at the height of the busy summer season, over one-third of surveyed tipped workers reported earning weekly tips of $450 or less. Sixty percent of tipped workers reported earning $600 or less.  And similar to Chickie’s & Pete’s workers, seventy percent of our survey respondents reported that they did not receive due overtime pay.

Low minimum wages and wage violations spell economic catastrophe for the thousands of workers throughout the country that serve us our food and drinks.  It is clearly time to raise the tipped minimum wage.  In fact several state lawmakers have amended their state’s minimum wage law to pay a higher tipped minimum wage than the federal $2.13 an hour. And seven states have eliminated the tipped credit completely, requiring that traditionally tipped workers earn the standard hourly minimum wage.

At the federal level, Sen. Harkin (D-IA) and Rep. Miller (D-CA) have introduced the Fair Minimum Wage Act which would increase the federal minimum wage to $10.10, gradually increase the tipped minimum wage to equal 70% of the federal minimum wage, and peg future increases to inflation. This is an important step in the right direction in order to ensure economic security for restaurant workers.

Chickie's & Pete's Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/21/business/sports-bar-chain-to-pay-6-8-million-for-violating-wage-laws.html

Chickie’s & Pete’s Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/21/business/sports-bar-chain-to-pay-6-8-million-for-violating-wage-laws.html

 

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Must Love Animals, But Still Working Toward Equality: The Case of Female Veterinarians

Policies that encourage more equal occupational representation by sex are critical for gender equity in the labor market. If women enter predominantly male occupations and vice versa, over time occupations should become integrated, and occupational sex segregation should decline.  And such policies should have the secondary benefit of enhancing women’s labor market rewards relative to men’s.  Often many point to veterinarians as an example of an occupation where women have made significant inroads in a short period of time.

So what is the history of women in veterinary scienceDr. Elinor McGrath was the first woman veterinarian in the US and began practicing in 1910. A few decades later, in 1936, there were just 30 women veterinarians in the US, and by 1963 that number had grown to 277 women.  In the next two decades, though,  women began to make rapid advances in veterinary science and by 1989, 22 percent of veterinarians and 60 percent of students were women.  This growth was very much correlated with the passage of Title IX, which ended sex discrimination in education and provided access to programs in the sciences to women.  Having a pipeline of female students is significant and necessary factor in increasing the representation of women in any occupation, and veterinarians are no exception.  As women began to complete and graduate veterinary college programs they began to enter the workforce in higher numbers. Today women are 55 percent of the nation’s veterinarians, and that percentage is still growing. By 2030, seven out of 10 veterinarians will be women, according to a recent projection by The Center for Health Workforce Studies. So women have clearly made progress into veterinary educational programs and practices.

If only our story could end there.  It is true veterinarians represent a sex-integrated occupation.  But does that mean that women veterinarians have achieved equality in the occupation? Unfortunately the answer is NO.  Instead a recent American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) report on finds female veterinarians continue to significantly earn less than male veterinarians, despite the fact that they have increased their representation in the occupation to slightly over 50 percent. The report found that female veterinarians in private practice had median incomes of $88,000 in 2011, while male veterinarians had median incomes of $112,000.  So female veterinarians are earning about 78 percent of what their male counterparts are earning. For those in public and corporate practice, female veterinarians had a median income of $112,000 in 2011, while male veterinarians had a median income of $136,000.

And female veterinarians also are not equally represented in leadership positions in the field or higher paying specialties.   According to AAVMC statistics, women made up 78.6 percent of enrolled U.S. veterinary students in 2013. While women accounted for 41 percent of faculty members at these institutions, slightly more than half of them were nontenure-track, and women held just 0.7 percent of the administrative positions.  And women are only 19 percent of large animal veterinarians, which tend to be a higher paying specialty.  Further gender myths are still prevalent in this specialty and others, such as women are not strong enough to work with large animals or male farmer would not be comfortable working with women in this job.

So—yes women have made inroads into veterinary science and have achieved numerical equity, but are far from equality— as they face job segregation, gender based pay gap and lack of access to leadership positions.  And veterinarians are not the only occupation where this is the reality. Rutgers sociologist Patricia Roos and I found that despite the movement of women into predominately male occupations, women continue to earn less than their male counterparts, and are promoted at lower rates.  Women making inroads into sex-atypical occupations are just a piece of the gender segregation puzzle. Policies that help provide access and a pipeline for women in nontraditional occupations are clearly important to reduce gender segregation.  However unless they are coupled with government and workplace policies that ensure equality within the occupation and in regard to labor market rewards, simply have a sex-integrated occupation will not lead to full equality.

Andre (Moul) Ross, the only woman in Cornell's Veterinary Class of 1943 with four of her classmates and an equine patient. Source: http://veterinarylegacy.blogspot.com/2012_05_01_archive.html

Andre (Moul) Ross, the only woman in Cornell’s Veterinary Class of 1943
with four of her classmates and an equine patient. Source: http://veterinarylegacy.blogspot.com/2012_05_01_archive.html

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Women in Coding…Is There an App for that?

Source- The Guardian http://www.theguardian.com/education/2012/jan/09/computer-studies-in-schools

Source- The Guardian http://www.theguardian.com/education/2012/jan/09/computer-studies-in-schools

For the past few months we have seen a good deal of attention paid to women in computing and engineering. Last month Elle magazine dedicated an article to the importance of women in computer science and showcased women who were paving the way and heading up internet sites.  New York City’s Girls Who Code was just named by Buzzfeed as “one of the coolest things in Silicon Alley”.   This past holiday season, toys including Goldiblox and Legos Friends, were touted as gifts to give to budding young female engineers and computer scientists.  In fact the New York Times had an article in its Style section helping direct readers to awesome geek gifts for girls.  And women are often found on the user end of social media.  Snapchat CEO, for example, recently told audiences that 70 percent of the photo-sharing app’s users are women.

So are we to a point where we can really say “women have made it in coding”?

Well, Georgia Tech’s Barbara Ericson’s new research certainly gives us reason to pause.   Reviewing data from the College Board her findings raise some alarming concerns for women and minorities in computer science.  Only a small percentage of the high-school students taking the Advanced Placement Computer Science exam were women.  Black and Latino students made up an even lower percentage of the test-takers.  Specifically, 18 percent of the students who took the exam were women. Eight percent were Hispanic, and four percent were African-American.  In two states— Mississippi or Montana—not one woman took the AP computer science exam.  In seven states no Hispanic students took the exam: Alaska, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, and North Dakota. And in 10 states–Alaska, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, and Utah– no Black students took the exam

The Atlantic Monthly noted how dramatic these percentages really are when you compare them to the percentages of women and minorities in highs schools.  Latinos make up 22 percent of the school-age population in the US; African-Americans make up 14 percent, and women make up half of the student population.

So while there has been more attention to women in computer science in recent years, we still have a ways to go to ensure that women are in the educational pipeline to be prepared for jobs in computer science.   This requires a concerted and collaborative effort that provides real engagement for young girls in computer science.  Schools, communities and families need to encourage and foster girls’ achievement by exposing them to female role models in STEM and encouraging high school girls to take calculus, physics, chemistry, computer science, and engineering classes.  In addition teachers matter here.  AAUW notes the importance of supporting teacher training to include recognition and avoidance of implicit gender bias, awareness of stereotype threat, techniques to improve spatial skills, and ways to promote a growth mindset in students.  And public policy must help to ensure equity in education programs.  Recent WOW research with partner organizations found that women and girls make up fewer than one in four students in science, technology, engineering and math career and technical education (CTE) programs, fewer than one in six students in manufacturing and architecture- and construction-related CTE programs, and fewer than one in ten students in transportation, distribution, and logistics CTE programs. Yet, women and girls comprise more than 80 percent of students at the postsecondary level enrolled in CTE programs in “human services,” which prepare them for lower-paying positions such as child care workers and hairdressers.

Iin order for us to continue to ensure that we have “women who code”, we need to work hard in our schools to ensure access, opportunities and equity for young girls to get excited about coding.

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Women and Job Gains: What Exactly Happened Last Month?

Perhaps it was the post-holiday season slump or a weekend news cycle dominated by a traffic jam at the George Washington Bridge, but December’s job report was released this past Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics with little fanfare. Yet there are some dramatic numbers captured in the December jobs report that do deserve attention.  According to an Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) analysis of the January employment report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), women gained ALL 74,000 jobs added to nonfarm payrolls in December, while men lost 1,000 jobs.  That is right—ALL the jobs that were gained in December were gained by women.

Throughout the recession, we know  that women lost fewer jobs than men—partly because of the industries in which men and women are located. New York Times blogger Catherine Rampella  published a great figure illustrating this quite significant trend over time, showing sex differences in job gains and losses over time.  As you can see, in the recovery men did outpace women for several months.  And while women have reversed this trend in recent months, this is the first time ALL the jobs were gained by women.

Source: http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/01/10/all-december-job-gains-went-to-women/?_r=0

Source: http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/01/10/all-december-job-gains-went-to-women/?_r=0

However there is an important qualification to this finding:  The jobs gains were heavily concentrated in retail (38,500 jobs gained by women), and leisure and hospitality (18,000 jobs for women)—industries that are predominately female and that offer jobs opportunities  that are often low quality in terms of wages, benefits, full-time hours, and workplace flexibility. And some of the job gains can be related to seasonal holiday hiring, so these women may now find themselves out of work in the new year. So the job gain for women is not necessary all good news.  In fact, the Shriver Report, A Woman’s Nation Pushes Back from the Brink, also released this weekend, highlighted how women are working more but their concentration in low wage jobs is keeping them in poverty. The conclusion seems clear:  while women may be gaining jobs, they are not achieving economic security for themselves and their families.

That is what makes this December jobs report quite interesting. What factors are driving the sex differences in jobs gain? Women are employed more than ever in our labor market despite so many job seekers’ having left the labor market. Is it just a matter of the ubiquitous segregation that dominates our labor market—the growing jobs are in traditional female industries, so it is not surprising that women would be making gains.  Are employers choosing women because they tend to pay them less (as the wage gap is still alive and well), or may be more willing to work part-time, and without being offered benefits such as health insurance? And since low wage jobs continue to see growth in the recovery—regardless of whether women or men fill them—they are not offering economic security. Public policies, such as increased minimum wages, access to paid sick days and family leave, and workplace flexibility, are needed more than ever in order for working families be economically secure. So, the December Jobs report may not be the sleeper it seems to be and some of these findings need to be looked at more carefully.

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It’s Not A Happy Hour For Bartenders!

Many of us look forward to the happy hour at our local bar. After a long day in the office a half priced appetizer or $5 glass of wine helps us all unwind.  However, many times it is not a happy hour for the bartenders and restaurant servers who are mixing our drinks and delivering our nachos.  While bar patrons may be able to take advantage of discounted food and drinks, the restaurant workers often see their tips cut down significantly during happy hour.  These workers are tipped based on the food and drink prices, and when those prices are discounted—because of happy hour specials or restaurant coupons— their tip is discounted too.  Restaurant workers often report that in these situations customers tend to order twice as much food and drink, work the bartenders and servers twice as hard, and then tip based on the discounted food.  And since tips are the bulk of bartenders’ and servers’ income, these discounts are impacting their economic security.

Of course there are ways to try to address this issue.  Many people point to better educating customers on “tipping etiquette”—that on discounted meals and drinks once should tip on the pre-discounted prices. Others suggest that restaurants could include automatic gratuity on the customers’ checks that is based on the full check amount.  All good ideas, but these may be much more of a “band aid” solution, instead of a long term strategy to help restaurant workers achieve economic security.   When one is working on tips, a bartender or server is completely dependent on the ebb and flow of customer traffic, along with the customer’s ability and desire to tip for service.  This combination is a recipe not for a tasty margarita but instead for high levels of economic insecurity.

The reality is that American restaurant workers earn a minimum wage of $2.13 per hour, a minimum wage that has not changed for over twenty years.  The wage is so low, that often restaurant workers receive a zeroed out paycheck at the end of the week because once taxes are taken out of the hourly pay, there is nothing left.  So tips are what they are living on to pay their rent, keep their electricity turned on and put gas in their cars.  And while it is customary for customers to tip 15 to 20% of the total bill, there is no way for a worker to enforce this.  So when customers don’t tip, or the restaurant isn’t busy, the restaurant worker is not earning any income.  In fact living on tips is so bad that restaurant workers use food stamps at twice the rate of the US workforce.  The irony here is clear—those that serve us our meals and drinks cannot afford to feed themselves and their families.

Restaurant workers need more stability in their wages.  Raising the tipped minimum wage is a way to help restaurant workers move toward economic security. The Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013, introduced by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Rep. Miller (D-CA) earlier this year, includes an increase in the tipped minimum wage to 70% of the federal minimum wage. Further the tipped minimum wage will also automatically increase when the federal minimum wage increases. And the first time, link the minimum wage to inflation and raise it along with increases in the cost of living.

As Figure 1 shows, passage of the Fair Minimum Wage Act will enable a single tipped worker to earn $10,000 more per year by raising the tipped wage. And this will help women who are 71% of employees in the service industry, the largest group of tipped workers.

tip table

 

So while customers may be able to take advantage of discounted drinks and food at happy hour, the bartenders and servers cannot take advantage of discounted rents, health care or grocery bills.  Providing tipped workers with a stable base wage by raising the minimum wage can go a long way in helping protect them from the extreme economic insecurity that results from solely living off tips. And doing so would give us all something to celebrate at happy hour!

 

It is certainly not a happy hour for bartenders who have been earning the same low base wage of $2.13 an hour for over 20 years.

It is certainly not a happy hour for bartenders who have been earning the same low base wage of $2.13 an hour for over 20 years.

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The Real Holiday Food Crisis

This weekend as I walked by the magazine racks at my local book store headlines such as  “Are You Worried About Gaining Weight During the Holidays” and “Holiday Diet Tips 2013: Ways to Keep the Fun Up and the Fat Down” seemed to scream from the magazine covers.   I also began to see similar warnings emerge on my newsfeeds on Facebook and Twitter.  Of course, this is not new.  Every year at this time newspapers, popular magazines and other commenters begin the annual drumbeat reminder that as we move into the holiday season we want to be careful to avoid the “Holiday Weight Gain.”  As the articles every year remind us– between Halloween candy, Thanksgiving stuffing and Christmas cookies—this is a ‘dangerous’ time for weight gain.

While there is much that is much that is problematic with these articles one of the important and ironic points that struck me was that just a few days ago some of those same news outlets were noting that November 1st marked the end of $5 billion in emergency food stamp funding implemented in 2009.  This supplement was pivotal in addressing the food security for Americans.  An estimated 47 million people will see their SNAP (food stamp) benefits shrink this month as a result of the cut. And these cuts have a disproportionate impact on the most vulnerable.  According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 87 percent of those that will be impacted live in households with children, seniors, or people with disabilities.

At the individual level, it breaks down like this: $11 less for an individual, $20 less for a household of two, $29 less for three and $36 less for a family of four.  The cut is equivalent to about 16 meals a month for a family of three based on the cost of the U.S. Agriculture Department’s “Thrifty Food Plan.”  In fact SNAP benefits in fiscal year 2014 will average less than $1.40 per person per meal.

And while some may claim that food banks, churches and community based organizations will be able to make up the cut in SNAP, that is far from the reality of the situation.  Already strapped food banks will have to double the amount of food supplied to food insecure families just to fill the gap created. And this gap is 3.4 BILLION meals over 2014.  This graph from Feeding America makes this point quite clear.

chart-SNAP-charity (1)-resized-600

So, it seems quite evident that the REAL crisis this holiday season is not that all the holiday parties will cause some people to gain a few pounds. It is instead that so many Americans—the bulk of whom are already among the most vulnerable— will not have enough food for the holidays or in the new year.

 

 

Even though popular media often talks about the "holiday weight gain" the real story is that SNAP cuts are forcing so many Americans to won't have enough food during the holidays and throughout the year

Even though popular media often talks about the “holiday weight gain” the real story is that because of SNAP cuts many Americans  are just worrying about putting food on the table this year.

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The More Things Change…..

In 1950 the United States Census Bureau reported that the top five occupations for women were:

  1. Stenographers, Typists or Secretaries.
  2. Bank tellers or Clerical Workers
  3. Sales clerks
  4. Private household workers
  5. Teachers

This list probably doesn’t surprise many people. These jobs represent traditionally female work and were some of the few jobs that were open to women in the 1950’s.  But that was then, and today women have made significant progress in the labor market. We know that in 2013 women are now half of the US labor force and their income matters to their families.  According to the Center for American Progress nearly two-thirds (63.9 percent) of families with children women were either breadwinners or co-breadwinners.  Further, when we look at women who are the sole or primary breadwinners, Pew Researchers found that percentage stands at a record 40% of all households with children under the age of eighteen.  The comparable share in 1960, for example, was 11 percent.  Women have also made significant strides in education. For all types of higher education, the number of women earning degrees is rising faster than the number of men earning the same degree.  And we have women such as Sheryl Sandberg, who served as the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook and Hillary Clinton former Secretary of State, as shining examples of the advances women have made in the labor market since the 1950’s.

Well before we all pop out the champagne to celebrate, let’s just check the Census Bureau to see what today’s leading occupations for women now.  Here is the “Top Five” today:

  1. Secretaries and administrative assistants
  2. Registered nurses
  3. Elementary and middle school teachers
  4. Cashiers
  5. Retail salespersons

This must be a mistake on the Census’s website.  These occupations are pretty much the same ones on that were on the list from 1950.  Unfortunately, it’s not an incorrect hyperlink, it is the reality of our labor market.  In fact, today the majority of women workers (50.3 percent) are concentrated in just 26 occupational categories, or only five percent of the 504 occupations tracked by Bureau of Labor Statistics.  And over two-thirds of women are concentrated in just 51 occupations.  And, we see from the above list, the top five occupations for women as basically the same as they were in the 1950’s.  Secretaries remain the top occupation for women— this has not changed for over 60 years.  And they are followed by registered nurses, elementary and middle school teachers, cashiers and retail salespersons.  All five of these jobs are traditionally female.  And even in these jobs, women continue to earn less than their male counterparts. Apart from registered nurses and teachers, these occupations are characterized by median weekly earnings of less than $700 (with several of the occupations earning around 300 to 400 weekly); lack of schedule control, health care and retirement benefits.

Yet, we know that when women are in non-traditional jobs they have increased earnings and employers have the benefit of increased labor pools.  For instance job in science technology education and math—STEM—fields offer women opportunities for higher paying, more stable jobs. Women in STEM jobs earn 33 percent more than those in non-STEM occupations and experience a smaller wage gap relative to men.   Yet women make up only 27% of the total STEM workforce. Women without higher education are also deterred from getting good paying, non-traditional jobs such as construction or firefighters. Today’s women hold less than 3% of skilled trade jobs and apprenticeships, despite the fact that these jobs have the potential to provide economic security. There are, of course, many reasons for the lack of women in STEM including stereotypes, gender bias, discrimination, and the chilly climate of some science and engineering departments in colleges and universities.

So what is going on here?  If we look forward from the 1950’s, it is evident that women’s participation in the workforce has dramatically changed as have other indicators important in achieving economic independence: educational gaps between men and women have been closed, women’s college graduation rates have surpassed men’s, and women have entered formally male-dominated professions at rates more quickly than before.  Yet despite such progress women still move into only about 25 of the Department of Labor established occupational categories, remaining overly concentrated in traditionally female work. Indeed, in order for the U.S. labor market to not be segregated by sex, 52.1 percent of the female labor force (or about 39 million women) would have to change jobs.    While we have made progress in our labor market, we still have a ways to go to address the sex segregation of our labor market.

So it not too surprising that “secretaries” is the occupational grouping where most women have been located since the 1950’s and remain in 2013.  And the US Department of Labor projects that secretarial occupations will grow about 12 percent through 2020, adding nearly 493,000 jobs to the labor market.  Unless we work to address sex segregation in our labor market and engage in concerted efforts to reduce gender stereotyping and discrimination, it is quite possible that in 2020 our “Top Five” list will remain basically the same as the 1950’s.

So, while the technology that secretaries use has certainly changed since 1950, the gender composition of the occupation has not.

Photograph by Theodor Horydczak, 1923-1959 of a Washington DC secretary.  Photo from Library of Congress

Photograph by Theodor Horydczak, 1923-1959 of a Washington DC secretary. Photo from Library of Congress

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Women’s Unpaid Care Work—Why it’s More Than Just Who Does the Dishes

Last week Magdalena Sepúlveda, United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty, encouraged the United Nations General Assembly to consider the unpaid care work in families —which is disproportionality performed by women throughout the world—as a human rights issue.  She reported that “unpaid care work such as cooking, cleaning and caring for children and the elderly entrenches women’s poverty and social exclusion when it is not socially recognized and shared.”   Sepúlveda noted that these significant and unequal care burdens may actually restrict women’s human rights, including their rights to education, work, social security and participation, as well as to rest and leisure.

Of course, gender disparities in unpaid household and caring work is not new, nor is our larger societal devaluing of that work. What is exciting is that Sepúlveda’s is framing this work within a collective framework—the solution is not only to restructure the gender division of labor in the home but also socially share that work.

Here in the United States the U.S. Census Bureau introduced the term “keeping house” in 1870.   As the Census Bureau noted:

The term “housekeeper” will be reserved for such persons as receive distinct wages or salary for the service. Women “keeping house “for their own families or for themselves, without any other gainful occupation, will be entered as “keeping house.” Grown daughters assisting them will be reported without occupation.

Until 1993 the Current Population Survey (CPS) asked the “major activity” question of each household member: “What was X doing most of last week?” The categories offered were “working,” “looking for work,” “keeping house,” “going to school,” “unable to work,” and “retired.” Sociologist Phillip Cohen analyzed this question over a 30 year period by gender.  Not surprisingly his results show that “keeping house” is highly gender segregated and there is also a significant decline in the percentages of women who “keep house” as their primary activity over the 30 year period.

 

NOTE: Civilian adults ages 25 to 54 (weighted), either employed or “keeping house.” Source: Cohen, GENDER DIVISION OF LABOR

NOTE: Civilian adults ages 25 to 54 (weighted), either employed or “keeping house.” Source: Cohen, GENDER DIVISION OF LABOR

Today, we know that women are half of the US labor force and their income matters to their families.  According to the Center for American Progress nearly two-thirds (63.9 percent) of families with children women were either breadwinners or co-breadwinners.  Further, when we look at women who are the sole or primary breadwinners, Pew Researchers found that percentage stands at a record 40% of all households with children under the age of eighteen.  The comparable share in 1960, for example, was 11 percent.

Yet despite the increase of women in the paid labor market and the critical role their income plays in their families’ economic security—women have not experienced a decrease in their unpaid housework and caring labor. In fact, in most of the developed world, women spend more time working each day than men do, if you include unpaid work.  According to the 2012 report of Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, regardless of whether employed in the paid labor force, women perform a disproportionate share of unpaid work in the home. Specifically, in couples where both partners have paid jobs, women spend more than two hours per day in unpaid work.  This disparity remains true even when both partners working full time. When you look at time spent in paid and unpaid work together, women outwork men in most countries.  So regardless of employment or marital status women still bear the brunt of the unpaid daily domestic work in the house, along with childcare and eldercare work in families throughout much of the world.

Herein lies the problem–We often see unpaid caring work as an individual problem to be solved in families.  Not surprisingly, how it often gets “solved” is quite gendered– with women bearing the brunt of the unpaid work.  And the gender division of labor work is identified as a problematic, all too often the solution is that men take on more work in the home. Of course, a more equitable division of labor in the home and challenging antiquated notions of gendered work are significant parts of any plan to address unpaid care work—but this alone will not just solve the problem.  Focusing solely on “getting men to do the dishes” is a very individualistic way of addressing the unpaid care work. And such a solution also misses the realities of our family composition.  For instance, many families are headed by women, so there may not be another adult in the household to take on the work.  Further we offer little supports to help families actually manage this work—the US remains the only industrialized country without paid family leave.   Taken together these factors create stress, anxiety and overwork for women, not to mention are inefficient for families, workplaces and communities.  And as the UN report adds, it prevents opportunities for women to engage in education and paid work that would help their and their families’ economic security.

In contrast, we could choose to see the critical caring work in our families as a larger social concern that can be addressed collectively.  We certainly should address the unequal division of labor in the home but we ALSO must take seriously United Nations Special Rapporteur Magdalena Sepúlveda’s report to the UN last week.  We must move forward public policies and workplace practices that support, socially recognize and value the unpaid caring work from which we all benefit.

 

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