Some Thoughts on the Stimulus Package

February 8, 2009 § 5 Comments


For my FIRST EVER POST ON WOMEN’S GLIB (wooohoooo), I wanted to get some information up about Obama’s $825 billion stimulus package and what it will do for us ladyfolk. I snooped around some blogs and newspapers, and here’s what I’ve come up with. Feel free to add anything you’ve noticed about the plan in a comment! 

Joan Entmacher, VP of family economic security at the National Women’s Law Center, says that the package will work on “Expanding health for them [women], child care, unemployment insurance, direct help in higher food stamps and energy assistance.” Additionally, the package “protects a lot of jobs for women in education, early education and social work services.” 

This all sounds pretty sweet, but I do have to wonder about the job protection detailed by Entmacher. Education and social work? Those sound like ‘typical woman’ jobs to me. I am all for protecting positions in these fields, but what about women with jobs closely tied to the manufacturing industries, agriculture, etc? Lindsay Beyerstein from the Washington Independent says that the stimulus is “expected to create or sustain significant numbers of jobs in female-dominated sectors of the economy, like teaching, nursing, and social work.” Again, that sounds really awesome, but what about women who already have a hard time in the work-force because they belong to male-dominated labor sectors? Will they be overlooked because they’re pursuing careers that aren’t considered feminine? 

My suspicions are somewhat confirmed by Linda Hirshman from the New York Times, who stated in an article that ran this past December that a package primarily aimed at building automatically excludes women because women make up such a small part of construction labor forces (9%, to be exact). To make the plan more woman-friendly, she suggested that it also include money for human capital jobs (social workers, educators, librarians, etc.), because these are the kinds of jobs that women are more likely to hold. Hirshman ends the article by saying that “maybe it would be a better world if more women became engineers and construction workers, but programs encouraging women to pursue engineering have existed for decades without having much success.”

For some reason, this seemingly pragmatic sentiment makes me really nervous and uncomfortable. I just don’t like the idea that we should give up on eradicating the idea that women, if they are working, must be doing something that is directly nurturing. And maybe all of the construction work proposed by Obama’s plan could help break down some of the barriers that women face in the manual labor industries!

In short, I’m glad that Hirshman got her wish and that Obama’s plan will protect woman-heavy industries, but I am worried about the women in the male-dominated sectors. And I’m worried about how this might all reinforce the idea that if a woman is ballsy enough to leave the home, she must be doing some sort of caretaking.


§ 5 Responses to Some Thoughts on the Stimulus Package

  • joelfrominwood says:

    This definitely ought to be addressed in greater detail, because jobs in fields like construction, manufacturing, and science and technology are inevitably going to be dominant under the Obama administration and hopefully in future administrations as well. As a matter of pragmatism, economic necessity, national security, and environmental sanity they have to be; there is simply too much work to be done in order to take the measures necessary to revolutionize and fix our failing transport, energy, and food infrastructure. Science and technology have long been the hallmarks of successful national progress (look at China and India’s tech/manufacturing boom and race to development) and our output of scientists, engineers, and environmentally sound industry has been pitiful in recent years. Hopefully Obama will do better.

    The question then is how to make such fields as science, manufacturing, construction, etc. gender-equitable. There is something of a precedent for this- World War II, in which woman participation in the manufacturing workforce was valorized and adopted across a wide scale. Many have argued that a World War II style mobilization is necessary to combat our economic, education, health, and environmental problems, and I think in many ways this would be an excellent opportunity not only to promote the work that needs to be done, but promote women’s participation in it. Last time it was accomplished because of labor necessity (the standard, male workforce enlisted) and by a massive propaganda campaign. I wonder how it would come about a second time.

  • mirandanyc says:

    Think Progress tells us that the team who came up with the stimulus package didn’t include any women.

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