07 July 2010

Newsweek Crows: Women Will Rule the World

With so much economic talk circling around the myth of the "mancession" -- which casts men (incorrectly) as the primary victims of this recession -- it's rare to find an article that actually looks at where women stand in this world economy, and the contributions they will likely make in driving economic recovery here in the US and across the globe.

Which is why, despite their initial reliance on the same old myths that make men the "real" losers in this recession, we were so pleased to read Jessica Bennett and Jesse Ellison's piece in this week's Newsweek, enticingly titled Women Will Rule the World. The article offers a great deal of exciting evidence that women in the United States and other Western nations have a real shot at achieving economic parity over the coming decades, and offers some useful statistics about the economic power we currently wield. As the authors note:
American women are already the breadwinners or co-breadwinners in two thirds of American households; in the European Union, women filled 75 percent of the 8 million new jobs created since 2000. Even with the pay gap factored into the equation, economists predict that by 2024, the average woman in the U.S. and a number of rich European countries will outearn the average man. And she’ll be spending that money: American women are responsible for 83 percent of all consumer purchases; they hold 89 percent of U.S. bank accounts, 51 percent of all personal wealth, and are worth more than $5 trillion in consumer spending power -- larger than the entire Japanese economy.
Those are big numbers -- numbers worth celebrating and milestones worth committing ourselves to achieving in the coming years. And as the authors point out, there's also good news to be had on the global stage: in the developing world, the number of women attaining higher levels of education and entering the workforce is decidedly on the rise -- a significant fact not least of all because women are known to reinvest the vast majority of their income into community and family, providing one of the few viable pathways to ending global poverty as we know it.

But we're not there yet. For all of the happy news the authors have to share, it is also worth remembering that women remain at an economic disadvantage in just about every country in the world. Women and girls make up 70% of the more than 1 billion people living in poverty globally, and here in the US we still seem incapable of closing the pay gap that keep women earning 76 cents to every man's dollar.

Bennett and Ellison are certainly within bounds to conclude that achieving economic parity for women appears increasingly likely -- but it would be a mistake to assume that we've either reached the plane of inevitability or that these economic opportunities will come to all women in equal measure. Here in the US, factors like race, class, sexuality and disability will continue to play a role in determining economic power; despite this rosy forecast, the work to even the proverbial playing field must continue on.

Learn more about how the Ms. Foundation is working to ensure Economic Justice for women and families throughout the US.

Photo: by Elizabeth Rappaport, Women in Construction, Gulf Coast, Mississippi, December 2008

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