Check out my op-ed in the Connecticut Mirror!
In it, I argue that investing in early childhood care and education is a critical economic development model because it impacts women in two ways: it helps women, who provide the majority of caregiving, get the child care they need to work and helps women in the child care industry earn a better salary and maintain a higher-quality of life.
I've been disappointed in how male-oriented Obama's economic recovery plans have been, with their focus on construction and green energy (and let's not forget those auto industry and Wall Street bailouts!) As Linda Hirshman pointed out, these industries are dominated by men; women make up only nine percent of construction workers and twelve percent of engineers (who do a good deal of the work on green energy). Catalyst reports that 22.6 percent of auto industry employees are women and only 18.8 percent of the executives, managers and senior-level officers on Wall Street are women (men also make much more).
I'm a huge fan of programs that support women who want to go into these male-dominated fields, and I would have loved it if the economic recovery plan included incentives for these male-dominated professions to hire more women. But as I understand it, the plan didn't, which means that our economic recovery plan is really a plan to help put money back into the wallets of men.
Part of the issue is that construction is still seen as a golden economic recovery model, due largely to the success of similar plans implemented by Roosevelt and Eisenhower. However, when Roosevelt and Eisenhower instituted their plans, women didn't make up 46 percent of the workforce, like they do today. I fear, however, that another implicit reason behind such a male-oriented recovery plan is the assumption that men are still the head-of-household; the main breadwinner whose salary and ability to work is critical for his family and sense of self. Women's work is often thought of as a luxury, something that women want to do for "extra money," for fun, or because they're selfish (this would be the conservative, get-back-in-the-home argument). The assumption is that women have a man's salary to fall back on.
But this simply isn't true. Many families need two salaries to survive, and many women provide the only financial support for their families and children. Moreover, we shouldn't be sending any message that "women's work" is less important.
By investing in female-dominated fields, such as child care, we help women find jobs and increase their earning potential. Moreover, by investing in child care, we help all women have the support that they need to work, whether as a child care provider, teacher, or Wall Street executive.