CTWorkingMoms.com and the Campaign for Judgement-Free Motherhood were born from the idea that whether a mother works outside the home or within, as long as the choice is hers, then it’s the right choice for her and her family. But, what if the “choice” doesn’t exist?
When it comes to the number of women in the workforce, the U.S. ranks 20th in the world…we used to rank 7th. After six decades of growth, the percentage of women in the workforce ages 25-54 peaked in 1999 at 74%, but has fallen since to 69% today. Why is that? And, why is it that when we talk about women and work, we often limit the conversation to a woman’s choice to work or not.
In reality, there are a lot of factors that contribute to a woman participating in the workforce. Finances for starters are a huge driver and by limiting the conversation to one of choice, the experiences of low-income women and female-headed households are completely discarded. Seeing as those women have to work, some more than 2 jobs, they don’t really get a choice and are likely not contributing to the decreasing number of women in the workforce. So, while I wholeheartedly support any woman who fully makes a choice not to work outside the home, I challenge the limitations of this framework and its negative impact on ensuring that all women have equal access to the workforce.
In a postmodern women and work economy, it might be useful to actually discuss the very real factors that are contributing to the decreasing participation of women in the American workforce. I mean, according to Goldman Sachs, leaving all other things equal, increasing women’s participation in the labor market to male levels will boost GDP by 9% in the U.S. So, even if you could give two hoots about women’s equality, we’re talking about American prosperity here.
I would argue that many of the factors contributing to the decrease of women in the workforce–pay equity, paid family leave, and affordable childcare, are also the very things that negatively impact low-income women in the workforce and female-headed households. Maybe it’s time we retire our ‘Rosie the Riveter’ approach to the U.S. economy and actually address the fact that women with children have been and will continue to be a major part of the American workforce.