The research on gender and income shows a very convincing gap between the genders. Women, overall, earn less money then men. Women hold the majority of minimum wage jobs in this country. However, if you compare single women and single men in the same profession, there isn’t much of a difference. The real differences come about when you compare women with children versus everybody else. That variable – the three year old in the Old Navy t-shirt – is the real income killer.
Tyler Cowen’s article about gender and economics poses an interesting question. Is the gender gap narrowing? He looks at a couple of books that look at women in the workplace. The article is very interesting, and the studies are cool. I might come back to it later on. But the article doesn’t look at the key population that explains the economic gender gap – women who are not sitting around the corporate conference room. To really get a handle on the economic gender gap, we need to look at women who have had to leave the workplace or take a lesser position or were never able to finish school because they became parents.
I do think that things are easier for parents than they were 15-years ago, when I first became a parent. Of course, I’m just relying on my snapshot impressions. Not scientific at all. I thought I would throw out my observations and see what y’all think.
When Jonah came around, there were very, very few childcare options. We couldn’t afford the very expensive place down the block that was set up for the doctors at Columbia Presbyterian. Through word of mouth, Jonah spent a couple of years with a woman who ran an unlicensed daycare out of her apartment. It wasn’t particularly safe. Ian’s childcare situation has always been more horrible, because he has special needs. I didn’t have access to after-school daycare. I can’t even write about my family’s dealings with the childcare system, because it was all such a trainwreck.
If I started my family today, we would be in a completely different situation. There are websites that help you find a babysitter, including babysitters that are experienced with children with special needs. When Ian was three, I posted an ad on the bulletin board at the local Starbucks. I accosted every working mom on the street looking for answers. I wouldn’t have to rely on the underground mom network today.
My friends who have young kids in daycare seem to be pretty happy. There are more places than there were 15 years ago. They are cheaper. Procedures are in place.
The workplaces are cooler about families. Sure, they have a long way to go, but I am starting to hear good stories about a shift in office culture. One friend told me that when she had her first kid around the time that Jonah was born, she had to pretend that her daughter didn’t exist. Now, her family pictures cover the walls of her office.
I am not sure that much has changed for low income women with children. Most of the clients at my dad’s food pantry are young women pushing strollers.
I am also not sure that much has changed for women who step out of the workforce for a while. Martha Stewart, who knows that audience very well, recently dissed Sheryl Sandberg saying that women need to be entrepreneurial, rather than dealing with corporate life.