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Just Judy: Ladies, listen up, there’s a ‘Mancession’ going on in your workplace

From The Urban Dictionary:


Term used by economists to reflect that for the first time in economic history, the male unemployment rate has surpassed the female unemployment rate. In the last years (2008-10) 82 percent of pink slips have been handed to male workers.

A catchy term in the media these days is the word “mancession”.  It describes the unusual disproportionate amount of jobs lost by men in the current economic depression. Many women see this as a cause for celebration. Women haven’t been seen as such a power in the American workforce since World War II. Of course, this isn’t a cause for celebration.

It would be nice if this were true, but it isn’t.

Part of the reason for the recent job losses seen by men have been because traditional “male” job sectors have been so heavily hit by the recession. According to Newsweek men have made up two thirds of the 11 million jobs lost since it all began. But watch out – women are getting left out of Obama’s job program and stimulus spending. Women hold only 12% of the total US engineering jobs and 25% of manufacturing and construction jobs. A study by the United States Conference of Mayors found that half of the projected new “green” jobs being created by stimulus programs will be in heavily male-dominated areas such as engineering, consulting, manufacturing, construction, and forestry.

What about traditional “pink collar” jobs such as teaching and nursing? Men felt the initial brunt of the recession, but now traditional female heavy industries are starting to get slashed.  Most importantly, just because women still have jobs, it doesn’t mean that they are making strides. Women started out disadvantaged way before the recession. They work at lower wage jobs and experience a wage gap across all industries. In reality, even though fewer women lost jobs than in the past year, the latest Census Bureau figures also show that women are still 35% more likely to be poor than men, with at 2008 poverty rate of 13% compared to 9.6% for men. There is a reason to be worried and to focus on economic justice for women.

Traditionally jobs thought of as “women’s work” have always been lower paying.

The recession has further strained the wage gap. American women who work full-time, year-round are paid only 77 cents for every dollar paid to their male counterparts. This gap in earnings translates into $10,622 less per year in female median earnings, leaving women and their families shortchanged. The wage gap is even more substantial when race and gender are considered together, with African-American women making only 61 cents, and Latinas only 52 cents, for every dollar earned by white, non-Hispanic men. A loss of over $10,000 per year due to women’s lower wages is tough on families that rely on women’s earnings as a source of income, but lower earnings have a significant impact on the lives of women and the families that rely exclusively on their wages, especially in a difficult economy.

Now that I’ve shown you a bunch of facts and figures about how bad women have it in the workplace you might be wondering how this relates to the mancession. Well, you know how occasionally a company will lay off all its best-paid employees and replace them with new hires that they can pay way less? That’s what’s going on, but on a global scale—if men are being replaced by women in such great numbers, it’s because women come 25 percent cheaper. That’s a win for feminism in the same way Sarah Palin is a win for feminism, which is to say not at all. When average working people are seeing their actual income and wealth go down, this isn’t a win for women. Or to put it in more specific terms, it’s not some feminist victory for you to come home to find your husband laid off with no future job prospects and your much-lower salary being the now sole source of income.

What do we do about it?  We definitely don’t take to the internet making snarky comments about the mancession and somehow pretend that this is good for women.  We get political and work on getting The Paycheck Fairness Act passed. This year.

Yes please Mr. Obama.  If Hilliary Clinton were President this would be a done deal, she introduced the bill.

The Paycheck Fairness Act was introduced January 2009 by then-Senator Hillary Clinton and Rep. Rosa DeLauro to strengthen the Equal Pay Act of 1963. The bill expands damages under the Equal Pay Act and amends its very broad fourth affirmative defense. In addition, the Paycheck Fairness Act calls for a study of data collected by the EEOC and proposes voluntary guidelines to show employers how to evaluate jobs with the goal of eliminating unfair disparities. The bill was passed by the House of Representatives on January 9, 2009, ADD and action by the Senate is pending, under the lead sponsorship of Sen. Christopher Dodd.

The Paycheck Fairness Act is slated for consideration after the election break this year.  In a sense, the greatest impact of the law may fall not on individual employers, but on labor law itself, because it finally inscribes in our civil rights protections a long-overdue recognition of the struggle for women’s equality at work.

Please people, women and men, stop talking about the “mancession” right now and instead work towards getting The Paycheck Fairness Act passed. There are catch phrases the media come up with to get people’s attention and then there are real pieces of legislation that can change women’s lives.  Let’s stop with the jargon and make real change happen.

This post was written by Judy Grundstrom and originally published on the JustJudy blog. Follow her on Twitter: @justjudyblog

Comments (2)

  1. Submitted by Kassie Church on 10/15/2010 - 10:23 am.

    There is no “mancession” going on at my work and there never will be. I work in a place with a union. While the positions eliminated were chosen by management, the people in those positions had the right to bump or move to open positions. While some people who probably should have left didn’t, the people who were ultimately laid off were done withough respect of color, sex, or anything else. For layoffs, it is a very fair way to do it. And we don’t have a lot of “men” jobs and women jobs. While we have some places without a lot of men, the places that have a lot of men usually only have about 50% men. We hire women in IT and in management and everywhere else throughout the orgranization.

    It is so nice to work at a place where women and men (and people of color, and immigrants, and people with disabilities and GLBT people) are equal in both hiring and in layoffs.

  2. Submitted by Bert Perry on 10/15/2010 - 11:57 am.

    It’s worth noting that when job category, experience, and title are accounted for, the “wage gap” between men and women disappears. So firing men to hire women for the same jobs actually would do nothing to reduce wages.

    It would, however, tend to ensure that those employed after such an action would need a certain period of time to “learn the ropes” at that company–which would deserve everything it gets for that kind of thing.

    (even apart from EEOC action–sorry, you don’t fire all men and hire all women without at least one of them noticing and talking to a lawyer)

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