The Daily Caller

The Daily Caller

Stiletto Nation: Big government threatens women’s progress

Photo of Carrie Lukas
Carrie Lukas
Managing Director, The Independent Women's Forum

More than ninety years ago, American women earned the right to vote.  Since that time, American women have gained tremendous economic and political power.  Women’s record of educational achievement and innate strengths should translate into greater progress in years to come.  Yet women’s progress—like all Americans’ progress—is jeopardized by our growing, Leviathan government.

Consider how prominent women have become in the workforce in recent decades: In 1975, only four in ten women worked; now, it’s six in ten.  Women now constitute a majority of managers and professional workers.  More than one-third of employed married women out-earn their husbands.

While our nation’s unemployment rate rose from 5.0 percent in 2008 to 9.6 percent today, women’s unemployment rate has remained consistently below men’s.  As Newsweek reported, men suffered two-thirds of recent job losses, in part because women gravitate toward different sectors of the economy than men do, and male-dominated industries—such as construction, manufacturing, and financial services—have been the most affected by the recent crisis.

Some feminists lament that women self-segregate into different careers, but they can take comfort that the prospects for many female-dominated industries are bright.  Health care, education, social services, and management—all heavily female—are among the sectors that Department of Labor projects will experience the greatest growth in the next decade.

Women’s bright prospects are fueled by their academic achievement.  Between 1970 and 2008, the number of women in the labor force with college degrees more than tripled. Today, women earn about six in every ten bachelor degrees, which means that the pool of female workers is becoming increasingly more educated and therefore more attractive to employers.

Yes, women still lag behind men in terms of overall average earnings and positions of power in Fortune 500 businesses.  Yet this says little about the opportunities women have and much more about the choices that women make.  Reports show that a growing segment of women—particularly young, childless women—out-earn similarly situated men, which provides further evidence that it’s women’s behavior (not systemic sexism) that drives how much women earn.  The truth is that many women simply don’t want full-time, traditionally scheduled jobs or to end up in the corner office.  They crave more flexible work situations that allow them to contribute, develop personally, and earn some money while still having time for other priorities, like children.

That’s why the big government agenda being advanced in Washington is the enemy of women’s progress.  Women need a growing, dynamic economy to facilitate the creation of a wide variety of working opportunities.  Unfortunately, newly enacted laws discourage this kind of dynamism.  The new health care law will drive up the cost of employment, which could disproportionately impact workers who don’t work full-time.  The financial services bill will create new barriers to borrowing, making it more difficult for small businesses and would-be entrepreneurs to get the capital they need to start up and expand.  The specter of tax increases and new rounds of regulation are adding to the uncertainty about the future business environment, further hindering growth and discouraging job creation.

While many traditional feminist groups argue in favor of greater government activism, they should be wary of granting government so much control over our economy.  After all, if an old boy’s network exists, then women are likely to lose out in a political system that grants powerful politicians the ability to select winners and losers among companies and industries.  And, in fact, a recent report from the U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce complains that women aren’t receiving their fair share of government contracts and loans from the Small Business Administration.

  • http://www.uswcc.org USWCC

    The U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce (http://www.uswcc.org) takes issue with several unsubstantiated assumptions and positions stated by Ms. Lukas of the conservative Independent Women’s Forum.

    Workplace Flexibility: Ms. Lukas states, “Yes, women still lag behind men in terms of overall average earnings and positions of power in Fortune 500 businesses. Yet this says little about the opportunities women have and much more about the choices that women make.” And, “The truth is that many women simply don’t want full-time, traditionally scheduled jobs or to end up in the corner office. They crave more flexible work situations that allow them to contribute, develop personally, and earn some money while still having time for other priorities, like children.”

    Quite the contrary, women all over the country reach out to the U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce not because they want little responsibility within a job, but because they want flexible work situations that enable them to both manage family responsibilities and be paid and advanced fairly. Your black and white view establishes an “either, or” position — if a woman seeks workplace flexibility — then, she should be segregated out for lower pay and promotion than those employees that choose to stay within the box of nine-to-five box. Our position is that workplace flexibility and fair pay and advancement should all be possible — and are possible within many businesses. The intent of the U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce is to advance the value to all of our society for both workplace flexibility AND fair pay and advancement.

    Access to Government Contracts: Ms. Lukas comments on the disparity between the number of women-owned firms and the percentage of federal government contracts we receive focus on sexism vs. advancing a government that rewards efficiency and performance. Ms. Lukas should take a moment to read the reports and studies on the challenges women-owned firms face in accessing federal contracts so that she can speak more deeply on the matter. We agree — the federal government does not provide fair access to government contracts to all firms — instead it does favor large businesses with ability to employ expensive lobbyists rather than truly assessing efficiency and performance. However, we also believe that the federal government — which is powered by our tax dollars — has an obligation to not become simply a method for the redistribution of wealth from American tax payers (including small business owners) to big business. We would prefer that special programs not be necessary to cause federal government purchasing to be inclusive of all sectors of suppliers — however, decades of evidence shows that the undue influence of big business and the lack of transparency regarding contract awards has left small businesses little choice.

    American’s don’t care where they spend their money: Ms. Lucas states, “Few Americans care about the sex of the person that sells them groceries and clothes, fixes their house, or services their computer. Consumers just want high quality, good service at a low cost. For the most part, the free market is gender-blind. This is to women’s benefit, since women are perfectly capable of competing and succeeding on a level playing field.”

    Ms. Lucas misses the point about the elements of competition and the desires of women to support one another. All businesses seek a specific value proposition and advance the sale of their goods and services based on certain desirable attributes. One such attribute, for many women, is providing support for the economic advancement of women. This desire may be fulfilled through focusing women’s considerable purchasing power with women-owned firms so as to dramatically increase their revenues and profits. Newly released data from the “Preliminary Estimates of Business Ownership by Gender, Ethnicity, Race and Veteran Status: 2007,” from the “U.S. Census Bureau’s 2007 Survey of Business Owners” alarmingly finds, even though the number of women’s business grew 44% between 1997 and 2007, our already small revenues-based market share declined over 10% – dropping from 4.41% in 1997 to 3.95% in 2007.

    Women now own over 17 million U.S. businesses and control $4.3 trillion of the $5.9 trillion in U.S. consumer spending – making U.S. women the largest single economic force in the world. When we come together to consolidate our gains by focusing our tremendous purchasing power with women-owned firms, we will dramatically raise women’s incomes and business influence and put our stamp on the business and employer marketplace – finally securing market-driven progress in fair pay and promotion, family-friendly work environments, retirement security and business growth. Readers may learn more about this movement by reading the U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce report, “The Women-Led Economy.”