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Leaping from Our Spheres
-- The Blog of UUWF's Affiliated Minister

The Good and Bad News about Female Employment

Where-Women-Are-WorkingThe end of the year 2014 federal numbers showed unemployment being 5.3 percent, which normalizes this figure after years of recovery from the most recent Great Recession. Which is a good thing.

Further analysis of the non-employed, compiled by David Leonhardt in the January 6 “Upshot,” a New York Times special feature, reveals real variances between men and women in the nature of their responses to the loss of work, and the distinct geography of female employment. Some of the differences are good, some disturbing, some inexplicable.

Based on his research, men in general have a tougher emotional time riding out periods of not working: exercising less and experiencing worse relationships with their family members in the face of having more time to spend with them. Women, he wrote, report improved dealings with family and friends since they stopped working.

In this economy, women may adjust better to job loss, but this benign indicator is more than countered by the clear statistics that while the numbers of women in the workplace increased at the end of the 20th century, driven in part by the feminist movement, this upward trend has been reversed since 2000. Which is in direct contrast to other wealthier developed countries, where rates have continued to rise.

For both male and female workers, the places of lowest levels of employment correlate with some of the most challenging places to live: Appalachia, Northern Michigan, the Deep South and the interior Southwest, all areas of high poverty and often bleak living conditions. But, as the reporter noted, female working patterns are more nuanced than males.

In places like Utah and other Mormon areas, and then areas like the upper Eastside of Manhattan, not poor or unusually physically challenging locations, female employment rates are relatively low, with local cultures that promote stay-at-home full-time mothering. In several census tracts, the unemployment rate for prime-age women in Salt Lake City is as high as the rates in the 1950’s.

In other places, like New England and the Upper Midwest, female employment rates are robust, as well as in lower income areas in the middle of the country. Higher levels of education among women vs. men account for this.

What is your experience of geographic incentives or barriers to women working in this country? How are you engaged in equity of employment in your community?

Let me know, and I will report back. E-mail me at

Leaping From Our Spheres

Rev. Marti KellerDon’t miss the “little gems full of both passion and facts” in the Blog of UUWF’s Affiliated Minister, Rev. Marti Keller.

UUWF’s Affiliated Ministry