22 October 2010

Debt is a Feminist Issue

The gendered nature of the globalised capitalist economy is evident at many different levels. Empirical studies of women at the top of financial corporations appear to be absent from the peer-review literature, but even The Economist has suggested that the causes of the 2008 crash were partly hormonal.

The figures for women’s share of the world"s resources, as collected by UNIFEM are a shocking catalogue of inequality. Perhaps the most striking statistic is that ’Women perform 66 percent of the world’s work, produce 50 percent of the food, but earn 10 percent of the income and own 1 percent of the property’. In many countries women face discrimination in terms of property ownership, as we did in this country until the passage of the Married Women’s Property Act in 1882.

The study of economics is also dominated by men.To quote from an academic study from York University, ’Women make up approximately 30% of the research/PhD students, 15% of the lecturers, 10% of the readers/senior lecturers and 5% of the professors. Males in standard full-time academic jobs are twice as likely to be at a senior level (above lecturer) than women (46% compared to 23%).’ In the 41 years that the Swedish Bank has been given a prize for economics, a woman has only won it once, and then she had to share it.

So the world economy is dominated by men, the corporations who control it are dominated by men, and those who study it and inform policy are also largely men. When these policies are implemented, at least in the UK, they are done so by a cabinet which includes only one woman, plus a token other without portfolio.

Since women have so little economic power, they can have had correspondingly little responsibility for the economic and financial crisis we are in. So how can it be just that they will bear the majority of the pain? We are not all in this together: women who care for children and other relatives are more likely to receive benefits that will now be cut. They will be left picking up the pieces for the broken society that results from the devastation of public services. They are disproportionately likely to work in the public sector and so more likely to lose their jobs.

In the 40 years since the implementation of the Equal Pay Act women have seen their influence and their control over property increase in the UK, but until we have equal access to economic power we will always be an easy target.

1 comment:

  1. This much is evident with the work done by the Fawcett Society and Yvette Cooper on the shameful way in which the cuts imposed by this Con-Dem(ned) Government discriminate against women.