In the past decade, the percentage of women who have joined the workforce in the United States has greatly increased, almost doubling from the 1960s to the 2010s (Shin: Oct 9, 2018). Even though there is a spike in women working, why is it that women represent the highest proportion of the population in poverty? This phenomenon is referred to as the ‘feminization of poverty’. Feminization of poverty is the reality that of all people who are below the poverty line, almost 60 percent are women, and of all families, 50 percent consist of single mothers with no husbands (Shin Oct 11, 2018).
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A combination of the available jobs to women, gender discrimination, lack of childcare and lack of government support all contribute to the cycle that continues to keep women in poverty.
Since women began entering the workforce, they were confined to jobs that are commonly known as ‘pink collar jobs’ (Shin Oct 9, 2018). These jobs are mainly administrative and service-oriented work, such as secretaries, preschool teachers, nurses or child care providers. Women are not entering these types of jobs due to lack of education- women today are entering and graduating college at a higher rate than men- but due to a systemic and societal push towards positions that have classically been occupied by women. These positions often make women seem below, or inferior to men, and offer little opportunity to move up or be promoted even if the woman were to ask. Commonly, service oriented and administrative work pays a significant amount less, which shows in the difference in median income for men and women. In 2011, the median income for women was 77 percent less than the median income for men (Shin Oct 9, 2018).
In the workforce, women experience a great deal of gender discrimination that keeps them from obtaining a higher-level position with a higher pay grade. Forms of workplace discrimination such as aggression from male coworkers and being ignored during decision-making cause women to avoid entering higher paying, typically male dominated professions, as they feel less valued by those they work with (Williams 1992:344). Not only do women experience discrimination in fields that are classically male, but in those that are typically female as well. As men began entering professions that had been dominated by women,
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