It’s Not A “He-Cession” Anymore: Economic Changes Erode Gender Equality

The recession was, back in 2009, referred to as a “he-cession,” as the media heralded the acceleration of “the great shift of power from males to females.”  Men experienced disproportionately high job losses, and others pointed to Wall Street’s “macho risk-taking” as the culprit for inflating and then crushing male-dominated industries like construction.  Others pointed out that women were not being fired in such large numbers because they were more likely to be concentrated in part-time or low-wage work, and because women are still impacted by a pay gap, and are thus cheaper to employ.

Two years later, the latter view seems to have won out.  An article in the New York Times points to budget austerities’ potential to change the way that governments interact with citizens’ lives.  As governments seek to cut down on costs, it’s women’s livelihoods and well-being that may be on the chopping block.  Mothers depend on affordable child care to work; female retirees tend to live longer; and women are concentrated in the public sector.  These crucial jobs and services are likely to be among the first to go as governments seek to contract.

“This is not just individual categories of women losing out, this is structural: This is rolling back gender equality,” said Anna Bird, acting chief executive officer of a women’s advocacy group based in London.

Britain is one of the places where we can begin to see these changes affecting women in the short term.  There, women account for about 65 percent of public sector workers and account for even larger proportions of low-pay, low-grade positions, and are thus likely to be hit harder than men when the British government eliminates half a million jobs.

Women are also being impacted by pay freezes; according to the Women’s Budget Group, three out of four of people subject to pay freezes are women.  This can only make the pay gap worse.

And these are just the ways that job cuts will affect women, to say nothing of the programs that will be slashed through new austerity measures.  Child care services and battered women’s shelters will suffer from loss of funding.  Overall, it’s estimated that while the average British household will lose 6.8% of its income due to these measures, single female retirees will lose 11.7 percent, and single mothers a whopping 18.5.  And although the new budget supplies tax breaks and benefits for business, this will disproportionately benefit men, who own more businesses and business shares than women.

Ultimately, some worry that policymakers’ apparent lack of consideration for how these cuts will differently impact men and women will end up costing the country more than it saves. 

“You have to think about the long-term costs of austerity,” said Monica Quiesser, head of social policy at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.  “Policies that help women combine work and family life will contribute to families’ economic resilience, boost economic growth and ultimately tax revenues. Policies that don’t risk doing the opposite.”

One thing is clear: despite the panic two years ago, the “he-cession” doesn’t seem to have lasted very long.  And now, politicians have a responsibility to think about where the burden of their austerity measures are going – and whether it’s fair to sacrifice women and children’s well-being for the sake of a slimmer budget.


Photo from Wikimedia Commons.


Tricia Hamilton
Tricia Hamilton6 years ago

Women always lose!!

Kimberly G.
Kimberly G6 years ago

I don't recall any "he-cession" at all in my opinion. I do recall reading an article that said something along the lines of "Oh now that the recession is over (yeah right - no it isn't) - employers will be hiring men first for the new jobs because they have families to support." Boy, was I mad when I read that article. WTF? And what - women don't have families to support? What about the single mothers out there whose bum fathers left them and now they have to care for their families all on their own? I don't even recall a "he-cession" - men always get pick first for certain kinds of jobs. There was a time back in the 90's and early 00's when companies were very focued on having a diverse workforce so more minorities including women were hired (but that was only because they were afraid of being sued for discrimination by the minorities). Women still get the short end of the sick in jobs and pay and not only that but we have to deal with all the idiot men trying to take away our rights and treat us like the second class citizens. Funny thing is I never thought of my self like that - as a women I always felt like I had power and no one taught it to me - I always thought of men as the "second sex" because women can give life and men can't - women seem to be the ones more responsible for making a human society - you would think we would be treated like precious vessels. Too bad there are still some stupid idiots out there who don't understand the meaning of the word equality.

Kate Florio
Kate F6 years ago

For 8 days I stayed with a missionary family in Caracas, Venezuela. A few years prior to being a missionary, he had been a policeman with the LAPD. Either there or before, he learned leadership skills that were used effectively in the home and on the job. Family members and employees both respected him and had no trouble being in the supportive role.

One of his character traits was the ability to show respect to those around him, whether they be men, women or children! Even though I was there only a short time, I could see why people would have no trouble following his lead.

There are a lot of men out there with high paying jobs, but with no clue how to be a leader. If they did, blessings would be poured upon them, even more than they are right now. If there are classes on how to be an effective leader, I am guessing that these men would be very wise to at least glance at the syllabus, if there's no time to take the class.

Though this comment seems to have little to do with salaries, somehow, I feel there is a connection.

Fa'izah J. A.
Jauharah Andrews6 years ago

Ummmm..... right. Women are the first to suffer no matter what. When jobs need to be targeted for elimination, most entities would rather eliminate women in order to keep the "boys" network intact. What I've also noticed that the when there is hiring done, the majority are now men and still majority white; so women and ethnic minorities are suffering.

Monica D.
Monica d6 years ago

I just created a petition entitled No Slavery in the U.S.A.
I'm trying to collect 100 signatures, and I could really use your help.
To read more about what I'm trying to do and to sign my petition, click here:
Also, women, you will never achieve equality as long as you call yourselves "girls", and allow yourselves to be called girls. Who would you rather hire, a man, or a girl?

Alexandrea L.
holly p6 years ago

women are by far the majority in single parent families.
they recieve 25% less for doing the same job anyway - and now?
they will have to support those
the lay offs in the automotive sector started a misogynistic rant about women keeping their jobs, while men lost them. it was only that the automotive sector was hit first.
now the people who make one quarter less for the same job will be penalized for their sex by even more hatred - and the really good news? so will their kids.
well done.
brilliant job.

Shane P.
.6 years ago

Why in this time and age this shit still is going down? we are all human, why people go nuts over gender or race is just showing how dumb people are getting. I keep hearing that we are running out of rich people, bull fucking shit we are not running out of those assholes, WE ARE RUNNING OUT OF SMART PEOPLE!!!!!!! right now in the city i live in i have yet to see another smart person besides myself.... I and out and about meeting new dumb asses all the time...

Linda T.
Linda T6 years ago

The economic recession has caused the american people to lose their rights just ask the people in Mi, Wi, TN, OH,. Vote for a republican and lose you soul. We've all paid a very hefty price because of this recession.

William Y.
William Y6 years ago

Typical case of the "blind" leading the "Ignorant."

Danielle Herie
Danielle Herie6 years ago