I’m not sure if you’ve ever come down to visit the Boston-based team of SWSG at 1 Milk Street.  We’re in a bustling area, on the edge of the financial district, but just close enough to the Common to have heavy tourist foot traffic.  We’re in a cute office surrounded by historic landmarks and shops.  However, the main drag of Washington Street on which we’re situated has seen a lot of store overturn – Filene’s debacle, anyone?  We’ve taken it in stride, but our staff was all too disappointed when our favorite coffee shop (nestled within a bookstore) announced that they were closing.  Aside from the fact that I will have to look elsewhere for a morning Latte (somehow I will prevail), the closing of this chain actually means that 10,000 employees, nationwide, will find themselves out of work as each store closes.  While I think the closing of this chain bookstore is due more to the online shift in book retail (anyone else rocking a Kindle recently? All this to say that a struggling economy supports technology that makes business more efficient, less costly, and more consumer accessible/friendly) one of the casualties of the economic depression and its subsequent recovery period where we now find ourselves has been employment.
If you think back to 2007 (aahhh, when it was okay that I didn’t have a smartphone) there was basically no difference in unemployment rates between men and women. During the recession, however, men dominated the unemployment line because of huge cuts to male dominated industries (manufacturing and construction) but now that we are two years into the labeled recovery this gap is closing – fast.  In fact, women are losing jobs at an alarming rate (281,000 jobs lost for women in the last two years) while job creation has largely favored men (805,000 jobs gained for men in the last two years).  The hardest hit groups of women?  Single moms, foreign-born women, and women veterans.
Single women with children have an unemployment rate of 12.3% (5.8% for married women, and 9.2% nationally).  Because women still earn, on average, only 81 percent of what men earn, single moms will work longer (and harder?) this year to provide.  The jobs that provide the most flexibility for working moms are often hourly (see: bookstores and coffee shops?) and for the companies to save money, they offer part-time employment to save on the cost of employee benefits.  Compound this with the fact that if you happen to be laid off from said bookstore – you are likely to be ineligible for unemployment insurance because of the part-time, low-wage status.  Of course both men and women have been hugely affected by a suffering economy.  So how do you promote economic and gender equity as the recovery continues?  I think training for well-paying employment is more critical now than ever before.   Even though stores will continue to turn over their leases in our cities, soon, hopefully, Washington Street will find sound footing.  So, as our staff searches for a new place for coffee, I think it’s important to think about the tools we give our young women to make decisions for themselves as employment (not to mention other life choices) approaches.