Stephanie Clark is a single African-American mom and a businesswoman who after years in corporate America struck out on her own.
An entrepreneur who in recent years has launched two for-profit and two non-profit businesses, Clark is part of a fast growing segment of America’s workforce, women.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor women now make up 47 percent of the country’s workforce when compared with just 33 percent, 50 years ago.
A newly released report by the White House and the National Economic Council entitled, Jobs and Economic Security for America’s Women focused on this growth but also focused attention on what the Obama administration has done for the increasing number of women workers.
The first bill the president signed into law after being inaugurated was the Lilly Ledbetter Act which made it easier for female workers to sue when they felt they weren’t receiving pay equal to what a man received.
Dr. Roderick Harrison a researcher at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies expressed some concern about the tone and tenor of the report.
“I think it’s trying to take credit for a lot of things, for long term trends that far precede his administration,” he said.
However, Harrison feels that the administration’s emphasis on providing SBA loans to increase the number of women entrepreneurs is noteworthy.
Many of the job losses, which began in December 2007 and lasted until June 2009 according to the National Bureau of Economic Research, affected men, but women were not immune from job loss.
“The reason why people think that it did disproportionately affect men more than women, is because it did, men saw the majority of job losses, but it didn’t stop there, so there were losses in other sectors,” said Dr. Cecilia Rouse, a member of the White House Council of Economic Advisers.
Job losses in retail trade, leisure and hospitality, and financial management Rouse says affected women the most.“It’s been a rollercoaster ride,” said Clark referring to the economic conditions of the last several years but she also noted. “The past two years have probably been my most financially successful years as a business owner.”
The administration notes that African-American women are about twice as likely to be unemployed when compared to white women. In September the African-American female unemployment rate was over 13 percent, 7 percent for white women, and 11 percent for Hispanic women.
For those women still employed, “It’s been difficult to assume additional financial responsibilities when a mate is underemployed or now unemployed,” Clark said.
They make up an increasing number of female breadwinners of all races.
“It is one of the greater longer term challenges facing us, how to balance family and work life. Clearly that burden of that imbalance rests much more heavily on women, than on men, especially on single mothers,” said Harrison.
Clark is encouraged by the initiatives the Obama administration wants to undertake from increased focus on education and job training, to small business development, and money management training.
Harrison is clear to note that the President’s economic stimulus package has already helped many African-American women to stay employed, because much of the money went to states that kept teachers and other workers employed.
Clark still wants a seat at the table, and a role in deciding where any federal funds go, because she says more need to be done for those women who are struggling.
“There is a huge population of single moms that are working hard but still struggling to make ends meet,” she said.
She hopes that in states all across the country there will be training for more profitable jobs like green jobs, which she hopes will help make up the wage gap, which persists.
For her it’s important that she says leaders know that any resources they allocate are, “Not to give us short time help, but a long term hand up.”
With Election Day just under a week away and attention being paid to the role women voters and specifically black women voters will play in the crucial midterm elections, it’s important that female voters feel satisfied that the President and his fellow Democrats have their best interests at heart.
Still Dr. Harrison says the recession didn’t just start or stop, and a full recovery might not be seen until well into President Obama’s second term, if he gets reelected.
“We lost too many jobs and with it too much income for the economy to restart itself over the next four to five years,” he said.