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Ms Magazine’s Executive Editor Kathy Spillar expects President Obama’s
economic stimulus package to be a transformative opportunity for women
in spite of the shovel ready infrastructure jobs that it promises to generate.
How will women fare in this economic climate?

Story Transcript

Economic stimuli: Will it benefit women?

SHARMINI PERIES, TRNN: Welcome back to our interview with Kathy Spillar. She is the executive editor of Ms. Magazine. Part 2, we’re going to focus on Barack Obama’s new administration, and the economic crisis we are in, and the stimulus package that he’s offering up, and what that stimulus package means for women. Tell us what is in the stimulus package for women.

KATHERINE SPILLAR, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, MS. MAGAZINE: Well, we’ve been involved in several meetings with the transition team over making sure that the stimulus package includes investment in sectors where women’s jobs are going to be strongly impacted, and we’re thrilled that money is going into education, into health care, early childhood development. These are—.

PERIES: You were afraid at the early onset of the talk about the stimulus package. They were talking about construction, they were talking about very heavy duty industrial, building bridges and so on, and you were concerned that this might not be such a great stimulus package for women.

SPILLAR: Well, it wouldn’t have been if that was all we were talking about, because to this day discrimination against women in the building trades and in construction sector is still—women are only about 10 percent of all of those jobs. So we were worried that with all the talk about “shovel-ready” that most of the jobs that would be created would be men’s jobs. But we’re very pleased that the new administration has understood the impact of how that money is spent. You know, women are now 48 percent of the workforce. Many women are heads of household, the sole breadwinner. And so it was very important that we were assured that women would be included. And as a result, we’re very pleased. In fact, this transition team released an analysis of the economic stimulus plan based on the number of men’s jobs and the number of women’s jobs that would be created for the first time.

PERIES: What can women expect, then?

SPILLAR: Well, it looks like about 42 percent of the jobs that will be created in this whole initial period will be women’s jobs in health care and education, social work, social services, very critical sectors for a functioning economy. So we’re very pleased.

PERIES: And what about in terms of the single mothers, and the stimulus package related to housing, and so on? How will that affect women who are trying to run a family, for example?

SPILLAR: Well, and run businesses. Many small businesses are credit-starved right now. So we’re hoping that these recovery packages for the banking sector are going to find their way into the household accounts of women. And women are a very large part of the financial industry employment force. We’re worried, of course, as everybody is, that some of this money has been misspent. So we’re hoping this new administration will crack down and make sure that the money is going to relieve the credit crunch that hits women in businesses, women who are struggling to hang onto that mortgage, and, hopefully, make a real difference for the country.

PERIES: How will you know that Barack Obama’s going to actually deliver on this package for women? What are some of the indicators you’ll be looking out for?

SPILLAR: Well, we’ll see where that money is being allocated and spent. Is it going to health care, where women are the majority of nurses and home health care workers? Is it going to education, where women are still dominant in K through 12 and in early childhood development and child care programs? Women are virtually the total workforce. We want to see good-paying living wages, which this new president is committed to. And so we’ll watch that money; we’re going to watchdog it. We’re going to be organizing. We’re working very closely with the transition team and now the new administration, and we’re very close to the new labor secretary, Hilda Solis. She understands the importance of women in this economy and better-paying jobs for women who are struggling to survive. So we feel we’re going to have a tremendous opportunity to lend our expertise and to bring experts to the table, so that we can help, as the whole country is helping, to move forward again.

PERIES: Great. In terms of President Obama’s appointments, you have some friends, as you said, inside the administration now. You’re working with some of his appointments. Besides the appointment on labor, who else would you consider a friend of the feminists?

SPILLAR: Secretary of State, the new Secretary of State Hillary Clinton—of course, long relationship with women’s rights organizations—understands these issues and the importance of focusing on women and girls internationally for civil society and for development, which is so important to peace. And, frankly, just about every woman he has named to this cabinet and this new administration—we’re very pleased. Many of them have long histories of working for women’s equality at the local level and at the national level. We feel that it’s a very integrated new administration. We’re always pushing for more women. We think that women at the table make a difference in the discussion about what to do. They make sure that there’s a focus on the differences that women—different roles that we play in our society and worldwide. So we’re very hopeful that already the track record is good and that it will continue, and that women will be at these decision-making tables.

PERIES: Kathy, there’s one more thing I’d like to ask you, which is about the Lilly Ledbetter Act, which will be a real litmus test in terms of Barack Obama’s administration and its response to the feminist call. So let’s discuss that in the next segment, and please join us for Segment 3 with Kathy Spillar, where we will discuss the Lilly Ledbetter Act.


Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

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Katherine Spillar is the Executive Director and co-founder of Feminist Majority, and the Executive Editor of Ms. Magazine.