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USSF addresses women’s issues

June 24, 2010

“]It’s often said, “You can tell a lot about a society by the role its women play.” The community of folks gathered at the US Social Forum are an example of an adage in action, showing by example that a just world is possible for women.

In the meantime, a lot of work needs to be done. Scores of USSF workshops are sharing how to do that work. Several of them spoke to the issue of women and poverty.

In the workshop, “Women’s Poverty through th e Lens of Social Documentary photographer Milton Rogovin,” facilitator Toma Lynn Smith, of the Louisville National Organization of Women, presented some striking facts about how women are undervalued in the US.

  • Women annually contribute $15 trillion worth of unpaid work to the US economy in the form of care-giving and housework.
  • Though the first equal pay for equal work bill was introduced in 1950, women in 2010 only earn 77 cents for every dollar men earn.
  • Traditional “women’s work” is valued less than “men’s work” requiring comparable skill. For example, a male van driver earns $1,382 a month while a female clerk typist earns $1,115.
  • Women performing jobs traditionally held by men face many challenges from co workers and often lag in advancement.
  • Men performing jobs traditionally held by women often are chosen for advancement over women co-workers.

From 1952 to 2002, Rogovin traveled the world taking photos of the working poor because, as he said, “The rich have their own photographers.” His photos  show poor women toiling as coal miners, a bartender, a storefront preacher, sex workers, steel millers and caregivers.

One middle-aged woman attending the workshop wisely commented about a photo of a woman doing grueling work in a factory, “She seems to be saying ‘this is the length I will go to make things work for my family, so my daughter can become a teacher and my son an attorney… and that’s personal.”

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