Thursday, July 10, 2008

Women's Economics in the News

I was minding the news this morning like I normally do (click here to read my current event blog, Cigars in the Parlour), and I encountered several stories on women and the economy.  Naturally my ears perked up since we are discussing that very thing this week.  

Talks about women and the economy in the media tend to vary a bit from what I like to banter about, but it is definitely worth listening to what others are saying.

First to speak was Barack Obama, presidential candidate for '08.  Obama was asked about his plans for economic policy if he were to be elected into office, and I was intrigued to hear that he has chosen women as his target.  He said that the reason he is focusing on women is because we earn less on average than men, we are still in need of family-friendly policies in the workplace, and we need avenues to pursue discrimination lawsuits if we have been wronged.  Unsurprisingly, these are the common talking points about women and the economy from politicians.  They like to focus on the structural problems in the workplace that can inhibit women from excelling to their full potential.  Structural problems like lower wages, lack of childcare, lack of flexible work times, and discrimination.  

Certainly I think that these structural problems are worth tackling.  However, the SHEconomy is more about what we can do to take ownership of the economy in our lives and our communities, and less about what politicians can do from the top.  Needless to say, the tactics may be complimentary, but they are different.  

I do agree with Obama: women are a key to our future economic success.  Another article (okay, so this one was on Islam and insurance--not women) sparked my thinking in light of this discussion.  The article discussed the concept of solidarity as a principle for insurance in Islamic cultures.  I had to stop reading right in the middle and look up "solidarity."  The term means unity, particularly among a group of people who share a common vision.  I immediately considered that if Muslim insurance professionals could apply the concept to their business model, then certainly we could apply it to the SHEconomy.  Solidarity really is one of the keystones of women's economics.  It will be in our close relational ties and care for the commonwealth that our economic strengths will shine.  

A third article on women and careers was the final one to cross my path.  This was a blog post exploring the idea of entrepreneurship as an "encore career" for women (encore meaning a career later-in-life during retirement).  The author is interested in this possibility for older women who are seeking creative, productive, wage-earning work, but also flexibility and control.  My first reaction?  Why not explore this for All women, not just the recently retired?  

In sum, reading and listening to these stories highlighted three elements of the SHEconomy:
1.  it is not about reforming the structural challenges in the workforce, though they are needed.  Rather, it is about maximizing a specific ground-level economic lifestyle (more on this to come).
2.  one if its hallmarks is solidarity.
3.  another of its hallmarks is entrepreneurship

The SHEconomy is a lifestyle, not a series of policy recommendations.  And it is for all women--working, staying at home, retired--because it is based on the economic strengths of being a woman.  

I admire journalists and politicians who recognize that women are a foundational asset to the economy, and I welcome their ideas and actions.  But I also recognize that articles and policy recommendations only go so far.  By nurturing the SHEconomy in your life and your community, you are putting your stamp on the economy.  True, you may not be published for it, or get an interview on the Today Show.  But you will create positive things for your family and your neighborhood.  

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