In October 2009, the national unemployment rate reached a staggering 10% following The Great Recession. Since then, rates have steadily dropped to a more acceptable 5% nationally and 4.6% in the City of Pittsburgh, but unemployment in Homewood-Brushton remains unreasonably high. Today, unemployment in Homewood’s labor force is 23%, meaning almost a quarter of the people able to work cannot find a job. But even some people that are able to find employment do not make enough money and are living below the federal poverty line: approximately $18,000 for a family of three. This is a huge problem for the neighborhood overall, but the women of Homewood carry the heaviest burden when dealing with poverty.
IMPORTANCE AND IMPLICATIONS
The entire neighborhood of Homewood-Brushton suffers from the heavy effect of poverty placed on the women in the community. In Homewood-Brushton, the majority of residents, or 60%, are women, about 53% of residents live in a family household, and the large majority of households with children under 18 years old are headed by single women at 75%. Looking at this information and the fact that most households living in poverty in Homewood are headed by women, 88.5%, this becomes a huge problem. In addition, there is a significant discrepancy in unemployment rates when looking at race. Black, Hispanic, and Mixed-Race residents are much more likely to be unemployed than their white counterparts living in Homewood. Overall, those living in poverty in Homewood make up 35% of the population but this has much more profound effects on the women, and especially women of color living in the community.
When looking at women’s situation in poverty, it is important to keep in mind how the multiple aspects of their identity play into and shape their experience in poverty from an intersectional approach. Intersectionality requires that we look at a situation to consider how often oppressive institutions overlap and contribute to one another, and how this affects people’s personal identities and realities. For many women in Homewood, no one part of their identity can be viewed in isolation. Their experience in poverty is inseparable from their experience as women, which for many, is also inseparable from their experience as people of color.
An intersectional approach also mandates that we look at the multiple aspects of women’s identity in their daily lives. These women are not just low-income or people of color, they are also mothers, caregivers, workers, and much more. To mitigate their situation in poverty, we must look at a solution that does not see them as just workers, but takes a holistic solution that considers factors from all parts of their identity.
To improve the situation of women in poverty, we need to find solutions that do not strip women’s identity as workers from their identities as influential women in their community as mothers, partners, caregivers that have been affected by underinvested education systems and high incarceration rates as well as systemic racism and sexism among other forces in society. Some potential solutions are:
Support for the Fight for 15!
- The Fight for 15 is an international movement that demands a living wage for all workers and the protection of union rights. This takes an intersectional approach to women in the workforce as it looks at what single parent families need to care for their households and puts women at the center of the narrative of why workers need $15 and a union. (video clip).
Increased Public Sector Jobs
- Currently, the majority of women (and men) employed in Homewood work in the private sector, while only 17.6% of employed women work in the public sector. The city of Pittsburgh should strive to create more public sector jobs in Homewood, which would have multiple benefits such as:
- A greater investment of public money towards the neighborhood, which would better public services and could improve transit, education or infrastructure within the community.
- Public sector jobs provide greater benefit programs and pensions, which would be helpful for women leading households.
- Jobs through the city of Pittsburgh will pay a $15/hr minimum wage by 2021 via an executive order from Mayor Peduto.
- Public job applications do not include questions related to former criminal charges.
Increased First Source Employment
- New developments in the community should hire first from the community.
- To ensure that the community is qualified, this should be supported by increased job training that includes child care and federal subsidies, which allows women with children to attend and betters outcomes.