Economy: Women’s place in Idaho

“Idaho is heading for an employment crisis” is the opening line of a recent Idaho Press-Tribune article by Torrie Cope and Kelcie Moseley.  The pair reported that Idaho needs 100,000 jobs filled by 2018, with two-thirds requiring post-secondary training.  The hardest positions to fill will require bachelor’s degrees in computer science and technology, business and economics, engineering, health science, or communications.

I hope the article encourages young people to go onto college.  For me, it opened an old wound.  You see, about 20 years ago my younger child moved back to Idaho with a brand new engineering degree and an EIT certification—the engineering version of the accountants’ CPA.  Trus-Joist and Morrison-Knudsen offered interviews for positions in Colorado and Saudi Arabia, but no company offered a position in Idaho.  Many were dismissive and rude.  One Caldwell employer said that the California version of the EIT must be a lot easier than Idaho’s.

Hard to believe?

Maybe easier if you know that this bright young engineer was my daughter?

When I worked for a Seattle company in the 1970s, a woman civil engineer submitted a resume.  The managers handed the papers around like they were a clever joke, marveled that this day had come, and never considered actually interviewing the woman.

As equal rights became an issue, some companies felt pressured to hire women in higher positions.  A friend job-hunting with an electrical engineering degree found companies interviewing women engineers for jobs—like inventorying wires—that had formerly been done by clerks.

Finding that things were no better in Idaho 20 years later depressed me.  What had we accomplished if my daughters didn’t have more opportunities than women of my generation?  Well, in the long run Toni did, but not in Idaho, She became a project manager for Intel in Oregon.

Will my four granddaughters have better opportunities here?  The Cope-Moseley article suggests they will.  Other indicators are not so positive.

For one thing, the middle class as a whole is shrinking.  A recent study indicates that the number of Idaho households earning less than $25,000 will increase by 2019 while those earning over $50,000 will actually shrink.

For another, women may face open harassment at whatever level they work.  This last week a blogger who exposed video games that showed women abused and raped went into hiding after repeated death threats against her and her family.  And a U.S. Senator from Maine revealed comments that indicate even senators purposely put women down or are clueless on how to relate to them.  “Don’t lose too much weight.  I like my women pudgy.”

Two-thirds of today’s minimum wage earners are women.  A number of major organizations, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers, continue to fight against the equal pay act.

A recent study by the financial website WalletHub indicates that the United States as a whole has fallen to 23rd place in fairness and equality for women.

And Idaho ranks 48th among the states.  (Mississippi is 35th).  We rank 49th in “workplace environment” and “education and health,” but rise to 48th in “executive positions gap.”

Surprisingly, Idaho is 28th in “political empowerment” because one out of four of our Congressional and legislative delegations is a woman.  Yes, with a rate just half of what equal representation would be, Idaho ranks better than 22 other states.  That’s not  exactly good news.

Soon my younger daughter will be clutching another tech degree—this one a doctorate.  I’d love for her to get hired here in Idaho, but I’m not holding my breath.

 

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