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Originally published as "Jobs for Men but Not for Women?" The Nation, December 14, 2021.
Is sex discrimination in employment illegal? Congress isn’t sure. It enacted a Jobs for Men bill; however, it’s still waffling on the Jobs for Women follow-up. The nation knows we need the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act’s improved roads, bridges, green tech, and broadband services—and (coincidentally?) the hundreds of thousands of good jobs these things require will largely go to men, in the current work scheme.
But some aren’t sure we need the kind of infrastructure support embedded (along with other programs) in the Build Back Better (BBB) Act, which both creates a million-plus well-paid care jobs (largely filled by women initially) and allows the mothers of the kids newly in care to take jobs in all fields. In a post-BBB world, those fields could include infrastructure jobs, from which women were long excluded—largely because of lack of child care, which kept mothers’ from working full-time. Likewise, if child care is well-paid, it can attract male workers. BBB will destabilize the gendered work- and wage-assignment system currently weighing us down.