Fredrickson's Under the Bus: How Working Women are Being Run Over.

Fredrickson, C. (2015). Under the bus: How working women are being run over. The New Press: New York.

Summary: In this book, Fredrickson details the long history of how policy and deeply rooted beliefs about gender roles for women have historically discriminated against and continue to discriminate against women and particularly women of color and their opportunities to work. She advocates for policies for universal programs to level the playing field by providing affordable childcare, early childhood education, public education, and paid family and medical leave for parents.  Throughout the book, she cites research and chronicles individual stories of women who are facing such discrimination.

  • Women continue to experience unequal pay for the same work as men because of direct and indirect discrimination.
    • Direct discrimination – employers are paying women less simply because they are women (p. 44). Deeply held beliefs such as women being innately less intelligent, men being the sole providers and breadwinners for families, women should stay home to care for children, or women are exploitable contribute to the direct discrimination.
    • Indirect discrimination – undervaluing so-called “women’s work” and entrenched occupational segregation where jobs routinely held by women are paid less than men’s jobs despite the fact that those jobs require comparable education and skills (p. 45).
  • “Many women continue to work in fields dominated by women works, which are categorically paid less than those dominated by men” (p. 45).
  • “Professions dominated by women, such as secretarial work and nursing, pay less than those where men are the majority of workers, even when the jobs demand the same level of training and experience” (p. 67). Teaching is one of them.
  • “Occupational segregation contributes significantly to the wage differential between men and women” (p. 67).
  • Even when men assume “traditional women’s jobs” they receive pay advances and promotions more quickly than women (p. 69).
  • “…many cases challenging oppressive and sexualized workplaces involve women who tried to step into these male-dominated roles. The fact is that these jobs pay significantly better than those filled by women, so keeping women out of them means blocking new opportunities and broader horizons” (p. 71).
  • Women are often subjected to racial and sexual harassment and many times are not protected under the antidiscrimination laws (p. 64). Women who speak out often find themselves fired.
  • ·The same is true for women who become pregnant. They often find themselves fired or unable to be hired when employers find out they are pregnant.  Having children is one of the biggest factors for women sliding from middle class into poverty because of the lack of protection against discrimination, access to affordable childcare, and paid family leave.
    • “The unfortunate truth about motherhood in America is that it is one of the causes of lingering inequality between men’s and women’s wages” (p. 189).
    • “True choice means that women who want to stay home with children do that because they want to and not because lack of paid family leave and child care, unequal pay, and fewer job opportunities make staying in the workforce impossible” (p. 189).
  • “Women are the backbone of the low-wage economy because of discrimination and because they are concentrated in female-dominated occupations, making them the majority of workers who earn the minimum wage, as well as those who make less and slightly more” (p. 78).
  • Employers have found ways to exploit workers by making more part time or independent contractors to avoid paying benefits.
  • “Families depend more and more on women’s income, meaning that unpaid leave is the same as no leave for too many” (p. 152).
  • “Making sure that all women, and not just a few, have paid leave will help address the economic inequality that is growing even larger in America” (p. 155).
  • Paid leave addresses economic and gender equality, protects the health of women and children, and ultimately supports businesses bottom line by protecting costs associated with worker turnover.
  • Because of unpaid leave, women often do not have a choice to stay home and without options of affordable childcare, children are left to self-care, which can be hazardous to their health and wellbeing.
  • Policies for investing in children and supporting women who work are pitiful in the United States, with the U.S. ranking the third to last among developed countries. France leads the world in high quality, affordable and available childcare. They require trained educators, advanced degrees and certifications, and equal pay for early childhood workers.
    • “When we fail to invest in the early years, we end up paying for it in the end: it is well documented that children without adequate care are more likely to have troubles in school, end up in jail or unemployed, or need urgent hospital care, all of which gets paid for by taxpayers” (p. 185).
  • “Lastly, to make this work, we cannot neglect the caregivers and teachers who need to be paid a decent salary and must have qualifications to care for young children. Unfortunately, we continue to undervalue the function of child care, holding the benighted attitude that because women have done this job uncompensated for generations, it need not be compensated at all, and certainly not compensated fairly” (p. 188).
  • “Moreover, we must finally accept that women work and that many of them also have caregiving responsibilities. We need to address the fact that not providing certain benefits – such as paid leave, or any leave at all – disproportionately harms women and thus should be seen as direct discrimination. Like other countries and more forward-thinking jurisdictions in the United States, we need family leave for all parents and children care for all children. It is not a luxury, but a necessity” (p. 195).
  •  “The United States is a country that prides itself as leading the world in all things, but here is an area where we not only fall short but are among the worst” (p. 198). The United States should be ashamed of its policies that discriminate against women and they also should be ashamed at their inability to address such discrimination. “This shame needs to become a rallying cry for more and more Americans. And it isn’t just a matter of equality, dignity, or feminism, but an actual bottom-line concern for our economy” (p. 199).
  •  “So let’s take up the challenge of giving birth to that new dream, where learning in really means leaning together, where we face the reality that, except for a tiny elite, there’s no ‘opting out’” (p. 200).