Cuts in benefits, services are unfair to women

October 19, 2011 5:45 AM

Aidan Smith

National Organization for Women (NOW) president Terry O’Neill reflected on the current economic crisis and how it impacts American women on Monday (Oct. 17) in a talk on the Tulane uptown campus.  In an open forum with students, alumni and community members, she elucidated why proposed cuts in Social Security, Medicare and family planning are disproportionately unfair to women.


Terry O'Neill

National Organization for Women president Terry O’Neill doesn’t mince words in her talk, “Women Need Jobs, Not Cuts.” She spoke on the Tulane uptown campus on Monday (Oct. 17). (Photo by Cheryl Gerber)

Leveraging her years of insight as an attorney and an activist, O’Neill did not mince words when she spoke about the role that gender has played in the economic downturn.

“The reality is that the country does not have a deficit crisis. The crisis we have in effect is a jobs crisis,” said O’Neill, who received her law degree from Tulane in 1980.

While some discussions about jobs plans speak of rebuilding the physical infrastructure of the country, many of those jobs are in traditionally male fields. O’Neill encouraged the audience to think about proposed cutbacks in government programs and the many layoffs of teachers, nurses and healthcare workers, positions typically held by women.

“Pay attention to the social infrastructure … the people whose work makes work possible,” said O’Neill, who since June 2009 has been president of NOW, the largest organization of feminist activists in the United States.

“O’Neill’s visit provided a rare opportunity for students to connect with a great woman leader who steers one of the few organizations working for public policy change on the broad spectrum of issues women face,” said Sally J. Kenney, executive director of the Newcomb College Institute, which sponsored the talk with the Tulane Law School. “Women have been disproportionately affected by the economic downturn, especially here in Louisiana, yet we hear little about the important gender and racial impacts of the current crisis.”

Aidan Smith is external affairs officer for the Newcomb College Institute.

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