Republished from the Urban Pioneer
COLUMBIA — Brent Coffman has a lot of free time these days. After working 15 years as a janitor, he is now unemployed. While he does yardwork, his wife, Brenda, works in an office.
“It’s tough,” he said. “It is. I’m not gonna lie to you. It’s tough. I just hate to have her bring in everything and me not be able to help.”
Coffman’s situation is not unusual. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 5 million men were unemployed last year compared with about 3.9 million women.
Gary Taylor, branch manager of Job Point, an employment and training agency, said he thinks struggling male-dominated industries cause this fluctuation.
“Especially in the auto manufacturing industry (and) construction with the slowdown with the housing market and with the bank situation and loan freezes, those fields naturally have tended to go toward men,” he said. “And so if those sectors slow down, you’re gonna see more men laid off than women.”
At Job Point, Taylor experiences this difference firsthand. “Since we’re construction-oriented here quite a bit,” he said, “we’re seeing more men be affected than women with the economy.”
Women are being paid an average of $152 per week less than their male counterparts, according to bureau statistics.
Taylor said he hopes that jobs with highway construction projects will help to change that.
“There are going to be quite a few jobs that come with that,” he said. “And each one of those projects requires a certain percentage of the individuals that work on those jobs either be minorities, females or economically disadvantaged. We’re still dealing with things of the past as far as trying to update our thinking, but like I said, in our program itself, we’re pushing hard to try to change that.”
Coffman thinks these gender differences in the workforce are unfair. “I think it should be cut down the middle,” he said. “I think everybody should be treated equal.”