Big hearts, empty pockets

Weight Watchers, one of the world’s largest and most popular dieting companies, relies on its group leaders to maintain this coveted description.

These employees, mostly women, recruit and retain members globally through the nearly 50,000 face-to-face meetings they hold and run every week. Often highly educated and highly skilled, these leaders are hired after losing dozens of pounds themselves, so they are eager to help others in the familiar battle with weight loss.

The company depends on these women to literally live the brand’s promise, yet they receive poor wages, work many unpaid hours, and have even recently inundated an internal company website expressing that their hard work and dedication go unrecognized.

Sharon H. Mastracci, an expert on women’s employment at the University of Chicago, said these circumstances parallel those in other female-dominated jobs, such as child care and social work.

“Caring work is undervalued, and they’re taking for granted that you care so much you’re going to be there no matter what,” says Mastracci about Weight Watchers.

The same problem exists in one of America’s fastest growing jobs – home health care aides. Baby Boomers are aging and this field is expected to grow by 70% in the next decade, according to the Labor Department. Paul Hogan, chairman of Home Instead Senior Care – a national home care services company- plans to hire 45,000 caregivers this year alone.

Expected increase in home care aides

This overwhelming demand for people to care for those who cannot care for themselves may be difficult to meet. The nearly 2 million workers, also mostly women, that are expected to change bedpans, prepare meals and clean the homes of elderly and disabled patients are making the same wages as a teenager flipping burgers at McDonald’s. They do not receive benefits and many rely on food stamps and federal assistance to get by.

While the Obama administration has been trying to enforce laws that will protect home health care aides and Weight Watchers executives have alluded to increased compensation, no changes have taken place yet.  While some dismiss the obvious, many of these workers blame their paltry pay on the simple fact that they are female. Click here to read more about these on-going battles.

By Jacqueline Monti

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