“On Women’s Equality Day, as we recognize the accomplishments that so many women fought so hard to achieve, we rededicate ourselves to tackling the challenges that remain and expanding opportunity for women and girls everywhere.” – Barack Obama
Women’s Equality Day is celebrated every year on August 26 in the United States to mark the American women’s continued efforts to achieve equality. The U.S. Congress officially acknowledged Women’s Equality Day in 1971. It is also celebrated in memory of the ratification of the nineteenth amendment of the US constitution, which guaranteed the American women their right to vote.
Although we appreciate how far women have come, it’s important to remember how far we still have to go.
The U.S. system is financially unwell. The APA’s 2017 Stress in America survey reports that 62% of Americans are stressed about money. A Federal Reserve Board survey reported almost half of Americans (44%) can’t cover a $400 emergency without borrowing money or selling something. 34% of Americans say they have $0 in savings (up from 28% in 2015) and 69% of Americans have less than $1,000 in savings. The Economic Policy Institute reports that half of all Americans have nothing put away for retirement. The average household with student loan debt has accumulated $46,597 in student loans. The average household with credit card debt has $15,654 in credit card debt.
Spoiler alert! It’s worse for women. According to the American Community Survey (ACS), the average woman in the United States makes 82 cents for every dollar a man makes. The gap widens for black women (62 cents), American Indian or Alaska Native (57 cents) and Hispanic women (54 cents). USA Today reported that globally, women may not receive equal pay for another 257 years. The gender pay gap leaves women in the U.S. less prepared to weather a financial blow than men.
Cue a global pandemic (plus the market uncertainty and low job security it brings) and we’ve got ourselves a perfect storm.
Beyond the gender pay gap, across all classes and races, women are getting hit the hardest by the economic impact of COVID-19. According to Bloomberg, the industries almost entirely shut down by the virus are disproportionately staffed by women. Women hold 53% of restaurant, hotel and accommodation jobs which are seeing layoffs and reduced hours due to social distancing directives. Even more, moms working remotely are taking on the majority of unpaid labor at home while balancing their virtual workday.
Still not angry? In addition to earning less than their male counterparts for the same job, and being more at risk during market and life disrupting moments, like scary viruses, women also pay more for…wait for it…basic household items. That’s right. The “pink tax” is the extra cost on many products marketed directly to women, like clothing or hygiene products. $1-2 per item over a lifetime adds up to thousands of dollars extra each.damn.year.
What Can You Do?
Many of these issues are systemic, outside of our direct sphere of influence, and are expected to take decades to solve. But don’t despair. Now that we got you good and angry, let’s channel that energy into things we can control, starting today.
Be Intentional: Without a system of financial education in place, we need to seek out the answers on our own. Take a course, listen to a podcast, and find the financial resources you need to make values-based decisions with your money. Since women are paid less, our money needs to be working harder to keep pace with our male counterparts.
Don’t be shy…talk money: Start talking about it…because not talking about it is costing us big time! Challenge the taboo, open the lines of communication with friends and family and lift the veil of secrecy. Transparency around salaries helps women negotiate for equal pay and achieve their goals.
Paycheck Check-In: Research average salaries for your industry, location, and experience level to see if you’re earning what you should. If you’re making below what you should consider requesting a pay increase.
Always Negotiate: Unless you’re told otherwise, there’s often more money behind a job offer. Research average salaries, prepare your value-add pitch and practice making the ask. 55% of women say they have never asked for a raise. You could miss out of $600,000 to $1.5 million over a lifetime by never negotiating your salary.
And then negotiate some more: Consider negotiating non-salary items like vacation days, professional development funds, flex work arrangements (hello, four-day workweek!), or your job title. Some of these things can benefit you greatly in the future.