7 Issues Facing Women Today - NY Times Series Day 3 (of 7)
DAY 3 | BY KRISTIN WONG
It wasn’t so long ago that a woman couldn’t get a credit card without her husband’s signature.
The Equal Credit Opportunity Act put an end to that in 1974.
But women, nearly five decades on, still don’t have equal footing with men when it comes to money.
First, there is the ever-present gender wage gap. In the U.S., women over all earn 82 cents for every dollar a man earns, according to a report from the American Association of University Women, an advocacy organization, and Black women earn even less — 62 cents. For Hispanic women, the stats are even more grim, at 54 cents on the dollar.
“The gender pay gap leaves women economically insecure at a most vulnerable time in life.”
— Kimberly Churches, chief executive of the American Association of University Women
According to research by the A.A.U.W., women receive fewer Social Security benefits and lower pension income than men, leading to an average retirement income that’s only 70 percent of men’s. A big reason for this gap is lifetime salary. Because women earn less than men over the course of their careers, they’re also paying less into Social Security.
So lower wages not only are a burden during a woman’s working years, but affect a woman’s retirement years, too. This is especially troublesome given that women on average outlive men by six to eight years.
You might think women would be able to close the pay gap by simply asking for more money. But it’s not that easy. While all women face a social penalty for negotiating in the workplace — they are viewed as unlikable when they negotiate because this type of “assertive” behavior is not expected of them — Black employees face an additional financial penalty for negotiating. A 2018 study showed that Black employees received lower starting salaries than their white counterparts if they tried to negotiate.
In other words, the gender pay gap both reflects and reinforces gender inequality. Because of the “motherhood penalty,” women who have children miss out on about $16,000 a year due to limiting family leave policies and workplace biases, according to the National Women’s Law Center. Mothers are also less likely to be hired than fathers. While women receive a penalty for becoming parents, men receive a bonus. According to data from Third Way, a national think tank, men’s earnings increase more than 6 percent when they have children while women’s decrease 4 percent.
Equality may feel like the right ethical thing, but it makes economic sense, too. If countries were to prioritize gender equality in pay, the McKinsey Global Institute estimates that the global G.D.P. could increase by a whopping $12 trillion.
The coronavirus pandemic presented another devastating gap for women. Women accounted for a majority of Americans who became unemployed in April 2020. That’s in large part because female-dominated industries were especially hard hit — a particularly painful fact after women overtook men in the U.S. labor market in December of 2019.
For women of color, the job numbers were even worse.
In May, the unemployment rate for women was 13.1 percent, compared with 10 percent for men. For Black women, the rate was 16.5 percent and for Hispanic women it was 19 percent, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
With schools and day cares closed, single mothers, in particular, faced a stark choice of finding child care or quitting work to stay home. A third of single mothers were already living below the poverty line, and a million of them have lost jobs since February.
Even financial advice and resources are gendered — and not especially in a way that helps women. Some financial advisers give female clients different advice than male clients. While women may have different financial priorities, this advice seems to be based more on gendered stereotypes than anything else.
In one study, published in the National Bureau of Economic Research, advisers were more likely to ask male clients about their personal and financial situation in devising a solid, customized investment plan. By contrast, female clients were less likely to be asked about their financial situation, leading the female clients to get worse advice.
Specifically, “female clients were asked to hold more liquidity, advised to hold less international exposure, and pushed less frequently to invest in actively managed funds,” the study found. In other words, women were advised to take less risk with their investments, which could ultimately reduce how much money they earn over time.