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As a Woman, I could not be happier with my sex from birth. I LOVE being a girl, acting as a lady, living a full, demanding, and continually interesting life. Yet, despite that I would never trade being a woman for anything, I have to admit there are days I could do without some of the tangles and grievances so many women have to suffer only because we are women as opposed to men. 

Have you had days that leave you in some doubt that you are not as valued as your male counterpart? Have you been made to feel the full weight of your lesser social position and maybe even your implicit lack of intelligence – because you’re a girl? 

Let’s be clear, it is not the agenda of all men to habitually demoralize the women in their lives, but those who do – well, they seem to make up for those who don’t. Their words sting and bite so viciously when they vividly illustrate women as less capable, less intelligent, or less deserving as I was raised to believe. Sometimes worse are the days spent waiting for the men around me to just catch up with my thoughts, plans or ideas. Why does it seem as though it takes them twice as long to arrive at the same correct conclusions? Why must we play the political game of attempting to enable men to believe our good ideas are theirs so that action might commence? 

So yes, women have it rough some days. Aside from any political point of view, educational perspective or corporate achievement scale – we just do. Still, I wouldn’t trade it, because we also have it VERY good!

I believe everyone – regardless of race or gender – has a list of grievances and a similar list of gratitude. They are simultaneously similar and different. Still, in general, I believe women truly do get the short end of most sticks. Sometimes through the intent of others, and sometimes due to our genetics – and other times – it’s just luck.

I grew up during the 1970s. Gloria Steinem and her contemporaries were all over the news as strong women fighting for equality on their battlefields. 

That was 1970. Fifty years ago!! Do you know that within those 50 years, the Equal Rights Amendment has still NEVER been ratified? It’s true.

TODAY Women are still not afforded equal standing as citizens according to the Constitution of the United States. It’s hard to believe, isn’t it? There have been a few workarounds; laws around voting eligibility, equal pay, etc., but nothing that provides – equal treatment under the law as a facet of Constitutional Right.

The Equal Rights Amendment was presented to Congress in 1923 and passed by both the House and Senate in 1960. Just this piece took over 40 years to accomplish. From there, the amendment was sent to the states for ratification. 38 States were required to make it law. Congress received ratification from 35 and had until 1977 to gain the remaining THREE states to ratify the amendment into law. 

Since then, five states have revoked ratification. Imagine that. They revoked ratification! The deadline has been extended several times. Some states have even ratified it after the deadline creating a legal battle around whether those ratifications are legal or not. In light of the five states that have revoked their ratification – also done after the deadline – well, more confusion in the courts.

Equal Rights Amendment – You can check your state here.

So what now? It seems impossible to pick up this mantel after such an age, with so much changed since the language of the amendment was drafted. But is it less important now? Likely not. 

We need it more than ever. But until we get it we will have to cobble together our own protections in our defense. Nowhere is this more necessary than in the world of finance.

For women, the financial inequities that exist in our lives are real and costly. 

We make less.

On average, women make $0.85 for every dollar a man earns. That percentage decreases for women of minority. This is not news. On its own, it’s not a financial death sentence. It’s in combination with other inequities where it become dangerous. Women work more hours than men. Jobs typically held by women pay a lesser wage like those in service and retail. Other positions, like teachers and nurses were always considered to be more supportive than integral and have therefore never been appropriately valued. Finally, job categories for women have long been thought of as though they provide additional income to a family as opposed to supportive incomes. Women are paid less because it’s neve been important to pay them a head-of-household wage.

If the goal of our work is to support our families while we earn and prepare for retirement, then we need to work more years than men to reach the same retirement savings goal. 

We live longer.

This is a fact. Women tend to outlive their husbands by five years almost 80% of the time! For most of us, this means that the end of our lives will be spent alone. After our spouses die, we alone will face rising healthcare costs, more damaging effects of inflation, a reduced income when our social security vanishes as we move to what our husband had earned and forfeit ours. Finally, we’ll pay tax at a much higher rate, because the single tax rate is higher than the married rate. In short, we will be financially penalized because our husbands have died. 

The part nobody talks about is that if we live longer and will spend more years in retirement our savings needs to larger to support that. We will need more money.

Our careers are interrupted more easily and frequently as we build and care for families.

Few men must make the choice between pursuing a career or having a family. However, most women do. When women stop working to have children, two financial impacts occur; they lose career momentum and interrupt wage increases. Both negatively affect earnings over time. 

Not only do women pause careers and the income that goes with those to have families in the early years, but they also often make the same choice in later years when aging parents need help. Since out parents are living longer than previous generations, and the cost of care is prohibitive, the option to look after parents on our own dime is sometimes the most economic one. 

Women become disabled more frequently.

Have you ever been disabled by an illness or accident? If you haven’t, you’ve been lucky. Typically, 25% of women will become disabled at least once during their working years with the average disability lasting about 2 ½ years. A disability is any condition that makes it impossible to perform the duties of your job on a full-time basis. If you couldn’t work, would you be okay financially? If your paycheck stopped, would it affect your lifestyle? Would it affect your ability to save for retirement? Most women do not own their own disability income protection insurance policy. However, considering that women are already behind the eight-ball from an earnings standpoint, they probably should. 

We earn fewer social security benefits because we tend to make less and have career interruptions.

The Social Security Administration has a formula they use to determine everyone’s social security benefit in retirement. That formula is based on the 35 highest earning years of each person’s career. It does not matter if the years are contiguous, or when they occur in someone’s life. The 35 highest earning years will be considered. If there aren’t 35 years during which money was earned, they fill in the missing years with zeros – as long as there were at least ten.

What does all this add up to? Less. Now and in the future women will have less money and less wealth than their male counterparts.

The only way to counteract these statistics and genetic effects is to work longer, live on less. Neither of which sounds like a great strategy. 

My grandmother was fantastic! I loved her dearly. She was progressive, feminine, out-spoken, extremely intelligent, and so very wise. At times, I believed her ideas were outlandish, but as I mature, I find her ideas around gender inequity less and less incredible. She was fiercely independent for a girl born in 1917. I remember her comments about those 1970s equal rights protests. 

She questioned why so many women worked so hard to break into the world men worked within. As far as she was concerned, having men around when you were trying to get anything done just slowed you down most because of their uncanny ability to get in the way or ask questions you’d already worked out the solution to ages ago. 

I’m not sure she was entirely correct in her assessment. Perhaps more accurately, I’m not sure her view of the world translates very well to current conditions. So much has changed for women since she was born. Despite the gains we have achieved, there are still many more to be earned. 

If she had had the opportunity to earn a corporate title during her lifetime, it would have been ‘Executive Producer.’ She was the one that made sure that everyone did their work. 

During her lifetime she saw a depression, wars, sickness, an industrial age, political unrest, massive changes to technologies which materially changed the way people worked – many of which affected how women worked and how their work was valued. 

She was a consistent and strong advocate for women and their right to both earn their own money, achieve their own financial security and remain entirely feminine in the process.  

Just like it, only different / Beth Freudenburg, MBA,

Post Author: Jackson Cymerman