‘Costs Of Being A Woman’ – Why Women Have 70% Of What Men Do

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What if you had to pay more for the exact same cup of coffee at the diner than the person next to you?

That, in effect, is what happens to women, day after day for a lifetime. Earning substantially less than their male counterparts over time — 83% of men’s earnings according to the Census Bureau — women then have much less in all types of lifetime finances, including social security benefits, because those are based on your earnings. “As a result of lower lifetime earnings, they (women) receive less in Social Security and pensions. In terms of overall retirement income, women have only 70% of what men do,” AAUW reported in The Simple Truth About The Gender Pay Gap,

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Women also live longer than men, therefore, risking running out of money as they age, when they have much less capacity to earn it. Women then have much less money to invest and, therefore, earn less from those investments (if they have any), and therefore, have less wealth.

As a result, women have substantially less financial leverage to do more with, such as to cover college tuitions or buy a home, and may have lower credit scores too. It’s a domino effect throughout women’s lives and throughout the financial and economic system writ large because women make 85% of consumer purchases.

So, that $4 latte at Starbucks is a much higher percentage of a woman’s income than it is for a man.

While we celebrate women’s achievements this Women’s History Month 2022, it’s sobering to remember how very far we have yet to go. It’ll take 135.6 years to close the gender gap worldwide at today’s pace, according to the World Economic Forum.

Women in STEM careers fare a bit better than women in other careers. AAUW wrote in an email that women in STEM careers earned about 89.7% of men’s median weekly earnings in 2021, compared to 83% for other industries, citing this BLS table,

Women’s consumer products cost more than men’s too

“Women have tended to pay more for mortgages, more for car insurance, in fact women aged between 19 and 34 pay on average more than double what men pay on annual health spending, and these extra costs can be found in unexpected places,” Daniella Gibbs Léger, SVP of Communications at the Center for American Progress said in her opening remarks to their “Costs of Being A Woman” webinar yesterday. Jennifer Klein, Director of the White House Gender Policy Council also spoke there.

“Women’s shampoo is more expensive, women’s deodorant, women’s razors, haircuts, medical braces, getting a shirt dry cleaned, girls toys are more expensive, bicycles, backpacks, the list goes on and on. And none of that of course includes the fact that 27 states currently classified menstrual products as luxury items, which levies even more costs on those products because of the taxes associated with them,” Léger added.

More women in leadership will yield better financial outcomes for women

The World Economic Forum (WEF) says that gender pay inequality starts at the top. “The WEF attributed the ‘slow progress’ made globally towards closing this gap to income disparities and a lack of women in leadership positions, It said that a limited presence of women in senior roles was evidence that a ‘glass ceiling’ remained, even in advanced economies. For instance, it found that 42% of senior and managerial positions were held by women in the US, 36.8% in the UK, and 29% in Germany,” the Lords Library in the UK reported. The WEF added that the data may actually be worse, because it “did not fully reflect the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, and that in certain countries gender gaps in labor force participation had widened since the pandemic began. As a result, the WEF predicted that the economic gender gap could be 1–4% wider than reported by the 2021 index.”

Another factor that accounts for “as much as 51%” of the gap is what economists call occupational segregation, which is when gender norms and unconscious (or conscious) bias dictate who gets to work in which field and why. “Unconscious bias informs what types of careers are ‘suitable’ for women versus men, which are indoctrinated at a young age….Women face wider pay gaps in male-dominated occupations and industries.”

Giving great pause to women who choose traditionally male-dominated jobs in part because the pay is better – such as science, technology, engineering and math roles and sectors like energy – this report said, “when women enter occupational fields traditionally dominated by men, the pay for positions in those fields drops.”

Fixing the gender pay gap and gap in potential lifetime financial stability is, well, complicated. It’s an ecosystem problem that requires action by all aspects of the economic system, from policymakers, to business leaders, to consumer products companies, financial institutions, healthcare companies, the courts and academic institutions, and by the women themselves.

Women can help themselves, but….

Women do need to ask for more, but they don’t always know it’s available, plus, being held back for so long so many times can chip away at your confidence. In addition, women may be more reluctant to request higher pay, because it’s harder for them to land another job than it is for a guy.

For a vivid example of what women have had to endure in the workplace, especially women of color, just look at what Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson had to withstand in her Senate confirmation hearings for the US Supreme Court last week. The most qualified individual members nominated to serve on the high court in terms of both credentials and temperament, probably in history, was insulted, degraded, mischaracterized and verbally attacked by GOP of the Senate for their own partisan political purposes. This disrespect fortunately did not throw Judge KBJ off her game; we can all learn from her composition under such pressure.

Maybe as more women reach more top positions of leadership in more industries, and as more investors and the SEC push for more diversity on company boards and in leadership, we can expedite the trajectory to gender pay equity and not have to wait 135.6 years for it .

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Credit: www.forbes.com /

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