By Marguerita Cheng
So many incredible women exist in the world, but many face intolerance, bias and setbacks every day. International Women’s Day is the perfect time to reflect on how far we’ve come in the last century and how much further we still have to go.
One of the most prominent inequalities women face is money — we save less overall and pay more for certain items and services. In 2022, let’s stand up and speak out against injustice and inequality to break the bias.
What is International Women’s Day?
International Women’s Day is a day to celebrate women’s social, economic, cultural, and political achievements. It’s also a day to raise awareness about the challenges women face and to call for change.
It got its start in 1911 in Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland. In 1975, the day became official when the United Nations recognized and started celebrating it on March 8th every year.
The Biggest Bias Against Women
The world is made for men — everything from cars to medicine was made with men in mind. Women face bias at work, when seeking health care, in banking and investing… and that’s just a small sample of the inequality.
While Pew Research shows most U.S. adults across demographic and partisan groups think progress has been made to give women equal rights with men, most believe the country hasn’t done enough.
The biggest bias against women is in the area of finance. Women lag behind in financial literacy, retirement savings, investing, and wages — not just because of the gender pay gap, but also because women engage in more unpaid work (cooking, cleaning, childcare) compared to their male counterparts.
How to Support Women’s Financial Equality
You can celebrate International Women’s Day in many ways. You might support women-owned businesses, give to a women’s charity or reach out to the women in your life who have inspired you. But there’s more we can do to push for financial equality:
- Seek financial confidence. Before 1975, women couldn’t take out a mortgage without it being backed by a man. The Sex Discrimination Act offered women the chance to become homeowners on their own — an enormous step-up for equality.
Now, single women make up 17% of all homebuyers, according to a 2020 National Association of Realtors report. Even so, a Yale study found that single women pay 2% more when buying a house and sell it for 2% less when compared to single men. The disparity is partly due to a lack of financial confidence and skill in talking about finances. Start growing your financial confidence by saving and investing and researching money advice.
- Push for equal pay. A Pew Research Center study revealed women earned 84% of what men earned in 2020 — a figure that has remained steady over the past 15 years in the U.S. Why the 16% drop in pay because of gender?
Differences in industries, jobs worked, years of experience and number of hours play a role. For example, the U.S. Department of Labor reports that 58% of long-term caregivers are female. The unpaid obligations cause them to work fewer hours. But discrimination also exists, especially for women of color.
You can push for equal pay by researching the earnings of others in a similar role through job advertisements and online salary comparison sites. Then, ask for a pay raise confidently.
- Find a financial mentor. Whether you’re looking for help with career trajectory or basic personal finance, a financial mentor can help. Pairing with another female can bring financial clarity and context when planning your spending, saving and investing strategies.
Create a list of people who are smart with their finances. Start with people you already know but don’t be afraid to reach outside your social circle to ask for referrals. But be careful — you don’t want to fall in with someone who preys on the vulnerable.
- Fight for your retirement. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, women are more likely to work part-time, and many don’t have access to employer-sponsored retirement plans. Employer-sponsored retirement plans are one of the best ways to save for retirement. Without access, women fall behind in how much they’re able to set aside for their golden years.
Save in an IRA if you don’t have a plan through your employer. Also, front-loading your retirement contributions by saving more in your early 20s and 30s can help, too.
- Don’t fall for the pink tax. Products and services marketed to women cost more than those marketed to men. It’s called the “pink tax” — and it’s real, according to a study by New York City’s Department of Consumer Affairs.
Shop around to compare prices and buy the men’s version if possible. After all, there isn’t much difference between shaving gel and lotion for a man vs. a woman.
- Never apologize for being ambitious. Society often puts negative labels on strong women. It happens at work, in groups and even in some families. But never apologize for being ambitious. Judgment from others isn’t about you. It’s about them — usually, it’s the fault of the other person’s insecurities and narrow perspectives.
Be confident about your passion, creativity and determination. And be proud that you know how to ask for what you need.
Break the financial bias. Life is too short to let society limit your abilities. This International Women’s Day, and every day, women must work together to make meaningful change. Let’s encourage diversity of thought and experiences to break the bias and end inequities faced by women.
About the author: Marguerita (Rita) Cheng, CFP®
Marguerita (Rita) Cheng helps educate the public, policymakers, and media about the benefits of competent, ethical financial planning. As a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional and chief executive officer of financial advisory firm, Blue Ocean Global Wealth, Rita helps people meet their life goals through the proper management of financial resources. She is passionate about helping them navigate some of life’s most difficult issues—divorce, death, career changes, caring for aging relatives—so they can feel confident and in control of their finances. Rita volunteers her time as a SoleMate, or charity runner for Girls on the Run, raising money to win scholarships for girls. She is also a coach for 261Fearless, a global supportive social running network that empowers women to connect and take control of their lives through the freedom gained by running.