While the United States continues to be a leader in the global economy, we’re also one of the only developed countries that doesn’t have paid family leave, and the gender pay gap is not only alive and well — it’s seemingly getting worse. A Northwestern survey that looked at the pandemic’s impact on women (namely, how many of us were forced out of the workforce over the last two years) showed that COVID set our progress back by a full decade. But even before the pandemic, the stats were disheartening.
- Women make 83 percent of what men do, and that gap is wider for women of color.
- Mothers earn 71 cents for every dollar paid to fathers.
- Women with bachelor’s degrees are paid 26% less than their male counterparts who have the same degree.
The list goes on, and it can feel paralyzing to know just how far behind women are economically — but we can take action, and we can take it today. We checked in with 12 leading females to ask for their thoughts on how we can work together to create a more equal tomorrow for our daughters, nieces and future generations.
Redirect spending to female-owned companies
“The number one thing females need to do is we have to start redirecting our spending to female-owned companies. This is how we control the economy. Are we supporting female-owned businesses? If you look at how you’ve spent your money in the last month, how have you supported females? Have you been purchasing from female-owned and led companies, or have you continued to put your money into the hands of old money and predominantly male-owned companies?” — Cayla Craft, millionaire mentor investor and the funder of Mommy Millionaire.
Create a fair leave plan and offer flexible working hours
“We need a fair leave plan for women who decide to take time off of work (e.g., take leave). This is important so that women can freeze their career growth in time (when they leave) so that they don’t start all over again at the same level when they return to the workforce post-life event. Too often, women — when they take the leave — give up their hard-won positions to other colleagues and need to repeat their time spent at whichever level they were in when they left their post. This holds women back and reduces their economic advancement by slowing professional advancement. We also need flexible work hours that consider the ‘outside of work’ obligations that most women have. If we can de-stigmatize situations where women need to leave meetings early or have flexible working schedules to take care of family members, we will make different working schedules the norm. Focus on output and not hours spent continuously in the chair. Only then can we create a truly meritocratic environment, and reflected in overall compensation without bias or differentiation for gender.” — Nancy Wang, general manager at Amazon Web Services and the founder and board chair at Advancing Women in Tech.
Have more open conversations about money
“Let’s stop the narrative that it is taboo to talk about money, so women can open up with each other and celebrate their financial successes. Once we can become more comfortable talking about money, women are less likely to be intimidated by asking for a raise or promotion or raising their prices. So many times, women don’t realize they are underpaid because they aren’t having these conversations. You don’t realize how many limiting beliefs you have hiding deep inside you that can stem from as long ago as childhood. As you begin to talk with others about money, you realize that others think differently about money. Now you can start changing your views and values on money to what you want it to be, not what was instilled in you at an early age. Rewrite your money story, raise your worth, and you will inevitably get paid more.” — Jessica Weaver, CFP, CDFA, CFS, the author of Confessions of a Money Queen.
Normalize successful women in roles of leadership
“The sheer volume of the women in management roles — and with influential levels of capital — needs to see a shift for women to move forward economically. While this might seem rather obvious or basic, I think it’s actually important to take a step back and think more broadly about society and the demographics around us. A female management team or wealthy female individuals is not optically ‘normal,’ but it could be; we just need more volume. You have to be your own advocate for success because each successful woman is a step in the right direction and helps the halo effect. Think abundantly; there is plenty of space for women in management and plenty of capital for women to distribute.” — Chrissy Bellman, founder and CEO of LĒVO.
“A few years ago, we were promoting two staff members, one woman and one man, into equal positions. When we spoke about compensation separately with them, our male employee was all about negotiating for what he felt he was worth, while the woman accepted what we offered, no questions asked. This was actually a real eye-opener for me since I personally have always been able to speak up for my expectations but after this, I started paying attention. This was a pattern that has continually emerged since. Of course, this all speaks to the much larger equal pay conversation with many factors, but women can start by believing in themselves and voice now to help make a difference. No one should feel intimidated expressing what they want. I am not saying they will always get it, but they should be less worried about the consequences of asking. There’s nothing wrong with being confident, and if someone doesn’t respect that, maybe it’s not someone you want to be working with! — Coly Den Haan, owner of Vinovore.
Learn that it’s okay to say ‘no’
“In business and in life, it is imperative as a female entrepreneur to be heard and to make sure that people are really listening. As women, we have it ingrained in us to say ‘yes’ at all times, and this is simply not the case anymore. It is ok to say ‘no’ and garner respect, too. When it comes to your business and finances, you do not need to accept something because it feels uncomfortable to ask for more or explore other options. Uncomfortable situations will pass, and facing them head-on is the only way to move forward. Operating and making decisions out of guilt will only harm yourself, your business and ultimately your own finances.” — Elena Brennan, shoe designer and the founder of BUS STOP shoe boutique.
Amplify women’s voices by being allies
“Certainly supporting and mentoring other women is impactful, but we cannot do this alone. Nor should we. It is not the responsibility of only women to fight for the economic equality of all women. Just as it is not the responsibility of people of color to end racism or LGBTQ+ people to end homophobia, it is our collective responsibility to end inequality. So women need to find, encourage and support male allies. The inequality we are trying to end by default has put men in positions of power. Only by getting those men to understand and fight for the benefits of equality can we begin to dismantle the systems that created it in the first place. We start with those allies advocating on our behalf and then using their power to amplify our voices and decisively get us a seat at the table. Privilege on its own is not good or bad; it just is. How you use it (or don’t) is what distinguishes it. For allies, privilege can be a superpower.” —
Ash Beckham, equality advocate and author of ‘Step Up: How to Live with Courage and Become an Everyday Leader.’
Hire more women in STEM
“With women only making up a small percentage of the STEM workforce, men are more likely to take advantage of the highest-paying jobs, such as computer science and engineering. Working on VR and XR technology campaigns, I see firsthand how important it is to have a mentor or guiding voice inspiring these women early on to pursue a career in STEM. It’s imperative to let these young women know that there are opportunities and career paths in STEM available to them if that’s what they are passionate about. While the field is highly male-dominated, with more mentors, resources, and information about the possibilities of the industry, we can encourage more women to pursue careers in this industry and even out the playing field.” — Tricia Costello, co-founder Fresh Wata
Take control over the narrative about our bodies
“Instagram has a strict policy on nudity which appears to make sense from the outset. Although they updated their nudity policy in 2020 in large part thanks to an open letter by plus-size model and activist Nyome Nicholas-Williams to allow ‘photos in the context of breastfeeding, birth-giving and after-birth moments, health-related situations,’ there is still much work to be done. We’ve all seen the images of women’s nipples being covered up with blurs, stickers, white outlines on Instagram, and many posts that show a nipple, not in the context above, get swiftly taken down. My issue with this is that giant social media platforms like Instagram effectively censors women’s bodies and artistic expression – yet the same ban does not apply to men’s nipples. Why is it a woman’s burden that her chest is loaded with sexual expectations? As more and more women become the artists and faces behind the photos posted to Instagram every day, shouldn’t we be the ones that get to say how we want to present our bodies and which narrative is being told?” —- Kar Brulhart, social media expert and founder of KB Brand Marketing.
Find ways to help women and girls overcome imposter syndrome
“In this study from KPMG, 47 percent of female executives reported that the number one factor to help women combat imposter syndrome is a supportive performance manager. I believe managers and leaders have a big role to play in rectifying feelings of imposter syndrome for female staff. They can encourage their female reports that their contributions matter, push their female reports to take action even when they are fearful or think there is someone else who could do it better and, perhaps most importantly, pave the way for female staff to be heard. We all know that men notoriously cut women off in business meetings. Managers can call out such behaviors and create space for women to be listened to and respected across all levels of the business. It can be as simple as speaking up in a meeting to say, ‘Julie was cut off a moment ago, but I’m really interested in what she was saying. Julie, will you continue your thought?’” — Crystal Sprague, executive director of Global G.L.O.W.
Stop feeding gender stereotypes at home
There is a sizable societal shift that needs to happen, where we encourage all people — regardless of gender — to be their best both at home and at work. A lot of gender stereotypes stem from the fact that women have historically been expected to do much more work inside the home. But it’s 2022, and that’s not the case anymore. It’s more common than not to have both partners working outside of the home, so we need to rethink how we divide and conquer household responsibilities. I am no more qualified to fold clothes, go grocery shopping or cook a meal than my partner. He can bandage a skinned knee or read a bedtime story just as well as I can. Equal division of labor and eliminating gender stereotypes at home is a great way to advance the fight for gender equality in the workplace as well. Also, I take issue with the phrase ‘working moms’. Why do we insist on labeling women that way? We don’t refer to men as ‘working dads’. I’ve rarely been to an event where a successful woman, who also happens to be a parent, hasn’t been asked about how she handles ‘work-life balance.’ We need to remove that label and let women’s accomplishments in the workplace speak for themselves.” —Michelle Tunno Buelow, founder and CEO of Bella Tunno.
Elect women into power
“As more women step into positions of service (judges, superintendents, senators, and more), the world is becoming a better and more equitable place. This shift in leadership favors new ways of thinking about true equity across multiple facets of how we live. The foundation begins at the local level, so it’s critical we all do the work and research those running in local and state elections and volunteer to support campaigns and equitable and accessible voter turnout. But the question really is, how. There are two things you can do immediately: Go to usa.gov to find out when your local elections are, who you can vote for, and what the voter laws are, and become an advocate to fight voter suppression at aclu.org.” — Angie Tebbe, CEO of Rae Wellness.
- HerMoney Podcast Episode 257: How Women Over 50 Can Reclaim Workplace Confidence And Power
- 3 Empowering Steps for Women to Build Financial Confidence
- The New Rules For Being And Finding A Mentor in 2021
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