Why does the gender gap exist?
Good question. Well, I can think of a number of factors that could very well contribute to it: imbedded patriarchal societies that dictate behaviors and perceptions of what a woman’s role should be; hidden (and sometimes implicit or overt) biases; women’s decisions and responsibilities related to maternity and childrearing; lack of policies benefitting women; and so many more.
Consider these facts:
- Women in the U.S. continue to experience about a 20% wage gap.
- Just 2% of senior S&P 500 executives are women.
- 84% of women were, are, or expect to be solely responsible for managing their finances, yet 48% say they are not knowledgeable about investing.
- Women are 80% more likely than men to be impoverished at age 65 or older.
Though the wage gap usually takes center stage, other gender-based gaps also exist: how women save, invest, prepare for retirement, manage their money, and how confident they are about it.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau released a report last year which found that it is difficult to change financial habits and practices as adults, which means although not impossible, the behavior is so deeply ingrained as part of who we are, it would serve us to address it sooner.
So how do we kill the gender gap?
“I strongly believe that women are the fuel of changing the world and improving it, and to do that, they need to be financially empowered.”
We can point fingers and throw blame as to how these gaps came to exist, cross our fingers and hope that advocating for the continued work of policy makers and other leaders with our voices and votes will make a difference… or, we can also look at and acknowledge a crucial factor that we can do something about today to ensure our daughters are faced with much narrower gaps, if any at all.
Women lag behind in financial knowledge, which has been found to be the key factor for women’s financial insecurity and low confidence.
And yes, that is a controllable factor, because today, we can make the choice to educate not only ourselves as women, but equally as important, our daughters. By teaching our girls financial literacy early on, we are working on preventing and minimizing the problem at its root. Remember how difficult it is to change habits later? This is our chance to cultivate healthy ones from the get-go.
The Council for Economic Education released its most recent survey about what schools are teaching these days, and found that there has been very slow growth in the addition of personal finance as a topic. Only 17 states require it at the high school level, with additional requirements and testing varying from state to state. Not early enough, in my opinion, and it also means our daughters are most likely not learning key financial concepts and behaviors from school.
A report from the Girl Scout Research Institute on Financial Literacy and Girls found that only 14% of girls get any kind of financial class at school, with the majority wanting to learn about it from their parents, so guess what? It is our responsibility to teach it to them... and no excuses about how boring and dry the subject can be. Check out how you can use experiential learning so they can learn through games and activities.
An early financial education will also help our girls become women who have the knowledge, skills, and confidence to ask for a fairer and more equal standing in the workplace and in life, who are savvy about their financial choices, and who contribute toward the empowerment that comes from having financial freedom. So yes, we can kill the gender gap—or at the very least, see it narrow.
It’s up to us to make a difference at the core. Educating women has already proven to improve both the individuals and society, and, as my mother always says, “There is one thing that no one can ever take away from you, and that is your education: Invest in it well.”
Today, on October 11th, the International Day of the Girl, let’s commit to do all we can to ensure that our girls get an early financial education so they become the financially empowered women we aspire for them to be—with plenty of options to create the lives they desire.