When we look at the statistics and current state of affairs, we can clearly see why there is a need to advocate for gender equality and equity for women. The existing gender gaps that take various shapes need to be addressed as soon as possible. International Women’s Day is a perfect occasion to highlight the subject. But, what can we do today so our girls, who will be the women of tomorrow, have a better playing field?
To have more empowered and successful women, we need to narrow the prevalent gender gap and challenges women face. We need to start early, with girls, and as young as possible.
What is equality?
To understand this better, let’s take a look at what “equality” means. A search online takes us to one of the well-known dictionaries, the Oxford Dictionaries:
“Equality: (Noun) The state of being equal, especially in status, rights, or opportunities.”
The Oxford Dictionaries
But what does that actually mean when it comes to practical implementation?
I used to think that “equality” means giving different classifications of groups (such as men and women) the same thing. Sounded pretty logical and true, until I saw a cartoon that represented the more “true” idea I had in mind. And that completely changed my perspective:
What is Equity?
That is the core idea behind creating my startup is more about “equity.”
According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA):
“Gender equity is the process of being fair to women and men. To ensure fairness, strategies and measures must often be available to compensate for women’s historical and social disadvantages that prevent women and men from otherwise operating on a level playing field. Equity leads to equality… Therefore a critical aspect of promoting gender equality is the empowerment of women, with a focus on identifying and redressing power promoting gender equality is the empowerment of women, with a focus on identifying and addressing power imbalances and giving women more autonomy to manage their own lives.”
By striving towards gender equity, we address the disadvantages women face (such as a lack of opportunities or education). We then attempt to equalize them to achieve equity to achieve equality.
At inherQuests, we believe that a major building block towards equity is financial literacy because women face so many financial challenges:
Women earn less than men, with a female-to-male earnings ratio of 81.8% in 2017. The debate continues as to why that is, but it’s still a fact today.
Women pay more for goods and services than men, which is sometimes called the “price gap” or the “pink tax.” This includes products and even services such as health care.
Saving and Retirement
Women don’t save as much as men for retirement. That is because it’s not a top priority next to debt and daily living costs. They also tend to not work as many years as men do, and they live longer, meaning they need to save more to sustain their retirement years.
A Princeton study shows that women are twice as likely to end up having to care for an elderly parent than men are, which takes time and money, and sometimes causes potential health repercussions.
Women are more likely to pursue post-graduate degrees, which costs them more. And, they end up taking more student loans than they need. According to the 2017 survey found that 42% of women take on over $30,000 in student loans vs. 27% of men. A 2018 study by the American Association of University Women found that women hold two-thirds of the $1.4 trillion in student loans in the United States, or $890 billion.
These are just a few of the financial challenges women face. Somewhere along the journey of growing up, men seem to receive the encouragement, education, skills, and confidence needed to avoid most of those challenges. As a result, and in general, they have more confidence around money and build higher risk tolerances to invest it instead of just saving it. With the added benefits, perceptions, and biases that society already has towards them, they end up with a much bigger advantage than women when it comes to money and finances.
Can an early financial education for girls kill the gender gap? I strongly believe it can, and that you should be talking to your daughters about money. So, what can we do bridge the financial literacy, capabilities, and confidence gap so we may achieve gender equity?
The basic answer: Start early with girls – as early as five years of age (if not sooner!). Here are a few more reasons why, in case the previous list wasn’t enough:
Boys learn more about money than girls
Parents are teaching boys more about money and encouraging them to learn about it more than they do girls, according to a T. Rowe Price survey. They are also more likely to talk to their boys about money than their girls.
Girls feel less smart than boys
Girls’ confidence is not encouraged
If girls aren’t encouraged to be confident at an early age, they’ll stop taking part in activities and avoid situations they could otherwise engage in, according to the Dove Self Esteem Project.
Does that mean we need to exclude boys? Of course not! It just means it’s okay to purposefully give girls extra focus, time, and effort to teach them those needed skills so they may help them into their womanhood.
Parents can consciously or unconsciously affect the gender gap. Believe it or not, it can start early with allowances.This kind of implicit bias can be a harmful thing, but on the flip side, paying attention to gender differences can actually be quite helpful. Many parents are already buying “girly” or “boyish” toys and clothes according to their child’s gender. Why not approach their financial education from an equally gender-conscious standpoint—when it actually has a big, positive impact? Think about it: if their son or daughter is weak in a school subject, they’ll bring in a tutor or spend extra time helping out with homework themselves. We should be thinking along the same lines when it comes to boosting girls’ financial literacy.
This International Women’s Day, let us celebrate women in every way and talk about the status quo. But let us also celebrate and support women who are striving towards equity today for the women of tomorrow, because it is a societal and basic human issue. And if you have some extra time, why not teach your kids (sons and daughters) about the gender gap at work in a fun way?