Talking about the Gender Gap

There is a lot of conversation about this now. Perhaps its the Pre-Election Season and everyone is looking to rally around a hot button. Or maybe its because celebrities are beginning to have something to say about it. Did you see Sienna Miller’s story in Vogue about her decision to turn down a role on Broadway once she discovered that her co-lead male counterpart (in a two-person play, mind you) was going to be paid twice what she was offered?

Of course, good for her. But the bigger issue is, why is this still happening? Thanks to all the women who went before me, I expect to be paid the same as any other person of equal experience, training and ability. When I read or hear of first-person accounts of clear-cut wage discrimination, I’m always a bit flabbergasted.

Truth of it is, not only do women experience a wage gap, we have a wealth gap. To quote a recent report by Asset Funders Network entitled Women and Wealth: Insights for Grantmakers, “The women’s wealth gap has been largely overlooked in discussions of women’s economic security, yet wealth is the most comprehensive indicator of financial health. Without wealth, families are one paycheck away from financial disaster.

Here are the major findings from the report:

—-  Women have less wealth than men. Single women have only 32 cents for every dollar of wealth owned by single men.

—–  Women of color are in a more difficult situation as they experience both a gender wealth gap and a racial wealth gap.

—– The wealth gap exists throughout women’s life cycle, with Millennial women hit particularly hard due to education debt and the costs of parenting.

—-  The difference in wealth between men and women continues to increase as education increases.

—-  Closing the wage gap does not fix the gender wealth gap. Women at every income level have less wealth than men.

—-  Women also experience higher debt, with a debt-to-income ratio almost twice that of men.

At Women United in Philanthropy, we’ve been investing in program to help women achieve economic security specifically because know so many women are living paycheck to paycheck. This report suggests that, as funders, we can also invest in programs and activities that are “catalyst” for reducing women’s wealth gap.  Three of the recommendation, in particular, intrigue me:

—-  INVEST in timely and relevant financial education coupled with coaching

—-  PROMOTE and increase opportunities for women to build assets

—-  ADVANCE two-generational strategies that target women and their children

All of us in the grant-making, philanthropy-investing business can do this!  We can look to support programs that educate women about finances and coach them on money management. We can fund activities that help women to build assets, strengthen savings, buy homes or start businesses. And we can place a higher value on those proposals with two-generational strategies that lift up women now and provide greater access to economic mobility and wage and wealth equality for the next generation.

For 10 years, WUIP has been focused on this issue. We seek to put supports women need in place so they can lift themselves out of poverty and begin to see the possibility of economic independence and strength within their reach. I’m proud of what we’ve done. All the same, every celebrity stories or a hot-button rally brings this conversation to the top of the newsfeed, its OK by me. We’ve got work to do.

You can read more from the report at http://assetfunders.org/educate/womens-wealth-gap/Women_and_Wealth_Brief