April 10 is Equal Pay Day, representing the extra days that women have to work into the new year to make the same amount of money that men made in the previous year. In a world where many advancements toward gender equality have been made, #EqualPayDay reminds us we still have a lot of work to do.
Based on U.S. Census Bureau data, the 2018 wage gap between women and men is 80 cents. "The gap is far wider for women of color as compared to White, non-Hispanic men, and moms as compared to dads," according to the Equal Pay Day website. Latina women make 53 cents, Black women make 63 cents for every dollar, and Asian women make 87 cents for every dollar a White, non-Hispanic man makes.
Women Face Challenges Beyond the Bottom Line
The pay gap means that single women or women who are single parents face additional struggles when trying to save money for an emergency fund, send a child to college, and save for retirement.
But the challenges women face stretch beyond finance. Many working women (especially working moms) feel added pressure and guilt to continue taking on the same tasks at home. A study by Welch's in 2017 found that the average working mom clocks in a 98 hour work week with all her various tasks, and only get one hour and seven minutes to herself each day.
Jaime Stepic, the owner of Gingham and Eyelet, a studio in Norcross, Ga. that offers sewing classes, workshops, and camps, explains the personal challenge she faces, which will likely sound familiar to many working moms.
"Trying to keep my overhead down often means bringing my kids with me to work. I then risk looking unprofessional," Stepic says. "It's a judgment call every time. If I get childcare for them and customers cancel, it throws off my budget significantly. Balance is another challenge, especially now that I'm returning to working after a long absence."
And while some moms feel guilty for working, research from Harvard Business School shows it can actually be beneficial to kids to have moms working outside the home.
"While being raised by a working mother had no apparent effect on men's relative wages, women raised by working moms had higher incomes than women whose moms stayed at home full time," the study found. In addition, "men whose moms ever worked outside the home were more likely to contribute to household chores and spent more time caring for family members."
Leveraging resources and mentors to learn about programs, grants, and support are important for women to succeed financially. Some resources for women include:
- Financial Aid for Female Students
- The Women's Center: a non-profit celebrating 40 years of helping women; offers free financial and legal consulting sessions to women as well as monthly workshops
- WealthySingleMommy.com: a website and podcast resource for working single moms; Emma Johnson who runs the site also has a book—The Kickass Single Mom
- The Office of Women's Business Ownership: offers support for women entrepreneurs
Female Small Business Owners Have Come a Long Way
Women-owned businesses total 11.6 million in America and employ nearly 9 million people while generating more than $1.7 trillion in revenue, according to the 2017 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report commissioned by American Express.
Unfortunately, women-owned firms still struggle with access to capital, but there is evidence they are having more success than men using new and alternative funding vehicles such as crowdsourcing. Read more here about how women entrepreneurs are using crowdsourcing platforms to build their businesses.
Advancements Throughout History
Here are some areas where progress has been made:
1903: First Female-Owned Bank Opens
Maggie Walker became the first female to own a bank when she founded the St. Luke Penny Savings Bank. According to the National Women's History Museum, "the bank was a powerful representation of black self-help in the segregated South. The Penny Savings Bank not only attracted adults but Walker worked to appeal to children by passing out banks which encouraged them to save their money."
1963: Equal Pay Act
The Equal Pay Act of 1963 prohibits employers from paying lower wages based on sex. There are exemptions and based on today's statistics, there is still work to be done in this area.
1968: Fair Housing Act
The Fair Housing Act of 1968 prohibits discrimination by any landlord, real estate company, mortgage broker or lender, and homeowner insurer on the basis of race, sex, religion, national origin, family status or disability. Prior to this, women not only faced a higher likelihood of being denied credit but also faced sexual harassment from landlords (particularly when they made a lower income).
Now, single women represent 18% of homebuyers whereas single men represent only 7%, according to the National Association of Realtors.
1974: Equal Credit Opportunity Act
Before this, it was sometimes hard for a woman to get a credit card or loan on her own. The Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) was passed and changed the way credit card and loan issuers decided on lending based on various factors, including gender.
Women often faced challenges when attempting to get credit in their own name. Along with the ECOA, there were additional regulations put in place that defined in more detail what the creditor could and could not ask when making a decision to grant credit.
One specific detail includes addressing household income; this resulted in consumers being able to include the income of his or her spouse when applying for credit individually. "This further opened the door for married women, whether working or not, to obtain credit in their own name," according to the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC).
The ECOA prohibits credit discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, age or because you get public assistance. Creditors may ask for this information in some situations, but they can't use it to decide whether or not to extend credit to you. Things creditors can consider to determine creditworthiness include income, expenses, debt, and credit history.
1993: Family and Medical Leave Act
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons with continuation of group health insurance coverage under the same terms and conditions as if the employee had not taken leave. This was primarily targeted at working mothers after having or adopting a baby but extends to other circumstances such as caring for a sick parent or child.
Today, many large employers are expanding their maternity and paternity leave benefits to support working parents after the birth or adoption of a child.
Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer or other company, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. All information, including rates and fees, are accurate as of the date of publication.
This article was originally published on April 10, 2018, and has been updated.