For the past several years, I’ve spent every March 8 scrolling through Instagram, watching all the #IWD posts from women, for women, about women roll in. Year after year, the celebration of International Women’s Day gets more creative and urgent.
I love the Instas. I really, really do. I love seeing women celebrate each other.
But there’s something else I’d like us all to do to mark this occasion —something that I’m not seeing enough of in my feed. I want dollar signs.
What started more than 100 years ago as an outcry against pay inequality and oppression is now an official holiday for countries around the world—literally from Afghanistan to Zambia. In some places, women protest; in other countries, it’s a Mother’s Day-like celebration.
But more than 100 years after the fight for equality became so important it needed its own spot on the calendar, women still haven’t gotten anywhere near financial equality.
The pay gap is a part of it. So is the pink tax, the debt gap, the unpaid labor gap, and all the different expectations our society has of women…plus the taboos around even talking about money. Together, these things mean that today, a woman has only 32 cents of money for every dollar a white man does. (You read that right: 32 cents. That’s a lot more drastic than the “80 cents to the dollar” wage gap statistic. And for women of color, that number drops to less than one penny. Not OK. So very far from OK.) So here’s what I think you should do about it:
#1. Invest your money.
No, really. Even now. Even after all the scary headlines about the stock market the last couple of weeks.
If you’re not investing, you’re not giving yourself the opportunity to grow your net worth steadily over time. No matter what the stock market’s going through at the moment, the ups and downs have historically evened out over the long term. Since 1928, the markets have returned 9.7% on average annually.
As a group, women invest less than men—we keep 71 percent of our money in cash, compared with men’s 60 percent. That’s one of the reasons women retire with just two-thirds of the money men do—though we live five years longer.
But when women do invest, we're better at it. That’s likely because we take a more long-term perspective. When you invest regularly over time, you’re taking your own emotions—which are “an investor’s worst enemy”—out of the equation. And if you use an online platform (like Ellevest—you know we had to go there), it only takes 15 minutes and you’re done.
(By the way, I’d never recommend that anyone invest in stocks alone. A mix of different types of investments, including bonds, helps protect you against the kinds of ups and downs—OK, the downs—we’ve seen lately.)
#2. Reclaim your time.
Women in the U.S. spend 2.1 hours per day more than men doing tasks like housework and child care. That adds up to 95 extra eight-hour workdays per year…for zero pay. We’re also spending more time in the workforce than ever before, which means our overall workdays are longer. Since there are only 24 hours in the day, that means we’re sacrificing sleep, personal time, and fun.
In other words, we’re working more, but making less. Not cool. A couple of things you can do about it:
Make a list of tasks you can get off your plate, if you can afford it. Offloading some of it can keep you from exhaustion, which can help you refocus on the important stuff.
If you have a partner, have a quick chat about the gap. This is a dialogue, not a one-and-done conversation, but you can get the ball rolling. A recent survey showed that while men increasingly expect and encourage women to work outside the home (great)…they still don’t pick up the work inside of it (um, not great). I’m not opposed to resurrecting the chore wheel.
#3. Spend intentionally.
Quick question: When was the last time you heard about a guy “splurging” on something? Not unheard of, but it’s way more common to describe how women spend money. As women, we get messages all our lives about being bad with money—when the real problem is that we don’t have enough of it.
So I’m very over restrictive budgets and condescending advice. Instead, I’m a fan of what we call “intentional spending”— that is, simply being mindful of what you’re spending on now, and matching what you’re spending now to the things that are most important to you. No judgment, no guilt, just a practice.
Today, take 10 minutes to list your money goals. That could include travel, buying a house, paying off high-interest debt, supporting causes you care about, retiring in style, starting a business and/or a family. (I’d throw in building an emergency fund if you’ve got one.) Just having these goals written down can help you be more aware of—and mindful about—your spending decisions.
#4. Work on getting paid what you’re worth.
The clock on the gender pay gap seems to be permanently stuck at around 230 years from closing for all women, and here’s the deal: No matter how much leaning in we do, we can’t promote ourselves. We’re dependent on our boss, and on the culture of our workplace…and too often, they’re not doing the work to check their own bias.
Four things you can do today to stand in your worth:
Talk to your friends. Successful women actually network differently than successful men—and the key is an inner circle of trusted contacts we can talk to about things like handling bias. And yes, talk about salary, because how do you know what to ask for if you don’t know what other people are making?
Talk to your coworkers about salary, too. That one can feel really intrusive, I know. I’m a huge fan of Caitlin Boston, who bumped her pay by 41% with the “over/under” approach. Instead of asking for exact salaries, she asked coworkers if they made over or under a number she gave them. It worked. (And she was able to pay off a quarter-million dollars of student debt, btw.)
Review the goals your boss set for you. Is your day-to-day work getting you to those goals, or are you spending time on other things? If there’s a disconnect, it’s fine to check in with your boss to see if they think your goals have changed.
Set up a reminder and a document to track your wins each week. It’s so much easier to track it now than to have to remember it later on when you’re making the ask.
#5. Support other women.
When women support women, magic happens. This weekend, shop women-owned businesses. Hell, do it for a month.
We live in the only industrialized nation that doesn’t provide paid family leave. Sign this petition and (if you don’t already), start calling it “family leave” instead of “mat leave”—if people start taking leave regardless of gender, there won’t be as much backlash to caregivers.
Sign a petition to support the Paycheck Fairness Act, the FAMILY Act for paid parental leave, and the Equal Rights Amendment.
And keep on posting your support and your stories. I can’t wait to see what you share.
Sallie L. Krawcheck is the CEO and cofounder of Ellevest, a digital financial adviser for women launched in 2016. She is a former CEO of Merrill Lynch Wealth Management and Smith Barney.
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