Gender inequality has haunted mankind probably since its inception or, at least, since the start of civilization. The simple fact that men and women are not physically equal has, somehow, extrapolated in them not being equal psychologically, from the point of view of intelligence, skill, morals, and ethics. Consequently, humanity has almost always believed women should be paid less than men. So is the matter of wealth inequality in America.
Even though we have, indeed, moved into a modern age where women have been granted the right to vote, speak their mind, marry whomever they want, divorce, and have control over their bodies, in some weird way we are still not equal to men when it comes to monthly wages. In this article, we are going to explore the reasons that led to that, study where wealth inequality in America is right now, and what exactly is it that women should do to conquer this barrier also?
Where Did Gender Inequality Stem from in America?
Evidently, there is no one answer to this question, no matter how hard historians, philosophers and moralists try to find it. Some say that it came along with the colonists from Europe, others say it was just the natural way of looking at things for a surprisingly long time. However, mainstream historians argue that gender inequality appeared along with the industrial revolution.
It seems as though in the pre-industrial era, before the appearance of markets and when almost the entire known civilization of the continent was based on farms and manual labor, women did, in fact, had something in the lines of equality. Of course, the law still clearly favored men, and they had much more rights than women, but the ladies were considered an integral part of everything and a lot more taken care of just because they were needed, pretty much in the same way men were.
If I were to explain this in a simple manner, seeing as farms were the basis of society, both men and women needed to work in an equal measure to keep the farms going. They did, indeed, have different jobs. Men usually tended the fields, the animals, did all the woodwork and reparations. Women tended to the children, to all chores around the house, prepared the food, and made clothes. However, seeing as the farm could not exist without any of the two, they shared something that can be described, even though broadly, as equality.
When the industrial age hit, women were no longer needed that much. Towns were formed and, by the 1850s, most of the population was urbanized and working in factories. If they needed food or clothes, they would buy it. They no longer made them in the household, seeing as they did not have any more time to do that. Thusly, almost the only job left for a woman to do was to take care of the children.
Slowly, but surely, this idea seeped into the population’s subconscious, and women began to be looked upon as fragile, gentle, of a loving nature, and not having the same physical or intelligence abilities as men. This way of looking at things became a staple of thought throughout the American states and the world, for that matter. It would take women centuries to overcome it. In fact, today, some 166 years later, we still haven’t surpassed it.
Wealth inequality in America plays right into this mindset. If women are equal to men, that men would lose their special status, will be diminished, and stripped of their power and masculinity. When it comes to money, you can see how and why wealth inequality is still maintained, for this reason alone.
Wealth Inequality in America
Also known as the wealth gap, it refers to the fact that the distribution of assets is unequal among the citizens of the country. It is directly related to gender inequality because, as the federal reserve puts it, most households in the USA base their day-to-day living on the salaries of the members. Seeing as women are paid less than men, the gap is wide open.
For you to understand just how large wealth inequality in America is, concerning genders alone, at the end of 2015, the World Economic Forum stated that the gap will finally close around the year 2133. Yes, that is over 100 years from now, which means not even our daughters will get to see it. In fact, doing a simple calculation shows how it’s going to be our great-great-great granddaughters who might be able to see this happening at last.
The World Economic Forum also stated that the gap is closing too slowly because women are now paid what men were some 10 years ago. In America, the gap stands at 64%. This percentage means that women now earn about two-thirds than what men do regarding the exact same job.
However, it’s important to note here that this situation is a global one. Believe it or not, there is not one single country on the face of the planet where women make the same money as men, for the same position and amount of work. Let’s take a look at some other countries worth mentioning.
- Brazil and, stunningly enough, France take the cake – here, women make about half what men do.
- Saudi Arabia is, in fact, doing pretty well – women here make 60% of what their male counterparts do. However, due to cultural and religious preferences, only 23% of all women actually work.
- Rwanda wins, by far – curiously enough, seeing as it’s one of the poorest countries in the world, Rwandan women earn 88% as of what men in their position do.
What Should Women Do?
Now that we’ve taken a look at the history of gender and wealth inequality in America and that we know the numbers, it’s time we asked ourselves – what should women do with regards to this situation?
Since I’ve already informed you that the wealth inequality gap will close around the year 2133, that means there are no immediate solutions. However, that doesn’t mean we cannot continue fighting until we reach that mark. In fact, we must all remember that every little bit counts and that we must strive to achieve that goal and, if possible, speed it along.
Therefore, the question ‘what should women do’ may be answered in two directions. First of all, women could and should learn to master their finances better, so that their wealth can come close to that of men. Secondly, we can take a look at some practical tips on reducing the wealth inequality in America as a gap. Let’s explore both of those possibilities.
How Can Women Manage Their Finances Better?
I am willing to bet that when you first read this title, you found it to be a tad sexist. How can women manage their finances better, as if men and women manage finances differently in the first place and as if women are worse at it than men. If you found it sexist, that’s alright. It means you’re on the right track as far as gender equality goes. However, you’re also wrong.
That’s because, as it turns out from all the studies performed, women and men do handle their money differently. Not only that, women are, indeed, worse at it. This is, indeed, very discouraging news. But I need you to look at it this way. If we, ladies, didn’t know we had this problem, we wouldn’t be able to fix. Therefore, let’s take an in-depth look and see what it really means.
In 2014, Prudential released their 8th biennial study on the Financial Experience & Behaviors Among Women. It basically showed that women do not feel prepared to handle their finances on their own, nor are they prepared to make financial decisions regarding their life. It’s called the confidence gap, and it has not improved in the past ten years. It speaks of the fact that women do not feel confident that they will ever reach their financial goals, not because of society, but because they can’t. They say they don’t understand the financial market and that they become inert when having to take a decision. That is staggering, indeed.
Based on that, here are some advice specialists have for women who find themselves in this position.
- Start low – one of the things women perceive as a solid barrier in the way of them achieving their financial dreams is the fact they do not have enough money to start investing or building a business of their own. The advice here is to start as small as possible and work your way up. If you’re planning on investing or trading, start with $50. See what happens, learn the ins and outs and then you will be able to invest much more, as time goes by.
If you wish to start a business, start low. Keep it small, maybe even online. In the same way, you can learn everything there is to know about it, and then you can grow it in a few years.
- Get into the electronic and digital arena – another thing most women find daunting is electronics and online apps and tools for managing money. It really shouldn’t be like this, specialists state. Women are clearly just as intelligent as men, and there is absolutely no reason for them not to be able to understand online finance managing tools. You know what they say – the only thing you have to fear is fear itself. Get over it and start managing your money yourself.
- Set up an emergency fund – keep it there and do not touch unless you really have to. In this way, you will always have some money put aside. Also, it will count as a way of narrowing the wealth inequality in America seen as a gap.
- Do some risk management – when confronted with having to manage your own finances, you should always go to risk assessment first. As yourself a few fundamental questions, such as the following:
– How old are you? Are you young or nearing retirement?
– Are you currently working at a job you like or will you be changing it in the future?
– Are you married? Do you have a partner to support your financial endeavors and with whom to split them or are you alone?
– Do you have children, old parents or other members of the family that depend on you from a financial point of view?
Once you answer all these questions, you will know how much you can play around with your finances, how they can be distributed, and, consequently, what can be done to achieve your goals quicker.
Practical Tips on Reducing Wealth Inequality in America
Evidently, this is not an easy task. It will take us literally centuries to pull it off. Therefore, you just know it’s going to be difficult. However, certain things can be done about it, both from a micro, personal level and from a macro, governmental stage.
- Seeing as wealth inequality in America is directly related to wages, as shown above, never stop fighting for equal payment. Other than a cultural and historical wrong point of view, there is absolutely no reason why women should not be paid the same as men.
- Always be a feminist and show everyone that women really can do anything men do. We have the same intellectual and emotional capacities, and there should be no difference between us.
- Remember the financial problem goes a long way and a lot deeper than you think or care to admit, for that matter. This idea means that wealth equality is not just about the income. Stop waiting for men to pay for dinners, cabs, and jewelry. If you want equality, it should be all the way. We cannot fight an age-long historical misrepresentation of women if we do it only when it suits us or if we still believe men should always pay the check.
- Go for head positions at your job. It will suit you personally, but you will also be doing lots of good to the cause. On the long-run, this will show the entire society that women can be managers and run businesses as well as men can.
- Learn to be independent, from a financial point of view. This independence means not allowing your marital status to influence you in any way. Think practical and be the boss of your own wealth.
- Building on the worrying studies Prudential has conducted, the obvious advice is to stop thinking yourself weak, powerless, and foolish when it comes to money. As noted above, women are just as intelligent as men. Therefore, you are able to understand and manage your finances just fine.
- Related to the point above, one needs to give up traditional thinking about the household and money. It’s usually considered that, especially in a traditional man and woman family, it is the man who should decide the finances, even if he is not the sole bread-winner.
That way of thinking needs to be stopped as soon as possible. Marriage between no matter what two people should be a partnership through and through. Speak your mind and tell your partner you want to be involved in the decision-making as well.
- Fight against the ‘single-mother’ stereotype. You can do it and you will, financial-wise. Women are able to raise children alone and quite successfully.
- When you receive a raise at work, ask it to be the same as your male colleagues. Upon doing some research, you’ll find out that, when it comes to bonuses and raises, men always get more than women, simply because they’re men.
- Another way of narrowing the gap produced by wealth inequality in America is by amassing assets. Save money, buy your own house and things. They are all considered part of your property and will help change the current situation, in the long run.
- Let go of the idea that marriage will solve your money problems. Indeed, many women marry for this purpose or, at least, with this idea in mind. However, once they do, they hand over the reins to their husbands and become financially dependent on them. This dependence is not the smart way of approaching our predicament. You need to always be financially independent, no matter what.
Evidently, this doesn’t necessarily mean going to the extreme of always signing a prenuptial agreement or of never having a joint bank account with your husband or never putting your money together in any way. You can still do all that, to make sure your marriage is truly a partnership from all points of view, as long as you keep some money on the side for yourself.
It will serve you well on addressing the wealth inequality in America issue. Apart from that, it will also aid you if the marriage ends or if something happens to your partner and you have to support him or be left on your own.
- Last, but definitely not least, let go of the ‘one gender is better at certain tasks than the other’ way of thinking. Women are just as suited to run and manage as men are. On the other hand, men are also good at doing all that women do, including raising children. As stated above, equality must apply in every single aspect of your life. However, to achieve that, you need to modernize your way on thinking and truly step into the 21st
Wealth inequality in America is a deeply sensitive issue. Still, things are changing. You don’t need studies to show you that. It’s quite enough to look around you. First of all, there is the gender swap everyone is talking about. Secondly, all the stay-at-home dads are slowly, but surely, changing the old perceptions. And thirdly, women are becoming more and more involved in areas previously considered masculine by definition, such as business, economics, finance, politics, and so on. All you need to do is jump aboard the change train and do your best!
The above article was researched and written by the editorial staff at WomensWealth.Money.