At the Women’s Fund, we believe that every woman can make a difference no matter her place in life. We want all voices to be listened to and to feel heard. At the Women’s Fund we know that all girls need to feel confident so that they will take advantage of opportunities in their lives. We believe in sharing stories and experiences to amplify all voices. We want to hear your stories of inspiration and encouragement. We want to know your triumphs and frustrations. Your voice matters.
This year the Women’s Fund of Central Ohio has invested in research around Economic Self-Sufficiency for women in our community. We invite you to share your personal and professional experiences with us in regards to economic security. What opportunities have you taken advantage of? What opportunities have you created? What have you missed or felt wasn’t there for you?
What does being economically self-sufficient mean to you? Self-sufficiency is defined as the ability to provide for oneself without the help of others; independent. Does this definition make sense to you? And how does the definition change when you add children or other family members into the equation?
In the United States, for every dollar a man makes, a woman makes just 82 cents. In Central Ohio, that amount drops to just 78 cents. How are women supposed to become self-sufficient when not given equal opportunity to get there? For decades, women have broken down barriers, stepped up to the plate, and done everything possible to forward their places in society.
In 1920, after over 70 years of struggle, women earned the right to vote with the 19th Amendment. It was not without struggle, but it was accomplished by women, who were tired of not being allotted a privilege men had had for years. During WWII, women took a call to action to take traditionally men-filled positions, in order to replace the men that were away at war. Again, it was not an easy task, but women stepped up to the plate and raised families and worked endless hours to keep our country running. They said, in the words of Rosie the Riveter ‘We can do it!’ And they did it. In both of these historical instances, women rose to take opportunities to change their lives and the lives of all girls and women.
The women of the early 1900s and the women of the 40s had an opportunity. The women of today have an opportunity. We have the opportunity to make a change. The women of our past taught us to not be afraid in the face of adversity and that just because the world doesn’t see a problem, doesn’t mean there isn’t a problem. I see a problem and that problem is the struggle to be able to gain economic self-sufficiency. We have the ability to turn this problem into an opportunity.
A recent report by the Colorado Women’s College at the University of Denver found that women hold less than 20 percent of leadership positions across a broad range of industries, and they earn less than their male counterparts. In fact, even in the highest levels of leadership, women often times remain underrepresented and underpaid, regardless of performance. Do you think this has affected you?
In every sector, men are making more money, gaining more distinction, and garnering more respect, even when women put in just as much, if not more effort. In academia, for example, women earn 57 percent of bachelor’s degrees, but women with these degrees still earn approximately $344 less a week than men. We are earning more degrees, but not the respect for earning these degrees. We need to not only change ourselves, but also work to encourage others to change. What makes a woman’s four year degree, or any degree for that matter, worth less than a man’s?
Two years ago I was working as a server in a restaurant. I wanted to be a supervisor and worked hard to prove myself to my bosses and to the company. When this promotion was made available I jumped at the opportunity. I had a meeting with my managers, and after being praised for all of my work, I was told I would not be getting the promotion. And why not? I needed to work on being “less feminine.” Yes, that’s what I was told. Be. Less. Feminine. Be. Less. Feminine. I felt like I was being asked to change everything about myself. I was without words. I quit the next week. I often look back and wish I would have done more. I wish I would have stood up for myself. I wish I would have turned this situation into an opportunity, instead of just walking away. We need to stop walking away. We need to stand up.
Women make up approximately one-half of the population. In some countries, including the United States, the population of women actually surpasses that of men. It seems absurd that half of the population would have to fight for equal pay and equal rights. Women make up 47 percent of the workforce in the United States. Nearly half of our workforce is women, and we’re still struggling to have a voice. Let’s have a voice. And let’s use that voice.
Nora Roberts said, “If you don’t go after what you want, you’ll never have it. If you don’t ask, the answer is always no. If you don’t step forward, you’re always in the same place.” Let’s go after that economic self-sufficiency. Let’s ask why we are given less pay, less accolades, and less promotions. Let’s step forward and create change.
So I ask again, share your story with us. Do you feel economically self-sufficient? What does that mean to you? And what do you think can be done to change the way women are seen in the work-place and around the world? What can we do together to turn our situations into opportunities?
At the Women’s Fund we know that together ‘We can do it!’ Now, let’s start talking about how.
Written by Brittany Teal, Women’s Fund Communications Intern