“We did it!” trumpeted a recent cover of The Economist, one of world’s most respected business magazines. Who is the “we”? Us. Us girls. What did “we” do? Quietly become one half of the U.S. paid workforce.“The economic empowerment of women across the rich world is one of the most remarkable revolutions of the past 50 years.” Too bad this is not really a reason to celebrate. Why? Because, despite being one half of the people who bring home paychecks, the “social arrangements have not caught up with economic changes.” Paid maternity leave is still not mandatory and affordable; quality child care options are few and far between.
Women continue to earn about 80% of what men earn in the same positions, according to the article, which, when added up over a lifetime of earnings, is staggering. To make matters worse, we remain dramatically underrepresented in positions of power and leadership, which is likely why policy change is coming so slowly.
But, there is good news!
We do have a lot of power in our own right.
Collectively, we make the vast majority of all consumer purchasing decisions in this country, and we can use this economic power to drive change. Start asking questions and be willing to change your behavior based on those answers. Before you decide to work somewhere, ask about family support policies…and if they stink, look elsewhere. If you buy a new TV, look for a female salesperson to help you. Once women earn the same as men in the same job, and we are represented in positions of power and influence in critical mass, then we can stop. Until then, use your power to drive the change that you hope to see in the world.
Jacki Zehner writes for LearnVest on philanthropy and women’s empowerment issues, particularly in the workplace. She is a frequent media commentator, consultant, and speaker on those subjects, as well as on women and wealth. In 1996 she became the youngest female partner at Goldman Sachs; she retired in 2002. Currently, in addition to running the Jacquelyn and Gregory Zehner Family Foundation and serving as a founding partner of Circle Financial Group, she blogs at PursePundit.