Thursday, September 9, 2010

Why workplace (pay) parity for women is still important

The facts concerning women and retirement are daunting, which is why I am referring you to the recent column written by Courtney Sherwood at The Columbian newspaper in Vancouver, Wash. Sherwood examines the multiple workplace challenges facing women. Among them are lower pay and lack of advancement. Why does this matter to women in retirement? Because women have less opportunity to earn and save money for their old age resulting in 20 percent of single women 65 and older living at or below the poverty line.
Women are in and out of the work force
While the workplace has become more flexible for men and women in the past 30 years and outright discrimination is a thing of the past, women still only earn 77 cents for every dollar earned by men. We are more often in and out of the work force as we have children and raise them. We tend to more often take part-time jobs or jobs without pension or 401(k) retirement plans. We are drawn to lesser-paying "helping" jobs such as teaching and nursing. We have a tendency to not save but spend on immediate needs for our kids. We make impulse buys. We tend to not worry about the long-term. But the fact is that, according to Sherwood's reporting, "among people with the same amount of education and experience, in the same type of job, men come out ahead by more than $4,000 per year." And men receive 15 percent more promotions than their female colleagues.
Workplace mentoring, a key
This topic stirs controversy. Some men resent that women still are complaining about the equal pay issue. Women on the other hand must accept more responsibility for their financial futures whether they are in or out of the work force. A recent Harvard Business Review study as mentioned in Sherwood's column, suggests that companies could make greater strides if they look at how they mentor and communicate with women. Sherwood writes that the study said that mentors tend to help women improve in the jobs they have now, but help men prepare for the jobs they want in the future.
Who has it easier?
Do men have it easier? Certainly not. The Great Recession has been harder on men in certain job categories such as manufacturing while women have generally been luckier at keeping their jobs. However part of the recovery from recession must include improving financial literacy for both women and men. We all must do a better job of planning FINANCIALLY for the long-term. As more babyboomers move to retirement the issue of how much we've saved will become critical. That starts with how much women earn, save and prepare for the future.  Click here to read Sherwood's column at columbian.com.

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