Are Women Recession-Proof?
The current economic downturn has been nicknamed the male recession (or man-session, for short) because many more men than women have lost their jobs so far. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor, nearly 10% of men are currently unemployed, compared to 7 percent of women. In fact, there may soon be more women employed in this country than men.
However, these statistics conceal an important fact: though women continue to hold onto their jobs, they often get paid less for them and must battle discrimination in the work place in order to be successful.
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The Power of Women
It goes without saying that there are endless reasons to promote gender equality at home and in the work place. Recent studies have shown that the countries with the highest percentage of people going hungry are the very same places where women are discriminated against most.
And some argue women may actually be the answer to healing the shattered global economy. The earning power of women is expected to increase by more than $5 trillion dollars in the next 5 years, reaching a grand total of $18 trillion worldwide in 2014.
In America, many may assume that the gender gap is closed or virtually non-existent, but women face discrimination in plenty of surprising fields domestically. Here are some of the most notable examples of inequalities women face in their personal and professional lives, along with advice from experts on how women can overcome these problems.
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The Wage Gap
On average, women in America earn just 78 cents for every dollar that a man earns doing the same work. And women of color face an even sharper wage difference.
There are many different reasons for this wage gap. “Historically women did not have access to the same education and career progression opportunities that their male peers did,” said Clare Winterton, Executive Director of the International Museum of Women, an exhibition that hopes to promote gender equity worldwide. Winterton says education equality is improving but there is still a “legacy effect.” Another significant factor, she says, is “the long-term shrinkage effect on lifetime earnings of women taking career breaks to have children.” Plus there are varying levels of discrimination in the hiring and promotion process.
Of course, some jobs are worse than others.
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Working in Finance
Women who choose to work in finance face some of the worst disparities in pay. According to BizJournal.com, sales agents in the financial services industry make just 67 percent of the salary of their male counterparts. And female personal finance advisors barely earn half a man’s median salary.
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Female doctors and surgeons earn less than three quarters of the salary that male surgeons do. And that’s assuming women can even get these positions in the first place. Many types of medical specialties have a particularly low acceptance rate for women. For example, fewer than one of every five cardiologists is a woman, despite the fact that there is an equal amount of men and women graduating from medical school into the field.
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Sometimes the biggest problem a woman can face is a profession with too few men. On BizJournals.com’s list of the 10 professions with the worst pay equity, pre-school and kindergarten teachers topped the list. As surprising as this may sound, the reason for it is that these jobs are taken almost exclusively by women. Winterton, the International Museum of Women’s executive director, refers to this problem as “the long-term erosion of pay in female dominated professions.”
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How to Negotiate Pay
“The single most important thing a woman can do is to research her compensation and then negotiate it,” said Selena Rezvani, author of The Next Generation of Women Leaders and a sought-after speaker on the topic of women and leadership. “Researching comparable pay arms a woman with data to fortify her argument.” If you are searching for resources to make your case, Rezvani recommends the WAGE Project, a nonprofit organization that works to close to the pay gap. WAGE offers women seminars on negotiating pay and tools to calculate what your job is really worth.
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Owning A Company
Only 28 of the 1,000 largest U.S. corporations have female CEOs, according to BusinessWeek.com.And as of 2002, less than a third of all U.S. businesses were owned by women. But on the bright side, the businesses women do own and operate generate a lot of profit. From a recent Washington Post piece: “Women-owned businesses generate about $3 trillion in revenue and employ 16 percent of the workforce, making them significant players in the national economy, according to researchers who conducted a benchmark study released Friday.”
As these businesses become more successful, and it becomes more common to see women in the pilot seat, it’s likely we’ll see more women in this role. For those currently aspiring to climb up their company’s ladder, Rezvani recommends that you be willing to confront coworkers directly and build a reputation of credibility. “Become known in your organization as a straight shooter,” she said. “If you disagree with the direction your organization is going, be the one to say it.”
This advice may help you succeed at work, but what happens when discrimination extends into your personal life?
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MetLife recently conducted a study of employee benefits and found that working women on average receive less life insurance than men. While men typically have coverage equal to or as much as three times their household income, women only have coverage up to twice their income. Some argue this is a result of women living longer, but regardless, more than half think their coverage is inadequate.
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The statistics on this are particularly overwhelming. So we’ll let former President Bill Clinton give it to you straight. “Even though women make up half the world's population, they do two-thirds of the world's work, produce 50 percent of the world's food, earn 10 percent of the world's income and own one percent of the world's property.” That’s right, women own just one percent of the world’s land.
Of course, since this is a global statistic, American women may be wondering how this affects them. See the next slide.
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Women in America certainly own more property than women in other countries, but they often have to fight more red tape to get it. “The evidence shows that women – and particularly women of color – may struggle to get loans and mortgages on equally advantageous terms to men, “ said Clare Winterton, of the International Museum of Women. “Women are far more likely than men to have problematic ‘subprime’ mortgages even when their incomes and credit scores were the same or better.”
Winterton explains that this is primarily because women “report less confidence and knowledge about financial transactions.” She recommends that any woman concerned about buying or keeping a home should build up their financial savvy by studying basic business.
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This issue, perhaps more than anything else, can affect a woman’s personal and professional life. According to Rezvani, the US ranks as one of only five countries in the world that do not require employers to offer paid maternity leave (though some states like California do offer partial compensation). But beyond this, many women face set-backs in their careers by taking time off to raise their children.
“When preparing to leave the office for a hiatus, one of the best things a woman can do is to proactively create a leave and reentry plan with her boss,” Rezvani said. “This demonstrates a woman’s sense of ownership over her role and can be an ideal opportunity to communicate to a boss how a woman foresees her return to work.”
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