The Big RE Secret for Solving Women’s Pay and Debt Gaps

Issue 205 — September 5, 2022

Something doesn’t compute here, I thought, when I saw a well-meaning but laughable piece of advice to women in an Ad Council campaign in collaboration with AARP.

“Save a larger percentage of your income for retirement,“ it tells women, and cites the data that women are 80% more likely than men to be poor in their old age. “Save 2% more than you are currently saving,” goes the advice.

I’m no mathematician but even I can see that calculation is wrong on so many levels.

Yes of course, everyone needs to save for retirement. True enough, women are more likely than men to be poor in their old age. And it is certainly true that, as the justification for the campaign says, we need to change the narrative about women and money so that women “are empowered to prioritize their own financial wellbeing.”

But seriously? Tell the group that’s paid on average 18% less, consequently earning half a million to over a million dollars less than men over their lifetimes, to save 2% MORE of their income? Where’s the justice in that? Or, forget justice and ask, where’s the logic in that?

How about first we close the gender pay gap? How about we first provide for high quality childcare so women don’t have so many of those career gaps that compromise their financial futures? Come to think of it, how about we equalize caregiving at home so men do their share? Or even more radical, how about we place a monetary value on caregiving so any people who do it don’t risk losing out financially?

The ad campaign uses accurate statistics but misses the point. They should have checked with gender economist Katica Roy first.

Roy is the CEO and founder of Pipeline, an award-winning SaaS company that leverages artificial intelligence to identify and drive economic gains through gender equity. The Pipeline platform was named one of TIME Magazine’s Best Inventions of 2019, Fast Company’s 2020 World’s Most Innovative Companies and Fast Company’s 2021 Next Big Things In Tech.

Roy facilitated a panel at Take The Lead’s August 26 (Women’s Equality Day, natch) Power Up Conference where we took on the post pandemic wave of employee resignations and people in general responding to the disruption fomented by Covid to reconsider almost everything about their lives and livelihoods. Hence the conference theme of The Big RE. Roy’s personal experience with gender pay disparity ignites her visionary and bold solutions based in her brilliant economic analyses.

In a recent interview with MSNBC, Roy explained as only an economist can:

“If you just look at recent college graduates, women are 67 percent of all loan holders for student loans, so not only do women have less money coming into our wallets, we have more money coming out.” This is an issue that affects all American taxpayers, Roy explained. “Women who don’t earn equitable pay are more likely to be on social assistance programs which means that taxpayers are essentially subsidizing this pay gap.” She also said that “the U.S. could actually close the social security savings gap by a third if we closed the gender pay gap.”

So there you have the flaw in the Ad Council’s counsel to women, and the solution explained in dollars and good sense.

Opening doors for women in the workforce is one thing. Removing deep seated bias to enable equity in career advancement and pay is quite another.

That has been one of the hardest nuts to crack in no small part because the burden is placed on individual women to solve problems that are systemic. And yet it is also true that women must be at the forefront of solving systemic problems because it’s in our best interest, and the systems won’t change unless we collectively apply pressure for them to do so. Teaching women the skills to be change leaders is a core differentiator in Take The Lead’s online course, 9 Leadership Power Tools to Advance Your Career.

Technology like Pipeline’s can also help to equalize pay and the probability that women and members of other underrepresented groups will get a fair shot at leadership positions. Once there, they will be in better positions make systems more equitable. That potential is a responsibility that women individually and collectively need to embrace for their own good and the good of their families, their companies, and the economy overall. Writing in Fast Company, Roy cites this data, “Nationally, closing the gender pay gap is a $512 billion economic opportunity that would lift 50% more working women out of poverty.

As women put their stake in the ground coming out of the pandemic to create Big REs, whether REthink, REwire, or Recreate their personal or professional lives, Take The Lead REcommits to implement our visionary and bold agenda to reach intersectional gender parity in leadership in every sector by 2025.

Care to join us?

GLORIA FELDT is the Cofounder and President of Take The Lead, a motivational speaker and expert women’s leadership developer for companies that want to build gender balance, and a bestselling author of five books, most recently Intentioning: Sex, Power, Pandemics, and How Women Will Take The Lead for (Everyone’s) Good. Former President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, she teaches “Women, Power, and Leadership” at Arizona State University and is a frequent media commentator. Learn more at www.gloriafeldt.com and www.taketheleadwomen.com. Tweet Gloria Feldt.

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Gloria Feldt

Gloria Feldt

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Gloria Feldt is a New York Times bestselling author and co-founder and president of Take The Lead, a nonprofit women’s leadership organization.