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MONEY

Theme #3 for Feminist Fact Friday

Before I started writing #FeministFactFriday I outlined for myself a few different themes I knew I wanted to address. For some of them it was obvious which month they should fall in or what order I’d want to complete them in. Others I could slot in anywhere.

It was my intention from the very beginning to place the MONEY month very firmly in April; it’s the start of the financial year and a time when people often choose to reflect on their finances (have you used up your ISA allowance yet?) but it also holds Equal Pay Day (in the US) and most importantly for the UK – where I’m based – it’s a time when the gender pay gap data starts to be announced.

The economic gap as it stands

I opened my first theme, POLITICS, by discussing the findings of the WEF’s Global Gender Report 2018. At the current pace of change it will take 107 years to reach political equality across the world, but this is nothing compared to the stark economic reality for women.

As the WEF report states:

In terms of broader economic power, gaps in control of financial assets and in time spent on unpaid tasks continue to preserve economic disparities between men and women. Women have as much access to financial services as men in just 60% of the countries and to land ownership in just 42% of the countries assessed. Also, among the 29 countries for which data are available, women spend, on average, twice as much time on housework and other unpaid activities than men.

World Economic Forum’s The Global Gender Gap Report 2018

Setting the scene for economic inequality

I’d like to quote a recent piece of research from Fidelity that discusses in detail three of the biggest ways in which women are held back from financial equality:

THE PENALTIES THAT COME WITH CHOICE:

We take breaks from our career for all the right reasons, and then face severe setbacks to our financial power when we return in terms of career progression, earning potential, retirement savings and investable income.

The Financial Power of Women

1. ‘The Motherhood Penalty’

At some point in our working lives, many of us may take time off from our careers to have children. The divergence in men’s and women’s salaries start during the childbearing years. Any additional time we choose to take off after statutory maternity leave, or if we construct a part-time working arrangement, is often a negotiation that includes a drop in earnings. Research from think tank the Social Market Foundation highlighted working mothers earn 20% less than fathers ten years after the birth of their last child. Shared parental leave remains chronically underused: just 8,700 new parents opted to take shared parental leave in 2016/2017 – 1% of those eligible to do so. In comparison, 661,000 mothers and 221,000 fathers took maternity and paternity leave over the same period.

2. ‘The Childcare Penalty’

British parents shoulder some of the highest childcare costs in the world. This year, the average price of 25 hours of care a week for a child under two in a nursery is £6,300 per year, a 7% rise since 2017. Many parents calculate that they simply can’t afford to shell out their entire salary or more on childcare, and make the financial and emotional decision to leave their careers to look after their children.

However, it is still mostly women making this choice. ONS estimates show that in couples 65% of mothers are in work, compared to 93% of fathers. Another challenge is the fact that tax rules dictate a limit to how much we can put into a pension each year, making it impossible for many women to ‘catch up’ on missed contributions later on.

3. ‘The Good Daughter Penalty’

We’re more likely to take time off work than men to care for elderly relatives. In 2016, around 8% of the private household population acted as ‘informal carers’ for someone. Nearly two-thirds (59%) of these carers were female and, overall, it’s estimated that unpaid carers provide social care worth £57 billion. The need to take care of a sick or elderly relative often falls at a time in our lives when we should be consolidating our pensions and savings to prepare for retirement.

Recognising the problem

This has been a common theme across #FeministFactFriday: the need to prove, time and again, that the problem even exists. In fact, a recent Time article opened by saying:

It can be hard to argue for remedies to a problem when there’s still a debate about whether that problem exists. This dilemma has stymied advocates decrying issues that range from climate change to discrimination. And a new poll from SurveyMonkey, revealed first by TIME, shows that a significant belief gap exists when it comes to the issue of equal pay.

Katy Steinmetz in TIMENearly Half of Men Believe the Pay Gap Is ‘Made Up,’ Survey Finds 2 April 2019

So, clearly there’s still an education piece that needs to be done in showing a portion of one half of the population what the other half is going through. As the TIME article closes “If you’re not living it, maybe you’re blissfully unaware.”

There are companies getting it right

As Bell and Ehrenberg-Shannon wrote in a recent FT article comparing 2017 and 2018’s results ‘All sectors pay men more and in some the gap has grown’. Awareness alone isn’t enough to solve this problem but it’s a good start.

There may be people reading this thinking Well sure, in those countries it’s bad. But not here. You’re likely to be wrong. In the case of the UK we sit at #52 out of 149 countries – having slipped down from #37 in 2006.

Just as it shouldn’t take 107 years to achieve political equality between genders, it most definitely shouldn’t take 202 years to achieve economic equality.

In March during my first HEROES series I featured Marc Benioff, whose company Salesforce invested $6 million in correcting the gender pay gap. And I’m writing this introduction on a day when Diageo announced fully paid shared parental leave for all parents for the first 26 weeks

Parents employed by Diageo in the UK will be eligible for the same fully-paid 26 weeks, retaining benefits and bonuses regardless of gender, sexual orientation or whether they become parents biologically, via surrogacy or adopt.

The ambitious move is part of Diageo’s leading work to support gender equality and to create a fully inclusive and diverse workforce, where barriers to career progression are removed and talent is retained and nurtured.

Diageo announces fully paid 26-week equal parental leave for all UK employees 3 April 2019

We can all do better. Which is why the next four weeks of Feminist Fact Friday will be dedicated to the subject of money and women’s economic (dis)empowerment.

Reading ahead

If you’re interested in this theme of gender and economic disparities here are a few items I think you might find worthwhile:

What is Feminist Fact Friday?

Needing a quick refresher? Read up on what this is all about in my Introduction to #FFF and view the rest of the articles in the category here.