Take salaries for example. According to sociologist Mariko Chang, women’s earnings are currently at about 78% of men’s, yet females own just 36% as much wealth as males. Single black and Hispanic women own a penny of wealth for every dollar owned by men of their race, according to Chang, and they own a fraction of a penny compared to white men. Chang says that because the racial inequalities are entangled with gender, “unless the gender wealth gap closes, the racial wealth gap cannot close.”
The fact that women live an average of five years longer than men, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and spend around 13 fewer years than men in the paid workforce, according to the Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement, creates additional financial pressures. The Government Accountability Office reports that 12% of women over age 65 are living in poverty, compared with only 7% of men. The numbers increase to 21% for divorced women and 15% for widows.
Betty LaMarr, an executive coach in Los Angeles, knows what it’s like to be taken advantage of financially. Years ago, while working at a major corporation, LaMarr was excited about a job promotion to mid-level management but says she never had the chance to discuss a related salary increase. Her boss didn’t mention it, so she didn’t either. “Money never came up,” recalls LaMarr, who became the first black female to earn a mid-level management position at the firm.
It didn’t take LaMarr long to realize that many of her employees (most of whom were men) were making higher salaries than she was. LaMarr approached her boss about the problem six months into her new position. “I was setting salaries for my own employees so I gathered that information and showed him that I was due for a 25% raise [compared to the typical 5% annual increase],” says LaMarr. “He realized that the job warranted it, so I got the raise.”
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