Throughout the year, our blog series “Pearls: 30 Lessons Learned on Our 30 Year Journey” will be featuring lessons we’ve learned as an organization throughout the past three decades. These “pearls,” as we call them, illuminate how we’ve survived and thrived for 30 years.
The Lasting Effects of the Pay Gap
Women in America are more likely at every age to live in poverty. In fact, the US has a greater poverty gap between men and women than any other country in the western world. Women are poorer than men in every racial and ethnic group and women of color face particularly high rates of poverty. Why? Because women are paid less than men, even when they work the same hours and have the same qualifications. Women spend more time providing unpaid caregiving than men and are more likely to bear the costs of rearing children. In addition, domestic and sexual violence can push women into a cycle of poverty.
Compared to men, women in the US earn roughly 80 cents on the dollar. Though women still have a long way to go in terms of pay equity, the value women feel as a result of earning their way cannot be denied. Which is why, when you change a woman’s life, you change her family’s life.
The Power of Working Moms
Women who grew up seeing their mothers working earn 23% more than women whose mothers didn’t work. Even men who had working mothers are affected; they are more likely to help around the home. Working mothers create role models for how to work inside and outside of the home. Overall, growing up with a working mother has a positive effect on gender equality overall.
Girls raised by working mothers are more likely to be supervisors at work. And there are many other ways daughters benefits from having moms who work. For instance, they tend to feel inspired by their moms, they view working as a normal part of life and learn their work ethic by example. Girls learn resilience from their working moms and learn to respect and appreciate work.
Breaking the Cycle
Frequently, from the women we serve, I hear about their shame and angst as they realize the impact their past actions have had on their kids. They are often trying to make up for what they have done— how they behaved when they used drugs, leaving their children when they were incarcerated, not teaching them how to be in the world in a positive way.
Employment creates the stability the women we serve need in order to be the moms they want to be. It provides them with the opportunity to lead their children down a different path and to overcome the negative feelings about what they have done to, or even with, their children.
Women who are employed have greater self-esteem and confidence. These feelings lead to psychological well-being, economic security and autonomy. When we love and feel good about ourselves, it extends to our children. Ultimately, helping a woman change her life by supplying the tools she needs to get and keep employment has a positive effect on the rest of her family.
The Big Picture
Research from across the globe has shown that when women work, they invest 90 percent of their income back into their families, compared with 35 percent for men. By focusing on girls and women, innovative businesses and organizations can spur economic progress, expand markets, and improve health and education outcomes for everyone. Because we believe that all women have the power to transform their lives through employment, we also believe that this transformation will extend to her family.
Written by Tamra Ryan, CEO