Bridging the Gender Wealth Gap

  • by Kirstie Kenton

Introduction

Hello! My name is Kirstie, I am the founder of Curated for Equality.

CFE was designed to showcase independent female founded brands, with the goal to give women the economic tools needed to build business capital, save for retirement and create wealth.

Today, I’m proud to say that we’ve created a diverse and inclusive community of women makers and designers from across the United States.

Now that you know a little about me, let's dive into the issue at hand.

What is inclusivity?

I want to talk to you today about women of color and the gender wealth gap but first, let’s discuss inclusivity. What exactly is inclusivity and why does it matter in the context of gender inequality? 

This subject is very intimate to me because inclusivity is one of our core values here at Curated for Equality. 

When people talk about the gender wealth gap, they often neglect to include data that demonstrates the unique narrative for women of color when it comes to wealth inequality.

Statistically, women of color are substantially more economically insecure than their White counterparts. Don’t believe me? Let's go over the numbers.

For every dollar that a White man owns;

  • Women own thirty-two cents.
  • Black and Latinx women own one penny.

Did you know that Black, Native American and Latinx women earn 25% less than White men? Twenty-five percent might not sound like a lot but it's a significant gap that demonstrates the injustices within our political and economic frameworks. 

To further illustrate this point -- if a Black woman and a White man work at the same place of employment, have the same job title and perform the same duties -- the White male will earn $70k per year, while the Black woman earns only $52.5k per year.

Inclusivity is academically defined as:

“The practice or policy of providing equal access to opportunities and resources for people who might otherwise be excluded or marginalized, such as those having physical or mental disabilities or belonging to other minority groups.”

However, put it in simpler terms, inclusivity efforts strive to make everyone feel seen, valued and have equal access to education and employment opportunities. 

Over the last year, diversity and inclusion have become buzzwords for companies trying to position themselves as allies to the Black and brown communities. Do you know what the sad part about these diversity and inclusion efforts? Most companies devalue the terms, using them to meet a certain “quota” or incorporate it in their revenue “strategy”. 

Thankfully, there are some companies, like us, who build diversity and inclusion into our business framework because we actually value them as basic necessities to make the world a better place. As a brand, our promise is to provide equal representation within our shopping experience by cultivating a diverse and inclusive community of women makers, designers, models and customers.

Are wealth and income the same?

women of color gender wealth gap

Now that we have the definition of inclusivity covered, let’s address the subject of this blog and the mission of our brand - closing the gender wealth gap.

We are not talking about the pay gap. There is a difference between income and wealth and it’s important to distinguish between the two.

Income is earning money. Wealth is having money. You can also view wealth as what we own minus what we owe

Let me put this into a metaphor for you. I want you to imagine that you have a water hose and a bucket. 

Income is like the water flowing through a hose. The higher the income, the heavier the flow of water. The lower the income, the weaker the water flow (think of slow drips coming from the hose). 

Wealth is the bucket and it catches the flowing water. You could have a small bucket with a large water flow but if there are holes in the bucket (representing debt) and the water is spilling faster than the bucket can be filled, what value does a strong water flow have?

In another scenario, you could have a low water flow but it will take much longer to fill your bucket. Additionally, you may have those pesky holes in your bucket that prevent your bucket from EVER filling it to the top.

In the ideal situation, you have a large water flow, a large bucket, and you're repairing any holes as needed to prevent your bucket from draining. Over time, your bucket will fill to the top and you may even have enough water left over to invest in MORE buckets that catch even more water.

Still need a little bit more information between the difference of income and wealth? 

Income can be broken down but not limited to include:

  • Wages/salaries
  • Welfare benefits
  • Business Profits
  • Rental Income to people who own/lease property
  • Interest from savings

Wealth can be broken down, but not limited to include:

  • Savings
  • Property ownership
  • Shares in stocks and business
  • Bonds

What is the gender wealth gap?

women of color gender wealth gap

Before we can provide actionable solutions, it’s best to explain exactly what the gender wealth gap is and how it manifests itself in our economy.

The gender wealth gap refers to the statistic I shared earlier - women owning thirty-two cents for every dollar a man owns. Efforts to close the gender wealth gap are about bridging the divide between the long-term economic security⁠ of women vs. men. 

It is critical to note that the gender wealth gap is either helped or exacerbated by a broad range of policies put in place by our government and institutions. Income inequality and access to financial capital play a huge role in the wealth gap. Moreover, the continuing lack of representation among women and people of color in leadership positions in these institutions, has meant that our policies don’t often address the wealth gap issue through the lens of the people our policies impact most. Or more discouragingly, our policies have intentionally favored White men.

Continuing the conversation -- it is a fact that long-term economic security for women used to depend on and was often improved by marriage. However, women’s empowerment has increased the number of women choosing to remain single, making them the sole earner for their households today. 

Here are some additional contributors to the gender wealth gap:

  • Women have more debt than men do (WOC have more debt than “women” in general).
  • Women invest less of their money than men do.
  • Women pay more for housing than men.
  • Women are less likely to receive venture capital to grow their business.
  • Women spend more taxes on feminine and body care products (a.k.a. the pink tax).

Based on this evidence, activists for economic justice and gender equality argue for policy solutions that allow women to build their savings, invest their money and access capital equitably. These policy solutions include ideas like universal access to childcare programs that would allow women to focus on building their wealth. At Curated for Equality, we envision a world where all women have equal access to:

  • Credit building opportunities
  • Higher education
  • Emergency funds
  • Retirement

Policies that address these inequities will bring us, as a nation, closer to closing the gender and racial wealth gaps.

Why centering women of color to address the gender wealth gap matters

The gender wealth gap is compounded by the racial wealth gap, leaving women of color especially vulnerable to economic insecurity. 

After the civil rights movement in America, women’s wealth did not improve at the same rate for women of color (specifically for Black women) at the same rate as it did for White women. 

Additionally, women of color have consistently been more likely to serve as the sole provider, bread winner or single parent in their household, with less help from family members. This means that their already thin resources must be stretched even further.

gender gap women of colorChart image from https://www.urban.org/urban-wire/women-are-building-more-wealth-racial-gaps-persist

Due to these conditions, women of color have always had an entrepreneurial spirit that continues today. With good jobs hard to find, women of color, many of them immigrants, turn to self-employment, creating incomes for themselves and others. Curated for Equality wants to amplify the voices of these women and help them grow their business.

So why simply focus on women of color and the gender wealth gap and not just women as a whole? 

Privilege exists on a scale with Latinx and Black women historically at the bottom (the gender gap is widest between White men and Black women). If we center Black women, who are the most impacted by the wealth gap, we improve conditions for ALL women. 

In addition, wealth disparities for communities of color are more burdensome and challenging to overcome due to systemic racism and years of economic injustice. This gives White women an advantage in building wealth.

Here are some statistics to back this claim:

  • In 2012, African American women and Latinas earned 64 percent and 54 percent of White men’s wages, compared to 78 percent for White women.
  • In 2011, 40 percent of never-married mothers were African American and 24 percent were Latina, although only 12 percent and 19 percent of total mothers were African American and Latina.
  • In 2007, White women had a median wealth of $45,400, while African American women and Latinas had a median wealth of $100 and $120, respectively.

Placing the focus on fixing the wealth gap for women of color will have a net positive impact for all women. Simply put, there is no situation in which Black women do well, and everyone else doesn't benefit. 

If all women have equal access to attaining wealth, they will have a stable and strong foundation to build economic security. Gender equity will allow us, as a nation, to recover in times of crisis (like the one we are facing now with the COVID-19 pandemic). 

When there are less people at the margins of our society, the burden on government and non-government intuitions to provide assistance shrinks - benefiting everyone. Closing the gender wealth gap isn't just a women's issue - it is everyone's issue.

Economic inequality for women of color: how you can help

women of color gender wealth gap

How do you feel about learning this information about women of color and the gender wealth gap? Does it make you want to take action? Spread the awareness? Learn more? Well, let me guide you in the right direction.

Here are some actions to take:

  • Increase your awareness (you’ve already done that if you’re reading this blog. Go you!).
  • Teach younger girls about money (your daughter, niece, students, etc.).
  • Contact your local and state legislatures.
  • Sign a petition to ban the “pink tax.”
  • Educate women of color on how to negotiate better job offers.

Here are some resources I have found valuable in learning more about women of color and the gender wealth gap.

What have you learned about women of color and the gender wealth gap?

Phew! So much information in such little time. We’d love to know what you learned new by reading this blog post. Comment down below! Share your favorite resources in the comment to help others and Curated for Equality learn more about WOC and the gender wealth gap.

Remember, YOU are powerful, and remember Curated for Equality stands for fashion and activism. Make sure to take a browse around our site and take notice of our diverse and inclusive community of women makers, designers and models. We’re not doing this to fit a quota, we’re doing it because it’s in our brand’s framework and purpose.

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