by Kimberly Blaker
Sprinkles Magazine, October 2017
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How to Empower Women and Girls – and Why They Need Empowerment
Women today earn only “78.3 cents for every dollar a man earns,” according to the Status of Women in the States. The reasons for such inequality, it’s often claimed, are that women have lower educational attainment and choose lower-paying careers or to be stay-at-home moms. While there’s some truth to these claims, it isn’t the whole story. Even when these scenarios are factored in, women still earn less than men. To exemplify this, according to research by Claudia Goldin of Harvard University, in 2014 women made substantially less than men among many of the highest paying jobs. Female lawyers and judges made only 82% of what their male counterparts made. Female physicians and surgeons received only 71%, and financial specialists made only 66% of what their male peers made.
More disconcerting, studies have found the average pay in many fields drops as more women enter the fields. In contrast, as female-dominated industries have become male-dominated, the pay has increased. The computer programming industry is the perfect example. It was originally a female dominated industry. But as more men entered the field, reveals Ruth Oldenziel in “Making Technology Masculine,” it gained prestige, wages increased, and it’s now become a male-dominated industry.
Another interesting fact is that the pay gap for younger women is much smaller. Women under the age of 35 make 90% of what men make. Yet as women age, the disparity grows. Studies show men’s earnings continue to climb until they reach the age of 54, at which point their wages stabilize and remain steady for another decade. But for women, beginning at the age of 36, their earnings dip slightly and steadily decline until retirement. So from middle age forward, women’s earnings are only 74 to 82% of what men make.
Most troublesome, at the current rate of closing the gender pay gap, it’ll be 2058 before women gain parity. This signifies the crucial need for empowering today’s women and young girls in an effort to close the gap more rapidly.
Professional recruiter Nick Corcodilos, in “Ask the Headhunter: Women Don’t Cause the Pay Gap. Employers do,” says despite all the excuses as to why women earn less, such as having kids, poor negotiating skills, career interruptions, lack of confidence, and not having the right education, the bottom line is, women have nothing to do with it. “Employers decide to pay women less,” points out Corcodilos, “simply because they can get away with it.”
The challenge is, what, if anything, can women do to even the playing field?
Empowering women to believe in themselves, their abilities, and their worth is the best way to counter the inequality that persists today. There’s much truth that employers control the purse strings and often leave women little option but to accept unfair pay. But the more empowered women become, the easier for them to walk away from unfair practices and go elsewhere – and eventually, employers will have no choice but to concede.
There are ample ways women can empower themselves and other women. Whether empowering oneself or another woman, it better serves us all. We must also strive to empower young girls for a more progressive future for themselves and for all women. Fortunately, more and more, forward-thinking men and male-owned or managed companies are also stepping up to the plate to help empower girls and women as well.
WAYS TO EMPOWER YOU
Keep learning. Regardless of your current career or education level, strive to never stop learning. Consider whether your current career is fulfilling and compensates you fairly. If so, focus on continued education or development in your current industry. If your current career isn’t meeting your objectives, weigh out other options, and redirect your educational focus for a future change of course.
Go for your dreams. Whatever your dreams, realize the sky is the limit. Have faith in yourself and your abilities, and know there’s a road to achieve whatever your heart desires. Layout a path to get you there, and move along step-by-step.
Don’t settle for unfair wages. Granted, your earnings aren’t 100% under your control. But neither are they set in stone. Learn the skills to negotiate pay for new employment and for pay raises. This goes a long way towards empowerment. If you’ve brushed up on your skills and you’re unsuccessful, know it isn’t you – and never forget, you have options.
Utilize and affirm your strengths. Whatever your talents may be, make an effort to use them every day. Even if you don’t consider your strengths significant, they’ll provide you a sense of capability that fosters self-esteem. Remember, self-esteem translates to empowerment.
Find a mentor. Do you lack confidence or the direction needed to follow your dreams or achieve your goals? Look for a strong female mentor who’ll provide you guidance and encouragement. Find a friend, relative, or co-worker you admire for her strength, wisdom, courage, or achievements. Also, find a women’s organization either locally or online, or join a Meetup group with empowered women.
WAYS TO EMPOWER OTHER WOMEN
Support women-owned businesses. Both men and women can contribute to women’s empowerment by patronizing female-owned businesses. In addition to the increased income for the women owners, female-owned businesses are more likely to hire women for higher level positions and for better pay than many male-owned companies.
Be a mentor. Are you already an empowered woman? Do you have goals or dreams and the fortitude to see them through to success? If so, you’re an excellent candidate to mentor other women.
Volunteer for a women’s cause. There are organizations for women in most communities ranging from domestic violence shelters to professional women’s networks. Reach out to a women’s organization in your community, and ask how you can help. Whether you want to help women find safe and affordable housing, help with fundraising, or offer lectures to educate women, it all goes toward women’s empowerment.
WAYS TO EMPOWER YOUNG GIRLS
Choose STEM toys and activities. From the time girls are very small, provide them plenty of toys, books, and activities that teach and generate enthusiasm for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Just look for the STEM acronym on the box or search online for “STEM toys.”
Have them join a girls club. There are many girls’ organizations that serve to empower girls today. Some of the ways girls organizations help to empower girls is through mentoring, encouraging civic duty, by creating enthusiasm for STEM, and by inspiring girls to be strong, smart, and resilient. Girl Scouts, Girlstart, Girls for Change, and Boys and Girls Clubs of America are but a few of the organizations that empower girls.
Expose girls to role models. Find opportunities to expose girls to strong women within your family or among your friends, co-workers, and acquaintances. Also, look for strong female celebrities who make good models and are doing something positive in the world.
Praise girls’ character and strengths over beauty. Girls are inundated with media and societal messages that physical beauty is what defines them. It’s fine and even good to tell girls they’re beautiful. But the message they should hear considerably more often is praise for their efforts, skills, good deeds, passions and interests, intelligence, and positive character traits.
Encourage sports. Sports provide girls many benefits. Sports teach girls about teamwork and sportsmanship, provides them the opportunity to develop friendships with other strong-minded girls, and fosters increased self-esteem.
Kimberly Blaker is a freelance writer on social issues.