My sister and I took care of our mother during the last months of her life. She developed fast-growing brain tumors and, mercifully, was incapacitated and bedridden for only a few months before she passed away. We quickly became exhausted and unable to physically care for her without professional help as she declined. It was a shock to discover how expensive it is to hire home health support and how little the long-term care insurance, for which she had been paying over decades, would reimburse. None of us had the financial means to pay for much support for very long. She passed quickly, but a family can rapidly become financially drained trying to care for family members. Realistically, women pay the biggest price for both elder care and childcare—as unpaid family caregivers.
I grew up in a family of entrepreneurs where my mother and many of my aunts were strong businesswomen. I am also an entrepreneur, perhaps because I had female role models, and I have always wondered—why don’t more women start businesses?
Claire Cain Miller of the New York Times agrees that something is wrong with the underrepresentation of female business founders. She notes that while women make up half the workforce and earn 40–50 percent of the degrees in business, science, and engineering, fewer than 10 percent of technology startups are founded by women, and only 36 percent of all US companies are owned by women. Also, many woman-owned businesses are small, employ only the founder, and earn less revenue than businesses founded by men, according to the census data.
“I do not feel that my years of experience are valued or respected by my boss or coworkers,” wrote an employee on an employee satisfaction survey that I recently administered for a client. Most of the employees of this organization are very young, with only a few older workers below the executive level. This comment surprised both me and my client, but I recognized it as a symptom of the generational shift change taking place in the United States.
Equal Air Time for Women: Eliminate the Male-Pattern Rudeness of Manterrupting, Mansplaining, and Manologues
Many women were immediately angry when we saw Senators Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren interrupted, chastised, and cut off mid-sentence during US Senate hearings in recent weeks while their male colleagues were allowed to speak. As Renée Graham noted in the Boston Globe, “To be female is to be interrupted. By the time most girls reach their first day of school, they already know how it feels to be drowned out by a chattering group of boys.” It was so obvious to most women watching the Senate hearings that manterrupting was happening—why weren’t the men involved aware of their own rude behavior?
Janet Yellen, chair of the Federal Reserve, keeps a close eye on the United States economy. One of the concerns of the Federal Reserve since the Great Recession (officially 2007–2009) has been the sluggish rate of overall economic growth in the United States, which impacts the well-being of all of us. In a recent speech, reported by Binyamin Appelbaum of the New York Times, Chair Yellen said that policies making it easier for women to work could significantly improve the nation’s economic growth. She suggests three policy areas that would make it easier for women to participate in the labor market:
My niece just had a baby and is worried about being paid less than her male peers. She is an engineer with solid work experience on her resume, and she intends to return to work full time. She wants answers from me about how to avoid becoming a victim of the gender wage gap.
Unfortunately, new research reported by Claire Cain Miller of the New York Times reinforces that, as a new mother in her late twenties with a college degree and a professional career, she is poised to become a wage gap statistic. I don’t know what to tell her about how to avoid this. Because most companies keep salary data secret, she will probably only be able to suspect unfair treatment but will not be able to prove it. The odds, and statistics, are stacked against her.
I just came across an interesting new study, reported in the Harvard Business Review (HBR), showing that companies run by male executives with female children rated higher on measures of corporate social responsibility (CSR), defined as “measures of diversity, employee relations, and environmental stewardship,” than is true for comparable companies led by men with no daughters. This means that male CEOs with daughters spend significantly more net income on CSR priorities than is true for other companies (unless the CEO is a woman, but more on this later).
Women, for the most part, just want sexual harassment to stop when it happens. But, as Claire Cain Miller of the New York Times reports, women (and it is mostly women who are harassed) rarely report sexual harassment for good reasons: fear of retaliation that can take the form of hostility from supervisors, bad references, or loss of opportunity when labeled as a “troublemaker.” This is not a small problem for women. Miller reports that an analysis of fifty-five surveys shows that close to 50 percent of women have experienced sexual harassment, but only one-fourth to one-third of people who have been harassed report it to a supervisor or a union representative. Only 2 percent to 13 percent file a formal complaint.
Do you know a woman who has recently decided to run for office? Suddenly, I know several. Brittany Bronson, writing for the New York Times, explains that the 2016 presidential election “was a wake-up call for American women, one that has inspired their increased grassroots activism and political involvement.” One of the main reasons that women have been so poorly represented in government in the past is that few women ran for office. That is changing, and the results will be good for all of us.
I have always had a fierce drive for financial independence. When I was a girl child in the 1950s and 1960s, I remember reflecting on my mother’s traditional suburban life as a homemaker and being horrified by her lack of independence. Although she was living a life that met society’s expectations, she often told me stories about dreams she had abandoned to be a wife and mother.