Equal Pay Day 2021: COVID-19 impacting wage gap for women

Marking Equal Pay Day on Wednesday, March 24, Nevada businesses are pausing to recognize the progress toward pay parity while acknowledging there’s more work to be done in removing financial divides between men and women.

Women’s History Month in March typically celebrates a number of contributions women have made across the world, but even today, they still make up to $1 million less than their male counterparts come retirement age.

Andrew Diedrichsen, Northern Nevada senior vice president and market president for Bank of America, is among those encouraging the community to help women find financial independence and close the gender wealth gap.

“Research by Merrill Lynch found that gender-based biases still exist and persist toward investors, making women feel they must prepare more for meetings and speak up proactively to be heard,” Diedrichsen said. “Overcoming these biases to build wealth will take time but aren’t prohibitive — with the right advisers, networks and resources, women can close the gap.”

Equal Pay Day, first observed by the National Committee on Pay Equity in 1966, has offered annual activities, been a part a number of national organizations and played a role in the passage of legislative acts such as the Paycheck Fairness Act in efforts to encourage women to gain equal footing with men when it comes to closing the wage gap.

“While career and economic progress is being made by women, when combining the current pay gap with common workforce interruptions — especially with the pandemic displacing so many mothers in the workforce — women may earn as much as $1 million less than their male counterparts by retirement age,” Diedrichsen said. “It’s a moment in time to shed light on this pay- and wealth-gap, and it’s especially notable that it falls during Women’s History Month.”

Nevada women who were full-time employees earning wages or salary workers had median weekly earnings of $776, or about 84.3% of the $920 median weekly earnings of male counterparts in 2019, according to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In 1997, the women’s-to-men’s earnings ratio ranged from a low of 73.9% to 88.4% in 2011, and the state’s ratio has remained higher than 80% since 2005.

Before the pandemic, the World Economic Forum had predicted at current rates of progress, it would take 257 years to close the economic gender gap.

According to www.weforum.org, now the socioeconomic implications from the pandemic have taken a toll on women in negative ways, affecting them more than men.

Diedrichsen noted the research conducted by Merrill Lynch did find women younger than 35 are willing to educate themselves on financial matters. They also scored higher on financial literacy questions than their male counterparts.

He also added nearly 60% of the current generation of females are more likely to feel more comfortable speaking about financial topics.

Employers today can take steps to celebrate and encourage women’s roles in key positions on boards, in executive positions or to expand their own interest in business, he added. Bank of America, for example, Diedrichsen said, has six women on its own board of directors, one of four S&P companies to offer more than six females on a board.

Similarly, other businesses and organizations can encourage women to pursue their own goals through education or by assisting in investment opportunities, Diedrichsen said.

Empowerment and resources are strong tools, but some difficulties remain with so few women-owned businesses still in the United States currently, he said, although he currently continues to work increasingly with more interested female entrepreneurs and notes 80% of all buying decisions are made by women and contribute $8 trillion of economic impact.

“There’s been a gap in knowledge, networks and resources for women starting and running successful business compared to generations of male counterparts,” he said.

Overall, a long-term continued investment into women who demonstrate an interest into various economic opportunities and education can benefit the workforce as a whole, Diedrichsen said.

“Education and empowerment are two incredibly powerful things,” he said.


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