“Money, money, money, must be funny, in the rich man’s world” as the lyrics from a popular Abba tune go. However, not so funny if you’re a woman.
I googled women and interesting money facts and I found out that:
Women only earn on average about 80% of what a man does; the average woman spends as much as 15% of her career out of the paid workforce, due to caring responsibilities. Finally, nearly 90% of the poverty stricken are elderly women. I knew about the wage gap, but I was surprised by the other 2 facts. It’s really quite scary when you think about it!
This week’s blog is about money and how it affects women’s life chances.
When I was relocating to Lagos, some people were a little envious, citing the availability of domestic help as a big plus. Domestic help is common in Nigeria and the majority of that help is female. I’m always struck by the different dimensions of this. The vulnerability of these women to sexual exploitation, by the men who provide them to households. The physical and sexual exploitation they may encounter, once they are placed in a household. The focus of this blog though, is the economic exploitation of this workforce. I was having a conversation last week about a housemaid and was amazed to find out that it’s unusual for them to receive their wages themselves. I was told that although they work, often for a year at a time, their wages are ‘paid’ to the man who found them the placement. The fact that these women are providing a service and yet are still in such a precarious economic situation is really quite horrifying. It‘s perfectly possible then for a woman to finish her year’s contract and be paid less than she’s earned or nothing at all!
Money is an important indicator of life chances and women need to be financially savvy. The fact is that if we earn less than men and we lose time in our careers due to caring responsibilities, then we will be poorer in the long term. Coupled with the fact that women tend to outlive men, by an average of 5 years, you begin to see how important it is for women to save and invest for the future. I like nice things as much as the next woman, but I also recognise that as beautiful as that handbag is, it’s not going to provide a sound investment for my future. As women, we need to take responsibility for our finances and teach our daughters, good money habits. It’s no longer wise to solely rely on a partner for financial support, especially in this constrained economy.
For women experiencing domestic violence, economic abuse adds yet another dimension. Some women are not permitted to work outside the home at all, whilst others are not allowed to control their own earnings. Instead they receive an ‘allowance’ from the perpetrator. Even in the cases of seemingly affluent women, money has a huge impact on the decisions they make about how and when to leave an abusive partner. I am reminded of a case I prosecuted, where the survivor and the perpetrator were both professional people. The survivor asked me not to prosecute on the basis that she wasn’t yet in a position to financially support her children, having just started her own business. She said if she pursued the case, the perpetrator wouldn’t support the children financially. She said she needed a year to get herself sorted out and that she didn’t think he would kill her in a year! For those who still believe that women in domestic violence situations don’t think things through, I rest my case. This woman had a clear sense of her own safety and how long she had to prepare.
So I close with a couple of questions. What do you spend your money on? How are you investing for the future? What habits are you passing on to your children, especially your daughters? How do you value yourself in the workplace? I’m pondering these questions along with you and I hope in the end, we will come up with the answers that will help us prepare properly for our futures. If you would like help with these questions or any others you may have, contact us through the website.
Until next week, go well.