Women have more opportunities today than ever before. Mothers are on the rise as primary breadwinners, and women are beating out men in college enrollment and degree attainment, according to the Pew Research Center.
Yet women still earn less than men (recent data shows that women earn 83% of what men do). Earning less now could have serious implications for your future. According to the National Institute on Retirement Security, women are 80 percent more likely than men to live in poverty during retirement.
The gender pay gap is alive and well, but maybe not for the reasons you think. Rather than outright sexism, societal norms and expectations may be influencing women’s choices in a way that lowers their lifetime earnings and retirement savings.
Photo Courtesy of PEOPLE Magazine
Why do women make less than men?
One of the biggest reasons women earn less could be the jobs they choose — and what they’re willing to ask for.
Women are less likely than men to pursue careers that offer a high earning potential, and they make up the majority of nearly all the least lucrative college majors.
As a woman, you may still be considered a primary caregiver in our society. Even in households where both partners have similarly demanding jobs, women are more likely to do the lion’s share of housework and child care.
For many women, that extra responsibility could lead them to opt for a career seen as “less intense” so they can still fulfill their roles at home. In some cases, women take breaks from their careers altogether in the name of staying home with children for a few years. Both of these things could contribute to lower wages overall.
Another possible reason for the gender wage gap? A reluctance to ask for more money. In 2016, an Earnest survey found that 26 percent of women aged 18 to 24 attempted to negotiate their salaries, as opposed to 42 percent of men in the same age group.
Photo Courtesy of the Huffington Post
Failing to negotiate your earnings can have big implications for your future, especially early on in your career. Once your base salary is set, your future raises and promotions will be based on that number. If you start with lower earnings, you could see smaller pay bumps later on, possibly leading to hundreds of thousands of dollars left on the table due to missed earnings.
How earning less impacts your retirement
The less you make, the less you can save for retirement — and that’s where things get really sticky.
Consider a matching 401(k) contribution from your employer. If you make $40,000 a year and have a 100 percent contribution match for up to five percent of your salary, you’re socking away $4,000 a year if you take full advantage ($2,000 from you and $2,000 from your employer).
But what if you were making $50,000 a year? With your employer’s match, you’re putting away $5,000 a year for retirement.
That extra $1,000 in savings may not sound like much, but it adds up with the power of interest. Over the course of 20 years, you would save up an extra $20,000. If you earn 8% interest on that money, it will grow to $50,000 during that time — more than doubling your money.
Don’t forget the impact of taking a break from your career. That’s money you aren’t earning and savings you aren’t putting aside for the future. You can’t replace the time money spends in the market. The longer your money is in the market, earning interest, the more you have in the long run.
What to do right now to fix your financial future
You don’t have to be part of these statistics; you can make moves right now to fix your financial future and build a comfortable nest egg.
1. Review your pay
Use a website such as PayScale or Glassdoor to get an idea of what others in your career are making. You can compare your pay to people with similar experience and education. If you’re underpaid, ask for a raise. The more you make, the more you can set aside for your future.
2. Start a business
If you don’t earn as much as you’d like to at work, consider finding a second income stream. Consult. Freelance. Drive for Lyft. Find ways to earn a little extra money on the side, then put that into your retirement account and watch it grow.
3. Start investing in your retirement today
Regardless of how much you make, now is the time to start investing for retirement. The longer you have to save, the more time your money has to grow.
If your job offers a retirement plan, get signed up. Try to contribute as much as possible to get the biggest maximum match. If your work doesn’t offer a retirement plan, you can still open an IRA and start investing for the future.
It may make sense to start with a robo-advisor such as Betterment or FutureAdvisor. These types of companies usually balance your accounts automatically, investing in a mix of assets based on your age, risk tolerance, and estimated year of retirement. Robo-advisors are low-cost options that often don’t require an account minimum — making them perfect for beginners.
4. Consider a spousal IRA
If you’ve chosen to take time out of your career to care for your family, you can still prioritize your retirement. It’s possible to make a contribution to a spousal IRA, even if you don’t have an income.
A spousal IRA is in your name only, but both you and your partner can contribute to it. It’s a way to ensure that you build your own retirement, even if you decide to stay home for a few years. Better yet, depending on your circumstances, the contributions may be tax-deductible. It’s true: Women are still at a disadvantage when it comes to long-term finances. But it doesn’t have to be that way for you. Start planning now, and you can retire comfortably later.
I walk into a room full of men and I know exactly what they're thinking: "What does she know about whisky?"
I know this because many men have asked me that same question from the moment I started my career in spirits a decade ago.
In a male-dominated industry, I realized early on that I would always have to work harder than my male counterparts to prove my credibility, ability and knowledge in order to earn the trust of leadership stakeholders, coworkers, vendors and even consumers of our products. I am no stranger to hard work and appreciate that everyone needs to prove their worth when starting any career or role. What struck me however, was how the recognition and opportunities seemed to differ between genders. Women usually had to prove themselves before they were accepted and promoted ("do the work first and earn it"), whereas men often were more easily accepted and promoted on future potential. It seemed like their credibility was automatically and immediately assumed. Regardless of the challenges and adversity I faced, my focus was on proving my worth within the industry, and I know many other women were doing the same.
Thankfully, the industry has advanced in the last few years since those first uncomfortable meetings. The rooms I walk into are no longer filled with just men, and perceptions are starting to change significantly. There are more women than ever before making, educating, selling, marketing and conceptualizing whiskies and spirits of all kinds. Times are changing for the better and it's benefitting the industry overall, which is exciting to see.
For me, starting a career in the spirits business was a happy accident. Before spirits, I had worked in the hospitality industry and on the creative agency side. That background just happened to be what a spirits company was looking for at the time and thus began my journey in the industry. I was lucky that my gender did not play a deciding role in the hiring process, as I know that might not have been the case for everyone at that time.
Now, ten plus years later, I am fortunate to work for and lead one of the most renowned and prestigious Whisky brands in the world.. What was once an accident now feels like my destiny. The talent and skill that goes into the whisky-making process is what inspired me to come back and live and breathe those brands as if they were my own. It gave me a deep understanding and appreciation of an industry that although quite large, still has an incredible amount of handmade qualities and a specific and meticulous craft I have not seen in any other industry before. Of course, my journey has not been without challenges, but those obstacles have only continued to light my passion for the industry.
The good news is, we're on the right track. When you look at how many females hold roles in the spirits industry today compared to what it looked like 15 years ago, there has been a significant increase in both the number of women working and the types of roles women are hired for. From whisky makers and distillers to brand ambassadors and brand marketers, we're seeing more women in positions of influence and more spirits companies willing to stand up and provide a platform for women to make an impact. Many would likely be surprised to learn that one of our team's Whisky Makers is a woman. They might even be more surprised to learn that women, with a heightened sense of smell compared to our male counterparts, might actually be a better fit for the role! We're nowhere near equality, but the numbers are certainly improving.
It was recently reported by the Distilled Spirits Council that women today represent a large percentage of whisky drinkers and that has helped drive U.S. sales of distilled spirits to a record high in 2017. Today, women represent about 37% of the whisky drinkers in the United States, which is a large increase compared to the 1990s when a mere 15% of whisky drinkers were women. As for what's causing this change? I believe it's a mix of the acceptance of women to hold roles within the spirits industry partnered with thoughtful programs and initiatives to engage with female consumers.
While whisky was previously known for being a man's drink, reserved for after-dinner cigars behind closed doors, it is now out in the open and accessible for women to learn about and enjoy too.
What was once subculture is now becoming the norm and women are really breaking through and grabbing coveted roles in the spirits business. That said, it's up to the industry as a whole to continue to push it forward. When you work for a company that values diversity, you're afforded the opportunity to be who you are and let that benefit your business. Working under the model that the best brand initiatives come from passionate groups of people with diverse backgrounds, we are able to offer different points of view and challenge our full team to bring their best work forward, which in turn creates better experiences for our audience. We must continue to diversify the industry and break against the status quo if we really want to continue evolving.
While we've made great strides as an industry, there is still a lot of work to be done. To make a change and finally achieve gender equality in the workplace, both men and women need to stand behind the cause as we are better collectively as a balanced industry. We have proved that we have the ability to not only meet the bar, but to also raise it - now we just need everyone else to catch up.