Financial Fluency Episode #42: Why Women are Behind Men in Retirement Savings

Today, I wanted to take a look at retirement savings for women. Recently, I’ve seen some articles that talk about how overall in the U.S, we aren’t saving enough for retirement and then on top of that, women are being most negatively affected. Women seem to be saving less than men and I wanted to look at some of the reasons for that.

You can listen in or read below and Tweet it out hereTweet: Can women afford to live longer than men? Via @jturrell

Here’s What I Found

I found a few studies, some longitudinal studies that followed women and men through different parts of their lives and careers. The first one I want to talk about is a study that followed Harvard MBA graduates and it was showing how the burden of student loans weighs heavier on women and why that is.

They had two students; a male and a female, graduates from Harvard MBA, they go to their first professional entry-level job and the woman doesn’t quite manage to negotiate for as high a salary as the man. There are a lot of reasons for that, women are inculturated to not really hone the same negotiation skills that men are, we’re often told to be nice, we’re told to be polite, we’re told to kiss the smelly uncle that we don’t really like when we say hello to him.

There are all these ways that women are taught to be people pleasers a bit more than men usually are. I don’t mean to make a sweeping generalisation about gender here but I think most people agree that everyone likes little girls to be “nice”.

Little girls are supposed to be cute and sweet and not aggressive and not too forward. They get called bossy and bullies, hopefully no one’s calling little girls bitchy but as you get older into the teenage years, that comes out too. Both in school and in life, people tend to encourage boys to go after what they want and be focused and driven and assertive and aggressive and women are taught to not do that quite as much.

So these could be some of the reason that the women, even these elite women from Harvard MBA, I mean if any woman in the country is going to really go in and negotiate well for her first starting salary of her first professional job, it’s probably going to be a woman who’s a Harvard MBA graduate.

So even these women aren’t managing to negotiate quite as high of a salary as the men. It’s not as drastic as in some other groups because these women are taught Business and they are going in there to get the best salary as they possibly can but still a bit lower.

Here’s Where the Real Difference Started

Where it really started to show a difference between the man’s and the woman’s ability to pay off their student loans was at the five-year point.

Five years out in their careers, things started to change a lot. Now men’s salaries were going up much higher than women’s, women were taking time off for having children, they were getting flexible work schedules, they were maybe taking different jobs that had less demanding hours and their student loan payments did not escalate the way men’s did.

A lot of the Harvard MBA men were much more aggressively paying off their loans so the length of time that the women were paying off these loans and the level they were paying them off, was much longer at a much lower payment level.

I feel like this five-year point from Graduate school, these are prime years in a man’s career. This is when he’s going for those promotions, going after new projects, doing lots of things where maybe he has to travel, he probably doesn’t have kids yet or his wife is home having the kids and he’s able to really focus on his career.

Where women at the same time, a lot of them are taking time out, they’re leaning back, you know Sheryl Sandberg wants us all to lean in in these years but you know what, not everyone can lean in and I get frustrated at this idea that it’s all on the woman:

  • To be negotiating correctly
  • To know what her salary should be
  • To own her worth
  • To be aggressive

Some of us, like myself, I had really difficult pregnancies. I had Hyperemesis, I was on bedrest for most of them, I was on medications and IVs. And some women they can have a perfectly fine pregnancy but have a very difficult and physically catastrophic birth experience.

I think sometimes, here in America, because we’ve come so far in terms of medical intervention for birth, we don’t think about how physically traumatic and dangerous it actually is. I looked up the statistic the other day from the World Health Organization and it said that everyday in the world, 861 women die from pregnancy and birth related causes.

A lot of that is definitely skewed toward the developing world where there are not a lot of prenatal services and where the medical services for birth at all are much more primitive than here in the United States. We have a much lower mortality rate for both mother and infants than in a lot of other countries but we’re not the best by any means.

Women still die every day from giving birth so the idea that it should just be this experience that everyone has and that you hop up out of bed the next day and take a week or two off and then sashay back into work with your baby at a nanny or some kind of child care facility, that’s not the reality for a lot of women.

Not All of Us Have the Same Experience

For myself again, I had really difficult pregnancy experiences and now I have two special needs children who have very different levels of need. If everything goes right and if you have a beautiful birth experience, a beautiful pregnancy, your children are fine and healthy, yeah it’s true, you may be able to hop right back into your career and it may not take that much time out for you. However, that’s not the reality for a lot of people and I think that us talking about leaning into our careers assuming that most people have these really easy, super smooth birth experiences, that’s a little bit unrealistic.

So if you do have to take time out from your career, if you do have to actually leave the job and not just use up all of your sick leave and all of your vacation days in order to have your baby and then maybe six weeks of unpaid leave on top of it. That’s a lot of time and salary lost just there, plus the contributions to your 401K, if you even have one, plus the possibility of promotions that you missed out on during that time.

For one thing, when you’re pregnant, they’re not going to put you in charge of a team that has a project that’s due right around the time you’re going to have the baby, right? They think, “Oh, she’s not going to be there” and even if you don’t get pregnant during those prime childbearing years, studies have shown that there is a cultural bias against promoting women in case they might get pregnant.

And Then The Gap Widens

So, anyways, the tendency for women to give up on their career aspirations for family growth instead of men, is something that has gone on ever since women entered the workforce. They have always been more likely to give up their career for having children than a man would.

We see now and then, more and more house husbands, especially if the wife is say, a doctor, a lawyer, a high-earning professional, a movie star, you know there are some times when the man will stay home with the children and the women will go back to work but it’s far from the norm right now.

The reason that it usually makes the most sense for the woman to stay home besides the physical birthing, nursing all of that, is that because men tend to have a higher salary than women so if one of them is going to take time off and stay home in terms of the family’s well-being, it makes sense for the highest earner to keep on earning.

If the family stays together, if there is no divorce, that makes the most sense, right? You want the highest earner to keep earning and you want the lowest earner to take the time off. However, with the number of marriages that end in divorce, this is a real problem for the wife because gone are the days of the endless alimony payments. Very few judges award alimony that goes out past a couple of years anymore even if you’ve been out of the workforce for a long time, they expect you to go get a job and support yourself.

The fact that you have given up so much of your earning potential by taking time out and not getting the ongoing promotions and salary raises and everything that you would have, had you stayed in the workforce, really isn’t accounted for in terms of maintaining your standard of living.

You may be at a certain standard of living while you’re married, you get a divorce, if you’ve been out of the workforce, I mean, some women stay out for eight or ten years while they have three or four children, that’s a significant loss of potential earnings.

As well as that you don’t re-enter the workforce at the same place you left it. Often, your industry will have kept going, kept advancing while you were out especially if you’re in some sort of Science / Technology industry. If you take five or eight years out of the Technology industry, do you think you can just jump back into a job at the same level you were at? Absolutely not.

You’re going to have to go back to entry-level positions and that’s hard for a lot of women especially if they have supported their husband through all of his career changes and aspirations and reaching big goals and getting promoted. Part of the reason he was able to do that and have children and have a family is that someone was at home taking care of them.

When women do go through divorce and now have to start supporting themselves again, often what they do, if they have some retirement savings, they may hit that up for awhile while they get themselves back on their feet. If they don’t have retirement savings, they certainly aren’t contributing to it in this period of time when they’re trying to re-establish themselves as a new single mother, in her own household.

Running two households is definitely more expensive than running one, the alimony is not going to cover it all by any means anymore. So there’s a new situation. Studies have shown that in the case of divorce here in the United States, at least, men’s standard of living goes up slightly after a divorce and women’s standard of living goes down.

I think a big part of the reason is that men have been earning more and they keep on earning more even if they pay some alimony, they still have more money to themselves afterwards especially depending on if they move into a new apartment where they used to have a big house with the family. There are all kinds of changes that can be made but overall, but the end result is that divorce puts men in a better financial position and women in a worse financial position.

Less Confidence Around Investing

I’m sure there are some more contributing factors throughout careers and lives of women as to why women ended up saving less than men.

Another one to throw out there is that women tend to be less confident about investments, about putting money into the stock market, something that they see as volatile and not that safe. After the crash of 2008, many feel that they have a lot of reason to fear. A lot of women who did have their retirement savings invested in stocks, bonds and index funds saw their savings cut in half.

If they did sell up and run then they may have carried that loss into the future. If they left it there and managed to get the benefit of the recovery, it will have recovered a good deal but it still…that was a huge hiccup in the overall growth of anybody’s retirement funds.

They say over time the stock market averages out somewhere between 6 and 12%, I think they usually put it around 8% including inflation that you should be making on your money over time but a lot of that really depends on when you pull the money out, when you retire, when you stop putting money in. So anyone who had just retired right before the crash of 2008 and no longer had earnings to continue to put in there but had to take money out in those years when the stock market was down, that was a really scary thing.

I don’t know that if they went back to work and kept working after the recovery if they would have continued putting money in. So not feeling comfortable with investing, a lot of women keep more in cash and keep more in very safe, low risk but low return types of investments; savings accounts, bonds, CDs, money market accounts.

Women who are afraid of losing money more than they want to make it, they tend to take these very safe investments that often don’t quite even return as much as inflation which means over time, they’re losing money.

The Main Culprits

We have the wage gap that starts out with your first job, usually, that widens as you have children, if you do have children and will also widen as you get promotions based on that lower starting salary than men had.

And Divorce. Women are worse off, not all women get divorced, but for those who do, that makes a significant impact on their ability to save for retirement.

I’d also like to throw special needs caregiving in there just because I have special needs children and a lot of the women I know, our parents are in their 70s and 80s now. A lot of people I know have young children at home, their children haven’t quite gone to college yet and they are starting to have to think more and more about caring for their parents as well.

And that’s another place where, although some men do care for their ageing parents, it tends more often than not to be daughters, wives and sisters who care for the ageing parent or the disabled loved ones. Again, it makes the most sense for them to leave the workforce or cut down to part-time work or take flex hours or change to a more family-friendly type of business that may be lower paying to care for the loved ones, because the fathers, sons and brothers are able to earn more in their careers. Then we also have the fear of investing.

All of this can contribute to women falling far behind men in retirement savings.

Now, What Can We do About it?


For one thing, on a micro level, we can hire women. We can hire women and we can pay them fairly. We can hire female freelancers. We can hire companies that are started by women. We can hire companies that have female CEOs. We can put our retirement investments into companies that have female CEOs and who practise gender parity in their hiring and paying practices.

There are few ways you can find out more about that. I’ll put some links in the show notes. One is Motif Investing No Glass Ceiling motif which I love. There are a number of companies now that are focusing on women.


When we think about women being afraid of investing, a lot of that is down to the financial services industry. I think for ages, women have felt not heard, not seen, not listened to by the financial services industry. A lot of the financial industry’s advertising and the way they position and present themselves is mostly appealing to men because in the past, men have had the most control of the money that goes towards retirement.

Women often have control of the household budget but because men are the earners and they would have pensions and they would have retirement plans or IRAs or whatever it is, the financial services industry overall is very skewed towards men. However, there are some great platforms and companies right now that are focusing completely on women.

A few of my favourites are DailyWorth. DailyWorth is a financial media platform but it’s so great for educating women about all kinds of things in terms of their money. I love DailyWorth and just to be totally transparent, I am part of their Connect platform and I do write for them monthly.

The founder of DailyWorth, Amanda Steinberg, is also starting a new company with a partner called WorthFM and this is going to be a low barrier to entry savings and investments platform, similar to Betterment which I’ve promoted before on this show because I love Betterment.

It’s a great way for people who have not invested before to get started. There’s also Acorns, which I’ve mentioned before and that really is the lowest barrier to entry, the way Acorns runs it but they don’t have tax advantage retirement accounts so I’m not going to lump them in here with the others because WorthFM and Betterment do have retirement account options. Another platform is Ellevest. They focus very much on women.

Raising Prices

And if you are self-employed, if you are a self-employed woman, a freelancer, a small business owner, an entrepreneur, raise your prices. Go ahead, raise your prices. See how it feels, see what it’s like, go look at your competitors. Are men doing the same jobs for more money than you are? Are you doing work that’s just as good or maybe better? If you’re not, take some time to think about the level of work that you’re doing and let’s make sure it’s better than your competitors and you can charge more, you can confidently charge more.


Another thing that we can do is that if you are working for a company, find out what your male co-workers are making. Find out and talk to people at your company, talk to other women, find out what they’re being paid, find out what some of the men are being paid and talk to the company.

If it’s hard to approach on your own saying, “I believe that I am being paid less than my male co-workers”, you can get a group of women together, talk about it, figure it out. There are a lot of companies out there who aren’t strategically and consciously paying women less, it’s just each individual hiring decision, if the negotiation doesn’t go as high, I mean, they want to save money, they cut wherever they can. If they can bully you down to a lower price, they probably will but if it gets exposed that this is a company wide problem, that the company overall is paying women less than men, that is a PR nightmare that no company wants to have.

I think a lot of companies, if it’s brought up and if it’s shown that, whether they meant to or not, they really are paying women less, a lot of them will fix it. So, I think you should tackle it, go ahead and try.

I think we also need to start publicly discussing issues like family leave, not just for women but for men as well. The more men take paternity leave, the less of a women’s issue children will be. Right now, children are a women’s issue but if men take time off too, if men bond with the children, if they trade off with the woman going back to work, if they have some sort of interesting flex schedule, women won’t be financially punished for having children anymore because it will be a family issue and not just a women’s issue.

So, that’s my episode for today. Thank you so much for joining me. I hope it was interesting to you. I hope it was helpful. If you liked it, please subscribe and join me every week.


If you enjoyed this episode you can subscribe to Financial Fluency here on iTunes and listen every week. If you like what you hear, please also leave an awesome iTunes review

I do two episodes every week, one solo and one interview.

I also have the fantastic Mastering Money Matters group, a monthly membership group where you can join and we talk about all the different pieces week by week of getting our money systems set up and how we look at, think about and value money and all areas of our lives.

It’s a very supportive and private group just for women and it’s a safe place to hang out and talk. It’s kind of the extension of the interviews I’ve been doing with mainly entrepreneurs on this show, and it’s where we can talk about the things we may not want to broadcast out to a broader audience.

Let’s Keep the Conversation Going

If you’re enjoying the podcasts and something has lit a fire for you, carry on the conversation over on the Financial Fluency Facebook Group.

See you there!

Jen x

Financial Fluency Episode #32: Pay Parity in Sports

Today, I am super excited about something that has been in the news. I don’t always attach the topics of my podcast to current events but something so exciting has come up in the Sports news, no less, that I can’t wait to talk about it on the episode.

You can listen in or read it below and Tweet it out hereTweet: Pay Parity in Sport - it's within our reach! Find out more with @jturrell here:

Five, star players from the U.S women’s national soccer team have filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, saying that the U.S Soccer Federation pays the reigning World Cup Champions far less than their male counterparts.

Most of us already knew this. Back in July, I wrote an article about the pay gap in sports, specifically concerned with the U.S World Cup winning team. The thing is that when people push back against the idea of equal pay for women, sports is usually one of the areas that they highlight, and then how many times do we hear:

“Well, it’s not our fault, it’s not like we want to pay women less, people just don’t want to watch women play sports. They just aren’t as good at sports. They don’t have the really exciting plays, they can’t slam dunk in basketball, they don’t hit each other hard enough in football.”

You know, they don’t do all these things that we’re used to men doing in male sports. Therefore, we don’t get the butts in the seats in the stadiums, you don’t have the eyes on the television broadcast, they aren’t generating the ad revenue.

However, when the U.S soccer team won the World Cup, a lot of those arguments were completely shattered. I have problems with those arguments to start with and I’ll get to those in a second, but the fact that they won the World Cup, the U.S men’s team came nowhere close to winning the World Cup. I think they made it…did they even make it to the final 16? However, not only did the U.S win the World Cup, which is just a stunning achievement in its own, they also brought in far more revenue than the male soccer team.

And then we get the arguments…

Now, some people will say, “Oh, soccer’s totally different. Soccer’s not a very American sport,” you know. While on the worldwide stage, soccer is basically the most loved sport of all countries around the whole world. When you watch the World Cup, (Hey, I’m married to a Brit, so I get to watch the World Cup every 4 years) and see that the rest of the world loves soccer.

For some reason, America doesn’t. For some reason, we actually changed the name. We took “football”, which is what everyone else calls soccer in the rest of the world and we made it our own sport in America and then called what everyone else calls football, soccer. And we definitely relegated it a lesser position than pretty much any other sport than we have.

In America, we’ve got football, we’ve got baseball, we’ve got basketball, all of those in terms of revenue and ad money and viewership all rank above soccer. However, because soccer is so important worldwide, I think it’s a really poignant moment to look at why the women’s team winning the World Cup is so important.

A lot of people argued that pay gaps in general, especially in sports, are not sexism but the economics that women have different bodies, different abilities, they quite literally cannot play on the same field as men. Some people have also told me on my own Facebook page, in fact, that the pay gap doesn’t even exist.

I’ve had a lot of push back here and there. I mean, not a lot of times but from individual people. I’ve had individual people come at me very strongly about the fact that pay gaps don’t exist. Oh, and where they do, that’s actually not because of anything that we’re doing, that’s not sexism, that’s just biology, you know, that’s just how it is. “I’m not saying it’s right that women aren’t equal to men but yeah, they’re not equal to men”. That’s basically the argument that you get.

The cold, hard, stats

The statistics that I found when I did my article last summer on the U.S women’s soccer team win showed that U.S women soccer league salaries range from $6000 a year to $30,000 a year. In a lot of cases, this can put the player below the poverty line in the cities in which they compete without having another job and each National Women’s Soccer League team operates with a salary cap of $200,000 which includes all the games they play, for any bonuses they get for different things,

Women soccer players can’t earn more than $200,000 which is about what David Beckham makes for sneezing or frying an egg

Given all of that, I am so proud of the five, star players from the U.S women’s national soccer team who have filed this complaint. It is such a huge step towards equal pay in all areas of life. I mean, this one area that has always been kind of the sacred cow of discriminatory pay in terms of women. If they can win this, if they can get those salary caps lifted and actually get their pay, at least, equal to what the men are getting paid for not winning World Cups and for not bringing in as many viewers. I personally think they should be getting paid far more. Tweet that!

What does it mean off the pitch?

Beyond that, let’s look at what this would do for the world of sports as a whole for women and also for equal pay overall. So, like I said, sports is this area where everyone has always been like, “Okay, sure. Yeah, a female hairdresser should get paid the same as a male hairdresser. Sure, a female chef should get paid the same as an equally talented male chef.” But, when it comes to sports, women can’t compete on the same field as men.

I feel like in the U.S, at least, there are a lot of ways in which equal rights for women have followed behind equal rights for non-white men. For example, the vote. When the Emancipation Proclamation happened followed by the 14th amendment and former slaves were declared to be full citizens who had the right to vote, women were still not considered full citizens and still did not have the right to vote. That took several more decades for us to win.

Let’s look at the Supreme Court too. The Supreme Court of the United States had its first African American male member in Thurgood Marshall in 1967, I believe it was, and it was several decades later that we got Sandra Day O’Connor, the very first female Supreme Court justice which was super exciting. However, it was still really difficult for her. It wasn’t until a second female got on the Court that they even put a female restroom in the chambers. There were no female restrooms, it was just the restroom of the Courts which was for all the men because it had always been men.

So again, the rights and the opportunities following a bit behind, a few decades behind that of giving the same rights to non-white men.

And it’s not just the USA

So, for a long time in sports as well, non-white men and women really were not welcome. Not only on the field of play, but also in the bleachers, in the seating.

I was talking to my husband the other day about how this worked in England and he was saying that for football, British football, what we call soccer in the U.S, it really wasn’t until the numbers started lagging with Sky TV and people watching at home that they started even trying to market football games as a family-friendly environment.

It used to be all standing which meant you really couldn’t bring children. He said it was really rough. For the most part, women really weren’t welcomed there or on the field of play.

If you look at how long it has taken for Asian men, African men, men who don’t look like “British people”, to break into both soccer and cricket, the big sports over there.

It’s interesting how dominated a lot of U.S sports are by non-white men. However, when you think about the culture that we’re all brought up in, this culture, if it tells you all your life and all your parents’ life and all their parents’ life, that you don’t belong somewhere, that this thing is not for you, say non-segregated education. When that was not something that African American people were brought up to expect and to think as something that belong to them, it took a long time to get people in there.

But some are more equal than others

I know that there are a lot of people who argued back in the day when they wanted to keep schools segregated that, “Well, they’re not actually equal.” People who are not white are not actually equal to white and I feel like the same thing has happened over and over with women through all of these different eras, through all these different milestones that we overcome one by one.

“Well, we’ve always done it this way. You’ve never been considered equal here, so you aren’t equal.”

Speaking of Beckham, I brought him up briefly before, one of my favourite soccer movies ever, or football movies if you’re in England, is “Bend It Like Beckham” and I loved it, that he lent his name to the film and that he appears at the end because the whole film was about girls who are fantastic at football/soccer but it’s so frustrating that they don’t have much of a career path to follow.

For them, it was coming to the U.S where there actually is a National Women’s League where they have somewhere to compete but even then the salary is so paltry that it’s not a fantastic career proposition. And also in sports, often your career is limited by injuries, by age, by fitness, you know, if something happens, if you have some illness or some difficulty, that can really affect your ability to compete.

Can women make a career in any sport?

For a lot of sports, you don’t really have a long term career. It doesn’t stretch out as far as for other things because it’s reliant on your physical body. I feel like for ages we have discouraged women from thinking of sports as something that they could possibly do for a career. Women have never really associated sports with their income except in a few small, narrow regions where say they go to the Olympics, but then were training at such a young age and again you can only win Olympic gold for so many years, usually, before you age out of your ability to compete, before there are younger, stronger people coming up against you which is so interesting.

Let’s think about it in terms of say, a figure skater who wants to compete in the Olympics. It is so expensive to get the coaches and the equipment and the training and the hours, you have to travel for these minor competitions, the amateur competitions, go from one place to another. Doing all this work, not getting paid for it and if you win your Gold medal, you might get some endorsements, you might make money for a while. But really, then, what is your career after that?

Maybe you can do the “Ice Capades”, you can go do Ice Shows, Disney On Ice, that kind of thing but if you’re actually an athlete, what’s next? What’s next after the Olympics and so many people never even make it to the Olympics. So I think this idea that women can have a real career in sports beyond this super, super slim proposition of being able to win an Olympic gold is a relatively new thing. I think it’s a new and exciting thing, I think that women should be able to have real careers in sports, just like men do and I’m hoping that this is going to be the start of it.

Here’s hoping

I hope that they’re successful with this complaint, I hope that they do get better pay and I hope that this has a knock on effect through different sports industries. I can only imagine how inspiring this would be for girls in high school who play soccer right now. Looking up to this woman for inspiration and thinking, “Wow, well maybe some day I can do that. Maybe some day I can actually make enough to make a living without having a second job as a professional athlete the way men do. Oh my gosh, that would be amazing.

So I’m not only going to link to the article that I wrote last Summer which cites some interesting statistics about women in sport but also an article that I have right here in front of me about this Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint that the five, star players from the U.S women’s national soccer team have filed. I really hope they’re successful.

Good luck, ladies. We are all watching you, we are all cheering you on and wishing you the best. You are trailblazers for us and I am so proud of you. Thank you.

If you enjoyed this episode you can subscribe to Financial Fluency here on iTunes and listen every week. If you like what you hear, please also leave an awesome iTunes review

I do two episodes every week, one solo and one interview.

I also have the fantastic Mastering Money Matters group, a monthly membership group where you can join and we talk about all the different pieces week by week of getting our money systems set up and how we look at, think about and value money and all areas of our lives.

It’s a very supportive and private group just for women and it’s a safe place to hang out and talk. It’s kind of the extension of the interviews I’ve been doing with mainly entrepreneurs on this show, and it’s where we can talk about the things we may not want to broadcast out to a broader audience.

Let’s Keep the Conversation Going

If you’re enjoying the podcasts and something has lit a fire for you, carry on the conversation over on the Financial Fluency Facebook Group.

See you there!

Jen x

Financial Fluency Episode #26: What’s Hollywood Got To Do, Got To Do With It

Hello, and welcome to today’s episode of Financial Fluency. Today I want to talk about the Hollywood wage gap and why it matters to the rest of us.

You can listen in and read below and Tweet it out hereTweet: via@Jturrell What has Hollywood got to do with your wages? Check it out here:

I recently posted something on my Facebook business page, an article about Gillian Anderson being offered half the salary of David Duchovny for the X Files reboot. This man got onto my site, I think it was that he was an X Files fan, and he really came down hard on me for saying that there was any kind of wage gap at all, much less a wage gap in Hollywood.

According to him

  • It’s all about star power
  • It’s all about box office
  • It’s all about making good decisions on which roles to take in which movies

and that when you really look at it, there is no wage gap in Hollywood or anywhere else.

I thought that was interesting, and I read all of his comments. I left them there for a while until he started swearing at me, and then I decided to delete and block him, but it got me thinking, let’s do some more research, let’s look at what the Hollywood wage gap does mean in Hollywood and for the rest of us.

How Does That Trickle Down into the Rest of the World?

I think of Hollywood as the closest thing the US has to royalty. We don’t have our own aristocracy, but the people in Hollywood, the movie stars, they kind of claim it. They’ve been encroached on a little in the last decade or so by the reality stars, which we think of as watching ourselves, but let’s be honest, most of that is scripted anyway.

The real stars, the big stars, the Hollywood stars, they’re kind of in their own realm in terms of our culture. We look to them for a lot of things, they have a lot of influence and when they speak, people print it and repeat it and Tweet it and put it all over the place.

When they go out, people chase them down and try to take pictures of their babies when they’re trying to hide them, it’s a little crazy how we feel about our Hollywood stars.

I kind of think of it as a bit of an extreme microcosm for the rest of the world.

Hollywood for Women

To start with, it’s really hard to get into for women. I’m sure it’s hard to get into for men too, but for women there are these really difficult standards of beauty to even get into a lot of auditions for any kind of part on any size of screen.

First of all, you usually have to be thin, young and beautiful, but not just thin, you have to be really thin, but also fit with big boobs and often a big butt too, you have to be shaped in a certain way that may require some surgery to achieve for the average person.

You also have to be young, but not just young, sometimes you have to be so young that you miss out on things like high school.

You don’t just have to be beautiful, you have to be the epitome of beauty and that often requires painful orthodontics and surgical procedures to take a normal pretty girl into the Hollywood beauty level.

Beyond that, unless you are Meryl Streep or Dame Judi Dench, most actresses have a very short shelf life and your career can stop really short. Some women do make it to the Driving Miss Daisy age and are able to continue having some significant roles, but a lot of women take significant ‘time out’. It’s really not the lean in or opt out situation now.

And Don’t Even Think of Having a Baby

For one thing, if women get pregnant in Hollywood – I want to do more research on this –I’m wondering how often a real, actual pregnant woman has ever appeared in a film. So often they just take a skinny girl and pop a prosthetic belly on her and call her pregnant in a movie. I kind of feel like Demi Moore in The Seventh Seal may have really been pregnant because they did have the scene that showed her in the bathtub, and it looked like she really was pregnant.

If so, I think that’s awesome because I feel like most women in Hollywood disappear when they’re pregnant. They show up in tabloids of course, because everyone want to see how much weight is she putting on, then as soon as she has the baby, everyone wants to see, ooh, what does her post-baby body look like? If she doesn’t get the weight off immediately, her career could be very adversely affected.

If you decide to actually take some time off to bond with your child, you might miss a career changing opportunity. Just because you were pregnant and had a baby at the wrong moment in your career. You may have just given up that Oscar winning part in a film with the best line you’d ever get to say in your entire life, so there’s a lot of risk to being a woman, and to ageing and to having babies.

I’ve never really heard of a man having to stop filming a movie in order to have a baby. I mean, I hope most husbands will at least go and visit their wife in the hospital, but if they’re on a tight filming schedule, who knows, they might miss it entirely?

Love Interest Only

Also let’s say you want to be an actress and you go to Hollywood. You go young, you’re fit, you’re thin, you’re beautiful and you’re all ready for it. Often you start out as just being eye candy, a love interest, maybe a sexy villainess, if you’re lucky, because that has a little bit more oomph to it, but there are very few actresses that ever get the chance to accept an Oscar worthy speaking role in a film.

The Bechdal Test – is this test that you can put films through to see if there are any speaking lines for a woman that don’t involve her being a love interest for a man.

There are several criteria here in order to pass the test, and I believe one of them is having a woman having a conversation with a man that is nothing to do with romance, and women doing things besides shopping. A lot of films don’t pass that test and are very male-focused, the female characters don’t get very many lines and they don’t get very good lines.

It’s not that easy to suddenly come out of nowhere and become a Jennifer Lawrence or a Patricia Arquette or a Reece Witherspoon or a Sandra Bullock. These women who have climbed these heights to where now, when they finally say

I’m being paid unfairly, we are all being paid unfairly, we have all always been paid unfairly.

They can make those demands now, they can command an audience, they can be heard, but that’s the very, very elite few out of Hollywood.

A lot of women can’t get there, a lot of women knew that before, Bette Davis knew that, tons of women knew that, that they were being treated unfairly and paid unfairly, but there wasn’t much they could do about it back then, they just didn’t have the clout in Hollywood to demand more, they didn’t have what it took to demand to be paid equally.

Basically if you’re a woman in Hollywood, it’s hard to become a female movie star and you have to deal with a lot of sexist crap to get there. While you’re trying to hone your craft, find a few decent female roles that exist, if you have a baby and you gain some weight, you may have lost that once in a lifetime opportunity, it may change the trajectory of your whole career.

If you make it through all of that crap and actually have a decent career where you maybe have won some awards, some accolades, maybe even an Oscar if you have box office draw, you can negotiate a decent salary, give or take a few million dollars.

Still even at that level, even when you are Jennifer Lawrence, who has more star power and more box office draw than some of her costars in American Hustle, even then for the elite of the elite, it is still the standard to be paid less than your male costars who have less star power than you do.

That’s the reality of what all of these things have shown us, the women coming forward and speaking out against unequal pay in Hollywood.

What’s a Few Million?

When I said Jennifer Lawrence got three million and her costar got six million, the troll on my Facebook page said, she got three million dollars, cry me a river, oh, boohoo, she’s a millionaire, who cares?

Yes, she has plenty of money, but that’s not the point. How many men get paid half of what their female costar gets paid? How many men have to stop and even think about that? How many men have to worry that a woman is being paid more than them?

So What? What Does It Mean For Us?

Wage Gap What that means for the rest of us, how that trickles down into reality for those of us at these much lower levels of fame and glory and riches, is that could mean working in some retail job, some factory, some Walmart somewhere here in America, there could be a white man making 30 thousand dollars a year for his job to support his family while the Hispanic woman next to him maybe makes 15 thousand dollars for working exactly the same job.

We see all these statistics saying that women make 70 cents on the dollar. That’s white women, white women to white men. White women make 70 cents on the dollar to white men. If you’re Hispanic, African American, if you are gay, transsexual, all of these things take you down a few ticks.

A Hispanic woman supporting two or three children, if she’s the primary breadwinner for her family and she’s making 15 thousand dollars while that white man next to her is making 30 thousand dollars to support his two or three kids, that puts her family in poverty and his family not in poverty, that’s the difference it can make.

So sure, the difference between three million and six million, what’s the big deal, it’s not like she’s starving.

  • The difference between 15 and 30 thousand dollars a year, that’s a really big deal.
  • That’s not being able to pay for gas to put in your car and feed your children.
  • That’s not being to pay for healthcare.
  • That’s needing welfare assistance to feed your children and put diapers on your baby.

It’s a big deal, and I think that it’s worth looking at. Tweet that

What I like about the Hollywood wage gap is that it’s bringing attention to something that the Hispanic woman making 15 thousand dollars isn’t going to feel safe standing up and complaining about. She’s not going to go and tell her boss that she wants to be paid the same as the guy next to her. She’s afraid she’ll lose her job. That’s the whole thing with the Lily Ledbetter case and so many cases where it comes up when women realize they’re being paid far less than a male coworker who’s doing basically the same job.

Women are afraid of losing their jobs, they’re afraid of not being able to feed their children. I’m not saying men aren’t too, all of this is a problem for everyone, but it’s the fact that it’s so across the board. Just thinking back to the troll on my Facebook page too, he was so angry at me for making this an issue about sexism. He felt that it absolutely wasn’t, he even made the comment that if all you people could just stop complaining and unite with us, then everything would be fine.

It was very much this idea that ‘you people’, and I thought of who he meant by ‘you people’, and to me he meant us women, us people who are not straight white men, basically, that we really shouldn’t complain because it makes things harder for him and it makes him uncomfortable. It makes him realize that there are problems, there are inequities, and the truth is, women have only been earning money for a short time, relative to how long men have been in charge of money, of earning, of supporting families.

A Bit of History

Women came into the workforce in mass after World War Two, and not to say women didn’t work before that, certainly they did, in agricultural societies, in all kinds of ways, women have always worked, but we did not get paid. We were unpaid labor, often basically slave labor, let’s be honest about it. The way women were bought and traded and the whole history that has gone on with women in the world economically as well as African Americans, as well as native Americans, as well as all different ethnicities, and people who basically are not the predominant controlling ruling class.

I’ve given a lot of thought to the arguments of my troll, and him thinking that Jennifer Lawrence should not complain that she only made half of what a costar made. I totally disagree.

If women in the spotlight, women who actually have the power to complain and to say, this isn’t right, and to have people listen and print it and talk about and argue about it, if they aren’t doing it, who will? Who’s going to come out and say, this isn’t right? Who’s going to say that the ERA needs to be passed? Thank god for Meryl Streep coming out and saying, it is time, we need to pass the ERA.

If you don’t know what the ERA is, it’s the Equal Rights Amendment that would actually give women true equal protection under the Constitution, because we don’t have it. All men are created equal, but women are not in there, still to this day.

*Pats Horse*

So I’ve got up on my feminist high horse a little today, I may have ruffled a few feathers, but I think this stuff’s important. It’s important for us to talk about how we got where we are, why women have a difficult time with money:

  • With their personal finances
  • With negotiating salaries
  • With making more
  • With wanting to make more
  • With the guilt and the shame around wanting more

It’s time for us to talk about these things, and to really think about them and look into it.

I hope you enjoyed this episode. It was a bit of a rant more than a guide or tips on anything, but I felt like it was important to talk about.

I think that what goes in Hollywood, in some ways it seems so far away from the rest of us in real life, but at the same time it is kind of a reflection, an extreme reflection, to be sure, but it’s a reflection of what our culture values. It’s what we pay for, it’s what we want to watch. Hollywood is really our tastes. Hollywood responds to box office money. If we pay to see something, then that’s what they give us more of. More on voting with your purse here.

If we want more women in strong roles, we need to go see films that have women in strong roles. We need to show them that those films can be successful. Women need to go to the movies more to influence Hollywood. I know that sounds like a crazy thing for me to be saying, women, get out, go to the movies, go watch films that have strong female characters that make a difference and that make sense to us and that touch us. The stories we tell each other, why is Hollywood so successful?

It’s telling us stories, it’s sharing our things. It’s such a deep human need for us to tell and to hear stories. We want to know about each other, we want connection. Movies give us connection in a way that we don’t always find in our own personal lives, and sure, it’s manufactured, sure, it’s tugging on the heartstrings, but it shows us what we value, and we pay for what we value.

Let’s not let men be the only ones who influence what Hollywood thinks America and the world wants to see in our movies.

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Jen x