Women at the polls 100 years on
How your vote can change the financial landscape for yourself, other women, and society in the United States.
It's hard not to be aware of the U.S. elections that took place on November 3. It's a time when Americans head to the polls– 'I voted' sticker as a thank you – to not only vote on state referendums, United States Congress , but also the next President of the United States.
And while every election has a great deal of importance attached to it – if not for the sticker bragging rights – this year's election holds additional importance for women. The 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified 100 years ago, giving us the right to vote.
The realities for women
For starters, nearly two thirds of minimum wage workers in the U.S. are women. Federal minimum wage in the U.S. is currently $7.25 per hour – that equates to about $1,160 per month gross, if you're working full-time – this is sadly at or just above the poverty line.
Even if you lived frugally – the state with the lowest rent in 2019 was West Virginia with an average 1-bedroom costing $637 per month – you'd have little left over for car insurance, utilities and groceries, let alone a savings account or retirement plan.
And let's say you were one of the 17.3% of American women in 2019 who worked part-time, you may not be on minimum wage, but you may also not qualify for your company's retirement plan and health insurance, as well as laws like the Family and Medical Leave Act leaving you to rely on your partner for financial and health security, or government programs.
Moreover, if you have children, more than 70% of families spend 10% of their income on childcare in 2019. These added expenses are the reason many women take part-time work, not necessarily because they want to take it, but because the paycheck doesn't justify the childcare costs.
If you have a good salary and are a full-time employee, there are other things you should keep in mind.
First, the median annual personal income in the U.S. in 2019 for a woman was $40,375 and for men it was $54,599, according to Aegon's, The New Social Contract: Achieving retirement equality for women. This means, a woman in America earns 74 cents on the dollar compared to her male counterpart, making it more difficult for her to put money aside for retirement. Furthermore, only 25% of working women felt they were on course to achieve the retirement income need the research found.
"Women are at a disadvantage throughout their careers and at risk when it comes to achieving retirement security," explains Mike Mansfield, Program Director at the Aegon Center for Longevity and Retirement.
While you may not recognize some of these statistics directly, you will certainly have women in your family or friendship circle who do.
What women have helped change – legislative facts
According to the research paper, The Economics and Politics of Women's Rights, women are more likely to vote for policies that benefit society on the whole. In fact, the paper suggests, "the literature on the economic consequences of women's rights documents that more rights for women lead to more spending on health and children, which should benefit development. The political-economy literature on the evolution of women's rights finds that technological change increased the costs of patriarchy for men and thus contributed to the expansion of women's rights."
So where have women's votes helped mold American society?
Since 1916, when a woman was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, women have increasingly held positions of leadership in the U.S. government, from Secretary of State to Speaker of the House, and a woman has appeared on the U.S. presidential ticket four times in the course of U.S. history. In 2018, a record number of women ran for Congress, and subsequently represent one-fourth of the U.S. Senate and occupy over 100 seats in the U.S. House. Even still, 2020 is set to break the record with nearly 300 women running for Congress this term. Women – Democrat and Republican – in political office also worked on legislation to ensure champions fought for women's rights in D.C
In recent elections, voter turnout in the United States has been record-shattering. More recently however, women have turned out to vote in higher percentages than men.
So, women, this election season, regardless of your political affiliation, please get out and vote. Our financial security, our children's financial security, and society's financial security are counting on you.
In other countries
The U.S. isn't the only place where women are shaping their financial future through voting. Here is an example of how the Netherlands and the United Kingdom have shaped their societies:
- The Netherlands – Women got the right to vote in 1919 and in 1956 a law was passed allowing women to make their own financial decisions. Minister Marga Klompé drafted the welfare law that helped change the financial landscape, especially for single mothers.
- The United Kingdom – women got the right to vote in 1918. In 1922 equal inheritance is given and in 1986 women can retire and the same age as men (and take well-compensated factory night shifts if wanted).
About Heather Robertson
As a Content Manager at Aegon, I work to make the world of finance clear and uncomplicated.