“So far in 2010 The New York Times has published 698 obituaries. Only 92 of those were of women.”
I came across this startling statistic on Catalyst’s blog (a must read for anyone who is interested in global women’s economic empowerment). They in turn were highlighting a moving and thought-provoking article in the Harvard Business Review written by Bill Taylor, co-founder of Fast Company magazine. What’s the cause of this obit gap? At first blush you might say – well, women live longer. But, nope, that’s not it. It comes down to the money, honey. As Bill succinctly put it,
“As a society and business culture, we still tend to equate money with success… Which helps to explain why so many wealthy males get New York Times obituaries, while women who died with smaller bank accounts, but who may have led richer lives, don’t get the attention they deserve.”
It’s been three days since I read Bill’s excellent article, and I still can’t get this statistic out of my head. One could argue that with the passing of a few more years, the ranks of women who will have had enough time to climb high enough on traditional ladders of corporate success to have “earned” an obituary in The New York Times will have risen. But will the passage of time really solve the problem?
Bill states, and I concur, that he’d “much rather read about the passing of a gifted educator, or a committed neighborhood leader, or a beloved nun, than yet another starched-shirt banker or lawyer. These unsung heroes and grassroots innovators don’t live forever — even if their ideas and impact do.” However, my concern is that for too long women have been the unsung and UNPAID heroes during key periods of societal change and transition. Our nation is clearly in the midst of one of those defining moments. As we reboot, reset, and restart – my dream is that we don’t, once again, leave women to live out their years in the pink ghetto… giving it our all, working our backsides off, and yet still struggling to make ends meet at the end of the day.
What’s the answer? That’s a big question that will require a multi-faceted response. But one piece must be increased financial education. I meet entirely too many fantastic women doing incredible work for a pittance of pay. If more women (and men) grasped the enormity of the havoc brought about by pay inequality (on both a gender and career basis) we’d see some seismic societal shifts. Where to start to get money smart? Three websites I love are DailyWorth.com, LearnVest.com*, and SmartAboutMoney.org.
* FTC Disclosure: I currently serve as the “Investing Expert” for LearnVest.com