I have long admired women who have blazed a trail into politics. It has been a long time coming, but our time is here! During my decades as a female financial advisor working with female clients, I have enjoyed watching women rise in the ranks of politicians.
WOMEN'S HISTORY MONTH: Mar 1, 2023 - Fri, Mar 31, 2023
From the early days of marching on townhouses and beer rooms across the US, to getting the right to own property without a man’s oversight, women have been struggling against gender disparity for generations. Even today, we see women fighting for equal pay and body autonomy in practically every political contest.
Yet, with all these differences that separate us from men, we often overlook the decisive steps forward we have made year after year. No matter what may feel like a step back whenever a supreme court decision is laid down, we can still push two steps forward, secure in the knowledge that progress is fueled by our undying commitment to empowerment.
Not only is this because we want equal representation for most of today’s issues, but because we want the power to secure our freedom across all aspects of life, including finances. So let’s dig into a short history of what we have achieved, where we are now, and what the future looks like.
Rapid-fire Overview of Women in Politics
The struggle for women's political representation began in the 19th century with the suffrage movement. This was when we banded together to fight for the right to vote.
After years of hard work and dedication, we finally achieved this landmark decision in 1919. The right to vote for women was then ratified on August 18, 1920, under the 19th amendment of the US Constitution. However, even with the right to vote, we still faced significant barriers to political participation.
It was not until the emergence of feminist politics in the 1960s that women began to make real progress in the political sphere. The women's liberation movement ushered in a new era of feminist activism, and we began to demand more than just the right to vote. We fought for fair representation, equal pay, and an end to gender discrimination in all areas of life.
No longer would we be criticized for believing that our bodies belonged to us. Even outside the argument of abortion, surely, we can all agree that a woman should not be criticized for wearing “revealing clothing” or be chastised for causing a scene because we “drink at a bar.” The political struggle for rights is not regulated to the pulpit. Instead, it is a broad exploration of what makes us human beings and the perception that we should not be viewed as anything less.
Women's Political Representation Today
Women's representation in national politics has increased significantly over the past few decades. The number of women in Congress has increased from 24 in 1992 to 144 in 2021, a remarkable achievement in a male-dominated political arena.
We have seen the first female Vice President and now have frequent candidates for the highest office in the land every four years. However, progress has been slower at the state and local levels, where women still need to be better represented.
Barriers to women's political participation and representation remain challenging, especially for women of color, low-income women, and LGBTQ+ identities. Gender bias, lack of support from political parties, and financial barriers all contribute to these challenges. When we have numerous studies demonstrating female representation in politics leads to better policies that benefit women, children, and families, pursuing that form of leadership in at-risk populations only makes sense.
The Intersection of Women in Politics and Finance
Women's financial empowerment has also been an essential factor in our political participation. We have historically faced significant barriers to accessing finance, including the gender pay gap and discrimination in financial institutions. There was a time when we couldn’t own property, have a credit card, or even attend specific financial meetings because we were the “fairer sex.”
This fight is not going away any time soon, no matter the talking heads of extremist news media. Take the gender pay gap alone. This difference in pay between men and women is a significant barrier to our financial well-being. Women, on average, earn only 82 cents for every dollar earned by men, a gap that is even wider for women of color.
This disparity makes it challenging for us to access credit, invest in our futures, and run for political office. We cannot fund the leadership we want because we are not equipped with the same resources as our counterparts.
The Role of Financial Institutions in Supporting Women
Financial institutions play a critical role in supporting women's economic empowerment. Banks and other organizations have a responsibility to address the gender pay gap, provide equal access to credit, and promote financial literacy and empowerment among women.
We are the primary demographic for purchasing power across the United States. We do the majority of the shopping for the children, get the presents for family members, promote the holiday shopping seasons, and tend to do most of the grocery buying.
Why does this matter? If we have the power of the dollar, we can drastically influence the marketplace. That kind of power should be as well, if not better educated, than those without the same access. We should be raising girls that understand the power of compound interest, know how to make a budget, and leverage asset allocation to become the millionaires of tomorrow.
When you think about it logically, we are the gender most likely to live to an elderly age and be in need of support instead of relying on our families.
Where We Are Headed Tomorrow
The current state of women's political representation and finance is encouraging, but much work still needs to be done. In the future, increasing women's political participation and representation will require a concerted effort from all sectors of society. Intersectional feminist approaches to promoting women's political and financial empowerment will be crucial in achieving lasting change.
This has become even more important in the recent case of the US Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade. Again, abortion aside, this means women’s issues are now fair game to a conservative lead court. What will stop them from deciding that interracial marriage is off the table? Or, that we no longer have the mental state for owning property?
To avoid the potential threat of regression, we must work together for the betterment of our society just as much as the foundational importance of our gender.
Increased women's political representation has the potential to positively impact finance and economic policies, leading to more equitable access to life-changing opportunities. If we want to advance gender equity policies, we must get more involved. Women-led businesses and political activities must start locally and slowly bleed into the national arena.
Wrapping it Up
Women's history in politics and finance is one of progress and challenge, often littered by the ridiculous assertions of leaders with no experience raising, living with, or trusting women. However, there is hope for the future.
As we move into the future, it is vital to recognize the intersectional nature of these issues. We must fulfill our end of the bargain as leaders and embrace the power of change. If not for ourselves, for the women of color, low-income means, and LGBTQ+ identities that face significantly more complex challenges in accessing finance and political representation. It is essential to center these experiences and promote policies that support their full participation.
Financial institutions, political parties, and society are responsible for addressing these issues and promoting gender equity. Increasing our political representation can lead to more equitable access to the great American promise of a new dream for life. It is therefore essential to support one another in our unending battle for political and financial freedoms. Together, we have the ability to move mountains – and God, or whoever else you believe in, spare the fools that stand in our way!
For years I have supported women through my team at Meyers Financial Services. We are dedicated to educating, servicing, and supplying women with the advice and guidance to overcome their current struggles, so their future is better funded. Let’s schedule a time to discuss your unique needs and ensure you have the means for a happy, higher quality of life.
Lillian Meyers CFP®, CDFA®, EA is a Financial Planner for Women in Sonoma, California helping clients live their best life through the use of financial planning, investment management, and other sophisticated financial options.