Pay gap often creates retirement hardships for women

It’s time we have a real action on equal pay


I want to talk about an issue that’s near and dear to me: gender pay inequity.  Yes, I am a forty-something man who works in a male-dominated field (information technology). I am still figuratively shouting from the rooftops that women need equal pay!

Some might ask, why do I care so much?  I grew up in a home where mom was the provider.  This meant paying for the roof over the heads of her two sons, feeding them, clothing them, keeping the lights on, paying for transportation to and from work, paying for our activities, buying birthday presents and Christmas gifts and even some modest help when her kid was away at college.  We never had a lot but, thank God, we didn’t starve and we weren’t homeless.

My mom worked full time, overtime and at times, held a second job.  She didn’t complain about pay inequity but, she did share how she would train men who would later be promoted to management.  I didn’t know what to think back then but, as I grew into adulthood, I realized how the pay gap isn’t just about that woman, though this is a very important factor, as I’ll discuss later.  This disparity also affects those people for whom she provides.

Now that Mom is older, we are finding out what the end-result of the pay gap looks like.  This proud woman, who for my entire lifetime was a provider, found herself needing help from her family.  She knows that she will never have to beg for it but, after working so hard, she should be able to enjoy what many call the “golden years.”

Sadly, my mom’s story is far from unusual.  According to the The National Institute on Retirement Security, women age 65 or older are 80 percent more likely to live in poverty than their male counterparts. At age 75, the likelihood increases to 300%.

Certainly there are other factors that account for this number. Divorce and single parenthood (the challenges of which I would argue are exacerbated by the pay gap) are also concerns.  However, the fact that women earn less than 80 cents for every dollar made by men means less available retirement savings. The Institute estimates that, over a 40-year career, women average over $480,000 less in pay than men.  For minority women, this figure is even higher.  Imagine what this money might have meant if even half of it could have gone towards retirement.

Look, I don’t have solutions or even suggestions on how this should be fixed.  However, this does not stop me from saying this needs to be fixed.  We have shared, previously, how you need to have other streams of income and even threw out some suggestions for what you might be able to do to make it happen.  I would urge anyone, but today, especially women, consider other avenues of income.  I would also urge anyone, but today, especially men, to stand with women on pay equity.  I know firsthand, that this issue not only affects women; it impacts entire families.

Written by JP Smith

A self-proclaimed "technologist...with attitude", I'm a forty-something husband, father and IT professional/enthusiast. I believe that learning and growth are lifelong endeavors.