March is Women’s History Month, which recognizes and celebrates female contributions to society. While it’s a time to look back at everything women have achieved, it also serves as a reminder that there’s still work to do.
It’s barely been a century since the 19th Amendment guaranteed all American women the right to vote. The gender pay gap has narrowed over the years, but women still earn 18% less than men on average. Between wage disparity and discrimination in hiring and earning promotions, there’s a persistent gap in access to wealth and financial freedom for women.
However, women continue to make progress in all areas of life, empowering both themselves and each other to take control of their futures.
How Women Are Changing the World
Women of every generation have defied stereotypes and broken through glass ceilings. They’ve displayed brilliance and skill in business, politics, science, and numerous other fields, and continue to prove women are just as adept as men:
- Politics - The November elections saw Kamala Harris make history as the first female Vice President, as well as a record number of women elected to serve as members of Congress
- Business - As of 2020, the number of female CEOs in the Fortune 500 was at an all-time high. Whitney Wolfe Herd, the co-founder of dating app Bumble, recently became both the youngest self-made woman billionaire and the youngest female CEO to take a company public in the US
- Philanthropy - While women have traditionally fundraised or volunteered in their husbands’ names, a new breed of female philanthropists like MacKenzie Scott, Melinda Gates, and Laurene Powell Jobs are taking more visible roles to further the causes they champion
- Finance - Over the past decade, Janet Yellen has been the first woman to serve as both Chair of the Federal Reserve and Secretary of the Treasury. And Gita Gopinath was named the first female Chief Economist of the International Monetary Fund
These accomplishments are all worth celebrating on their own. But if they can inspire other women to make doing “extraordinary things” ordinary—all the better. With every broken barrier, the realm of what’s both possible and expected for the next generation of women grows.
Women Empowering Women
Financial independence has long seemed to be the domain of men with high-paying white-collar jobs. But in case you haven’t heard, the future is female! Women are not only taking more control of their finances; they’re sharing their knowledge with peers to empower each other.
While many financial concepts are universal, women face unique challenges, which is why there are a ton of resources and initiatives out there just for femmes:
- Ladies Who Launch - This non-profit supports female entrepreneurs around the world through networking & fundraising events, trainings, and free downloadable resources
- HeyBerna - For the millennial women in your life, Berna aims to make financial literacy fun for women and especially women of color—and she is delightful
- My Fab Finance - Fabulous founder Tonya Rapley shows that frugal doesn’t have to mean frumpy. She shows you how to tackle your money story and increase your net worth
In the professional world, female entrepreneurs work harder than ever to level the playing field. Women have traditionally had far less access to capital for starting and growing small businesses than men, but female-focused investment groups are changing that.
For example, Female Founders Fund and Bumble Fund offer women access to opportunities for funding, mentorship, and networking, with the explicit goal of lowering the barriers to entry for female business owners to succeed.
Taking Control of Your Financial Future
Whether you’re single or married, taking an active role in financial planning is essential to ensuring a stable future. Understanding your finances and preparing for retirement can seem daunting, with the wealth of options and choices to make. But there are a handful of key steps to ensure success:
- Make sure you have an emergency fund set aside that can cover three to six months of expenses
- Pay off any debt you might have, but don’t ignore saving for retirement in the process
- Set up automatic contributions to your retirement plans to ensure you’re always building your 401(k) and/or IRA
- Maximize the employer match on your 401(k) plan
- Learn about how and when you’ll be able to collect Social Security benefits
- If you’re married, work with your spouse to plan your retirement together, including when you plan to retire and how you’ll spend your time
Lastly, consider enlisting the help of a fee-only financial advisor. There are several types of financial professionals to choose from, and it’s important to understand the differences. While most financial advisors are knowledgeable, fiduciary financial advisors are the only type that’s legally bound to act in their clients’ best interest at all times. So you can count on them to provide the most comprehensive advice.
Interested in learning more about how a financial professional can help you map out your future? Get our free downloadable guide to fiduciary advisors.