Here’s something that would’ve been PERFECT for International Women’s Day last month, but hey–it doesn’t need to be a global holiday to value and pay tribute to women, does it?!
Women deserve to be celebrated everyday, and let’s do that today by talking about how estate planning is a demonstration of feminist activism. (No way?! Yes way!)
For this one, let’s do things a little differently by taking a historical perspective.
What does history say?
This doesn’t even need to be spelled out anymore, but back in the day, financial power was reserved exclusively for men. Before women were able to enjoy what they do today in terms of financial freedom and wealth, they had to stand up, speak out, and fight for their rights, for equality, and, ultimately, for themselves and for each other.
Imagine, women of the past had to assert themselves and battle for legislation that would allow them to own properties (gasp!), control their earnings (seriously?!), be paid equally as men for equal work rendered (still not practiced in some fields though, sad to say), among many others!
A quick history lesson for all of us to paint the picture:
Around this time was when the Women's Property Rights Act was passed, which urged states to enact laws allowing women to finally own (in their own names) their properties and control their own earnings. (Why they even needed to make a law for this is really beyond me!)
This was the birth of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act. Hooray for us–women can FINALLY get their own credit cards without their husbands' signatures. If you’re a creditor, then you should also know that you’re prohibited by this law to discriminate against credit applicants on the basis of sex (and race, religion, national origin, among other facets).
The Family and Medical Leave Act was enacted during this year. Among other things, this lets women take maternity leaves without risking their jobs. Now, taking a break to care for yourself or your family (including after childbirth) doesn't mean an automatic "see ya" by your employer anymore!
Fast forward to the 2000s! Particularly in 2009, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was approved. While women are still earning significantly less than men (Gender pay gap? Yep, this definitely–and regrettably–still exists!), this law allows opportunities to call out employers and imposes harsh punishments for pay discrimination.
What are things like now?
Looking at the trend, it somewhat gives the impression that women are now in a good place, enjoying the same rights and privileges as men do. Well, it would be unfair to completely disagree with this (our nation’s first women’s rights activists made such a huge impact in bringing us to a position women of the past never would have imagined to be!), but it would also be inaccurate to say that this is 100% true, that we now live in a nice, gender-equal world.
Big NO. Again, gender pay gap is still a thing. Uneven access to education? Still a thing. Lack of political representation? Still a thing. Job-related discrimination? Still a thing!!
Gender inequality still exists, and by the looks of it, we still have a long way to go. Here's something for us to consider:
Did you know that out of all the companies listed in the Fortune 500 list of companies in 2020, only 7.4% have female CEOs? That's 37 out of 500. 37!
And unsurprisingly, these female CEOs are almost all white. Curious to know how many exactly are women of color? Three. A measly 3 out of the 37, and out of the 500 listed (almost entirely male) CEOs.
2021 was supposedly the year of recovery from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic… or so we thought. Not for everyone, at least. Statistics show that men have regained almost all job losses caused by the pandemic, while women still fall far, far behind, with many exiting the workforce entirely due to pressures at home.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ latest report shows that there are over 1 million fewer women in the labor force now, as opposed to how things stand pre-pandemic. While company cost-cutting measures are definitely a possible factor, it must be emphasized, again, that many women today were actually constrained to leave their jobs because of the pressure to prioritize the family and the home above all else.
What does estate planning have to do in all of this?
With everything said, it is immensely clear that the scales of financial power still tilt heavily in favor of men. Sure, there are all of these well-meaning laws in place (as early as the 1800s as we’ve already learned!), but there are things that still need to be done, and battles that still need to be fought, in order to totally close the gaps and eliminate gender inequalities in the present circumstances.
This is where estate planning comes in.
Estate planning, as has been hinted at several times, is a tool that allows you to take charge of your future and finances.
Thus, in a world where women are still fighting to be on equal footing with men on the subject of financial power and independence (among other things!), an estate plan is a game changer–the perfect equalizer.
It shows that we are just as capable to secure their financial future as men are (or how they're perceived to be, at least).
It allows us to take charge and take control, despite the behind-the-times view that dictates otherwise.
It gives us freedom and power–two things we have always been, and still are being (yes, gender equality campaigns and legislation notwithstanding!), deprived of.
Indeed, estate planning is one way to resist systemic oppression women have long faced. Estate planning is not just a demonstration of feminist activism; estate planning IS activism.
Whew! I am so enlivened by all this talk on women and estate planning, and I expect you are, too! Why don't we have some girl talk to follow things up, yes?
I would love to be part of this journey and movement with you!