It’s a Women’s Issue

There’s no delicate way to put it: on average men die at an earlier age than women. Health professionals may say that it’s because of the unique physical stresses that men face; some women may say that it’s how women are rewarded  for having put up with men; and comedians have joked that it’s because men will do anything to get away from women’s nagging. Whatever the reason, the longevity odds are stacked in women’s favour — but there’s a price and a cost for living longer.

In a recent post I wondered why any senior citizen would toss a vote in Mitt Romney’s direction. My reasons were due, primarily, to his positions on “entitlements” — those things that he sees as a burden, and that I see as something to which seniors are “entitled” because they pay into the Social Security system. Now I have reason to wonder about why any women who hope to, one day, approach senior citizen status would support anyone running on the GOP ticket.

Why do I wonder?

Because recent studies have shown that the retirement income and gender gap is narrowing. Normally it would seem like good news that any gap in income between the sexes is closing, but that bit of information is not quite as hopeful as it seems. It’s not narrowing because women’s salaries and savings have significantly increased but, rather, because reserves held by men have been declining. In other words, women are still being left behind.

Though efforts have been made over the years, the pay gap between men and women is still evident; women in the U.S. still earn 77 cents for every dollar paid to men. That translates to lower savings and investments, and smaller retirement contributions. Pay equity is an issue of national concern because it will have a significant impact on the standard of living for future generations, especially since women are often the primary caregivers and financial supporters for their families.

We can do something about it. We already know how much congressional resistance there was against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act regarding equal pay lawsuits that was eventually signed into law by President Obama. But, clearly, there is still more to be done. More recently, New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand said about the fight for pay equity (Paycheck Fairness Act):

“I’m disappointed that Senate Republicans have once again blocked the Paycheck Fairness Act. The fact is, with more and more families relying on women’s income, equal pay isn’t just about fairness, it’s about economic empowerment for all of our middle class families. So it’s a shame that Senate Republicans are engaging in politics as usual by derailing yet another bill with the potential to empower women to earn their value, and put middle class families on stable ground.” 

Thanks, GOP!

If you think it’s time that Congress started working on your behalf instead of their own best interests, get active and call your local representatives. Equal pay for equal work, in 2012, should be a no-brainer. If women are expected to, on average, live a longer life than men then it makes sense that the groundwork for a lifetime not spent in abject poverty must be put in place now.