As the pandemic continues to make waves among the economic, social, and political climates across the globe, the entire world seems to have their eyes on the United States right now. As people around the world tuned in to watch two of the United States’ oldest presidential candidates squabble on stage for an hour and a half, there has been a much less publicized toll being taken on the working women of America. According to the National Women’s Law Center, around 1.1 million Americans left the workforce during the month of September 2020. Of that number, only 216,000 were men, while 865,000 were women. Let those numbers sink in for a minute – that means that there are four times the number of women unemployed or looking for work compared to the number of men doing the same. These statistics include 324,000 Latina women and 58,000 Black women.
Adding to these concerning statistics is the gender pay gap. Currently, in 2020, women only make about $.81 on every dollar that a man earns (Source: PayScale). This means that the median annual salary for men is about 19% higher than the median salary for women. These numbers point to obvious issues within organizational pay structures, and how society views women’s roles. While the unemployment numbers from September do not give us detail into whether those who left the workforce were let go or quit, we do know that many women have been forced to make changes to their work schedule, or even to leave their jobs entirely, in order to accommodate their childcare duties and remote learning programs. Even in situations where children are only going into school for a couple of days out of the week, single mothers can face challenges in accommodating to- and from- school transport for their children. To add insult to injury, maintaining engagement and keeping children on-track during a virtual school day comes with its own set of challenges- making it essential that at least one parent is present to assist. Who has been assuming that role lately, 9 times out of 10? The mother.
Now, let’s take a look back in history. Women have been fighting for equal rights in the workplace for some time. When women first entered the workforce, it was typically in mass numbers within factory walls for very little pay. After legislation regarding workers’ rights was passed during the Progressive Era, women eventually moved into office jobs where they were predominantly placed in administrative and assistant roles. It wasn’t until the women’s labor movements of the 1960s and 1970s that significant numbers of women began to enter the workforce more regularly and work their way into higher positions within companies. However, there is still work to be done, even today. According to AmericanProgress.com, as of 2018 women only made up 5% of Fortune 500’s list of CEOs, regardless of the fact that they earn more than 57% of undergraduate degrees and 59% of all master’s degrees.
…Why? Unfortunately, when it comes to domestic tasks like child-rearing household chores, American society still seems to cling on to the last leg of the mid-20th century “Mad Men” era of gender roles. Though we are speaking broadly and situations differ between individuals, it’s obvious that corporate structures as a whole were not designed for women, and in many cases, deter women. Examples of this include a lack of adequate breastfeeding areas in (most) offices, being one of the only developed countries that lack government-mandated paid maternity leave, and no state funded child care in place. As the average monthly cost of childcare in New York State hovers around the four-figure mark (Source: Procare Solutions), it’s simply impossible for many families to consider sending their children to daycare. So, who’s career suffers? Usually, the mother.
Today, millennials are getting married later in life. As reported by another article from Business Insider, in 1962, 90% of 30 year-olds had been married at least once, while in 2018, 54% of 30-year-olds have been married. Thanks to the women’s labor movement and laws put in place by the late, great Ruth Bader Ginsburg, women have been able to become much more financially independent in just the last 50 years. In fact, it wasn’t until the Equal Credit Act of 1974 was passed that credit card companies were prohibited from “discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, or age in credit transactions.” Before this time, single women and married women alike often faced difficulty getting credit cards or loans in their own name. 1974 wasn’t that long ago!
While it’s obvious that America still has plenty of work to do to properly encourage and support women (and minorities!) in achieving their professional goals, there are certain steps that women can take immediately to protect their assets- particularly when it comes to marriage.
Though prenuptial agreements have long been stigmatized as an option that only applies to the rich and famous, or for those who don’t expect their marriages to last, they are becoming significantly more commonplace, especially among the millennial population (according to Business Insider, which reports that 51% of attorneys surveyed noted an increase in prenups amongst millennials). Several factors contribute to this, from college graduates holding more debt than generations past, to individuals getting married later in life and having more assets tied to their name, to women feeling empowered to remain career focused. The millennial group entered the workforce right around the 2008 economic downturn, which may also play into why they are more cautious with their earnings.
Every prenuptial agreement is different, and engaged couples can choose to include a variety of clauses that address their financial concerns. Soon-to-be-married women may want to consider advocating for alimony in their prenup to help ensure that they remain financially stable in the event a divorce happens, if they chose to remain home with young children for a period of time. This is commonplace, and one of the many reasons that women’s earnings are unable to catch up with their husbands’ upon re-entering the workforce. Alimony, or other agreed upon payout in a prenuptial agreement may help limit the negative economic impact of a divorce.
Finally, as many mothers are already bearing the brunt of child-rearing and adjusting to virtual learning, a prenup can help in protecting them from potential financial burdens from an irresponsible spouse. Prenup provisions can address protecting individuals from the individual debts of their spouses – including debts incurred from addictions like gambling or compulsive shopping. Astonishingly, a whopping 2.6% of the American population is estimated to suffer from some sort of gambling addiction. Issues like these often cause significant emotional and financial stress on a marriage.
The prenup building process has been made simple by using the HelloPrenup platform. We recognize that just like every relationship, every prenup needs to be a little different to best suit your life together. While your wedding day is going to be the happiest day of your life, why not begin your life together feeling confident that you are both on the same page?
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Julia Rodgers is HelloPrenup’s CEO and Co-Founder. She is a Massachusetts family law attorney and true believer in the value of prenuptial agreements. HelloPrenup was created with the goal of automating the prenup process, making it more collaborative, time efficient and cost effective. Julia believes that a healthy marriage is one in which couples can openly communicate about finances and life goals. You can read more about us here Questions? Reach out to Julia directly at [email protected]