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Financial empowerment

The interplay of debt & gender equity in America

May 24, 2021

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This week’s blog is a guest post from Allie Cooper, a freelance writer with a passion for financial wellness and mental health. Here’s her post on debt, and how the construct of gender affects the accumulation and management of debt in our society. Here’s her post on debt & gender equity. Enjoy! -TSH

Despite varying financial behaviors, debt between men and women is comparable in nearly all categories. For instance, men hold just $125 more in credit card debt than women as of 2019, although women have more credit card accounts than men. On average, men generally carry more debt than women: 20% more in personal loans, 16.3% more in auto loans, and 9.7% in mortgage loans. Taking all kinds of debt into account, men carry 21.7% more debt than women.

The exception is student loans. A recent study reveals that of the total $1.5 trillion student loan debt in America, women hold two-thirds. Even as evidence points to women being just as capable – if not more – at credit and debt management than men, the disparity in student loan debt persists. But the issue of educational debt involves more than just healthy financial habits: it involves systemic and cultural issues as well.

More women attend college than men

Fifty years ago, 58% of college students in the U.S. were men. By 2017, that proportion flipped, with 57% of bachelor’s degrees going to women. In today’s digital landscape, women dominate the online education space, as well, especially when it comes to higher education. According to a Business Women Media report, online learning is ideal for women. Online learning platforms remove some of the traditional constraints to attaining education, like location specificity and time constraints. It can provide a more flexible opportunity for learning.

The rise of remote learning comes at a time when many kinds of work can be performed remotely. More than ever, following the pandemic, companies are looking for flexible workers with digital literacy. Online business administration programs help learners become well-rounded professionals who can go into a variety of positions, including human resources management, accounting, operations, data analytics, and marketing. Taking these courses allow women to gain credentials, making them more appealing hires. Ultimately a wider range of opportunities increases women’s earning capacity, helping them pay off debt faster.

Women earn less than men

Unfortunately, degrees and qualifications still aren’t enough for women to achieve equity in the workforce; there’s still a considerable pay gap. A man with a bachelor’s degree still out-earns an equally credentialed woman by approximately $26,000 per year. Women in finance earn just $0.76 for every dollar a man earns. Even in jobs that employ more women than men, women are still paid less. For instance, diagnostic technicians make up two-thirds of the workforce, yet they earn $19,000 less than men every year.

The pay gap hinders women’s financial empowerment, and makes it harder for them to pay off student loans. One way to combat the pay gap is to negotiate. In a previous post, Dr. Barbara Hamilton discussed the importance of negotiation. Encouraging transparency and knowing your worth can help protect you from falling prey to the pay gap.

Reduced family support affects debt & gender equity

Financial education begins at home. Unfortunately, studies show that parents talk about money differently with their sons and daughters. In a Fast Company post, columnist Jared Lindzon highlights how 61% of boys are taught about credit scores as children, compared to only 46% of girls. He also points out how this disparate treatment extends beyond mere lessons; girls receive less money from their parents compared to boys from elementary to high school ages.

A recent survey showed that as a trend, parents save more money and are willing to spend more on their sons’ college education than on their daughters’. Indeed, these kinds of home-grown biases can impact lifelong earnings and financial health. As a result, girls tend to take on more student debt to cover their educational costs. A greater awareness around financial literacy and opportunity can help remedy these issues for girls in the future.

As society progresses, so should women’s standing within it. We need to recognize the interplay between debt & gender equity in our society. It’s only through equitable terms and opportunities that women can be more financially free.

Leave a comment below to share your own experience with educational debt, the gender gaps that persist today, or both. -Tired Superheroine

Allie Cooper is a freelance writer with a passion for financial wellness and mental health. She enjoys helping others become more financially savvy and spends her days reading about the best ways to achieve this. When she’s not working on a new piece, she’s often tending to her indoor garden.

If you’re not sure how to optimize your student loans, be sure to get your free consultation with Student Loan Planner. They’ve been a trusted resource in my online community, and have now advised on over one BILLION dollars of student loan debt. You can get more information about them and their mission by clicking here.

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