I graduated from college during the recession of the early 1990’s and had a difficult time finding employment. In 1991, I was hired as a toddler day care teacher for $6/hour, and found that I loved the work. I took an early education class that allowed me to move up to Head Toddler Teacher at $10/hour. Other than the director of the center, all but two of us working there relied on a husband’s wages to make ends meet.
I went on to work as a development associate for a battered women’s sheltering organization, for better, but still low wages. While in graduate school, I worked part-time teaching for an arts nonprofit for the high wage of $20/hour, but mostly I lived off of student loans, and had no benefits.
My Master’s degree launched me to a better-than-livable wage job in the Mayor’s Office in Boston. It was a salaried job with good benefits that also allowed me to learn a great deal professionally as well as make valuable career connections. Inheritance from my step-grandmother paid off my student loans. Inheritance from another grandmother helped my wife and I buy our first house. I did not have children, and I did not expect to rely on someone else's income to meet expenses.
This was my pathway to economic independence. I worked hard, sure. But I also had the benefit of an excellent education, key jobs that transferred skill and valuable professional connections, and inherited wealth that reduced my debt and allowed me to become a homeowner.
My story would be a very different one if I had stayed in the child care field, or not gotten my Master’s degree, or been a single parent.
My story would also be different if I were a man. My earnings and wealth would likely have been even greater, even if I had followed the same career path. In Massachusetts, women earn 79 cents on the dollar; white women do better than the average, with 81 cents on the dollar. Most women of color do worse; African American women earn 66 cents on the dollar and Latinas a reprehensible 54 cents. This is a concern for women – and people – at all income levels.
When you combine wage inequity with low-wage jobs, it has disastrous effects. Half of New Bedford’s children grow up in single parent families headed by women's earning a median of $20,500 a year. And these days, most married families, especially low-income families, rely on a woman’s income to get by – in a growing number of families, the woman is the primary breadwinner. For economic security and for children, we can’t afford to continue this inequity
Join the conversation about equal wages and living wages for all women – on Facebook and Twitter, and at the October 16 Women’s Fund Leadership Breakfast -- Women and Wages: Get Even. How to Educate and Train Women and Girls for Living Wage Jobs. #GETEVENEARNMORE #WFSEMA