This Thursday, 9th August is National Women’s Day, which marks the historic moment on 9th August 1956 when 20,000 South African women of all races showed that they would not be intimidated by unjust laws when they marched to Pretoria’s Union Buildings to present a petition to the prime minister against the carrying of passes. It was one of the largest demonstrations staged in the country's history and, to commemorate the event, the first National Women's Day was declared a national holiday in 1995 once South Africa was a democracy.
Since then, celebrations take place throughout the country on this day each year, and August has been declared National Women’s Month.
With various campaigns that have come to the forefront in recent times, such as #MeToo and #ImWithHer, women are more empowered than ever. However, there is still a long way to go in terms of female rights around the world, and women are still often subject to discrimination and inequality, not to mention harassment, in the workplace. According to research published in September 2017, female managers in the UK earn GBP12,000 less than their male counterparts, and the World Economic Forum believes that it will take 170 years to completely close the gender pay gap around the world.
South Africa is particularly guilty of this gap. A 2017 report run by a market research firm highlighted that women in South Africa earn, on average, 27% less than their male counterparts. And the report found that the difference is even wider when it comes to high earners, with men in top positions earning as much as 39% more than women of the same standing.
Experts believe that this pay inequality could be one of the reasons that many South African women are not properly prepared for retirement, as recent findings published in Fin24 have revealed that 32% of female South Africans feel unsure about their retirement plans, while men seem to be clearer about their long-term investments.
A survey conducted by Ellevest has found that women don’t invest as much or as early as men do, so women often retire with less money, even though they also tend to live longer than men. Many of the women surveyed were actually very clear on their financial goals — retirement, travel, and paying off debt were the top three priorities — but less than half of those questioned said they know how to achieve these targets.
The survey showed that the majority of women are dissatisfied with many aspects of their finances, such as their net worth, their investment portfolio, and their retirement savings. And less than half of the women surveyed felt satisfied with their financial knowledge. Furthermore, 48% agreed with the statement that “most women have to work twice as hard to get half as much,” and this double standard clearly needs to be rectified.
Slowly times are a-changing and, in January 2018, Iceland became the first country to make it illegal for women to earn less than men in the same position. As women are gaining more and more control over their professional lives, they are also looking to take more control over their finances too. Experts believe that a key step to female empowerment is for more women to get involved in their family’s long-term financial planning.
Although gender discrimination is sadly still an issue in our society, it’s time for more women to take responsibility for their savings plans, including retirement preparation, which is often left to men.
Recent political and economic events across the world are forcing women to reevaluate their financial situations. Many women questioned by Ellevest admitted that putting away money for their financial goals would boost their confidence, and the survey showed that women clearly value the feeling of being financially savvy. According to the survey more savings equates to more confidence for many women — and is more important than salary and support in the workplace.
National Women’s Day pays homage to the women of South Africa who fought against the tyranny of the Apartheid government and helped to shape the country. Their march in 1956 when they delivered bundles of petitions containing more than 100,000 signatures was an inspiring display of political and inner strength, as well as female solidarity. Let this day serve as a reminder of the capable women who continue to pave the way forward; and let it give courage to women across the nation to realise their strength and to take control of their wealth portfolios.
(Info sourced from time.com, fin24.com and iol.co.za)