The Breadwinners Project Reminds Us That The Wage Gap Is An "Everyone Issue"

We may have celebrated Women’s Equality Day on Aug. 26, but the fight for women’s equality and empowerment in the workforce is a year-round effort. Recently, innovation consultancy Hello Q launched The Breadwinners Project, an initiative dedicated to supporting female breadwinners in the United States and finding out what makes them tick. Learning about the needs of women in the workforce is incredibly important — because when women are able to reach their full potential, everyone wins.

According to a 2013 analysis of U.S. Census data, 40 percent of U.S. households with children under the age of 18 have female breadwinners. The Breadwinners Projects is highlighting the diverse needs and experiences of the women who make up that 40 percent with a campaign featuring 35 top female executives and entrepreneurs. You can check out the profiles of these badass ladies on the Breadwinners Project website; they cover a range of positions and perspectives, from founders of their own companies to key players in major corporations, but they all have one major thing in common: They are driving economic forces in their households. “My entire adult life I have sought total financial independence,” explains breadwinner Jennifer Stith, vice president of Bumble. “And though traditionally the term ‘breadwinner’ has had a predominantly male connotation, I know many couples in which two people contribute as equals to the livelihood of their families. In 2016, I don’t think a breadwinner needs to stand alone in a home anymore.”

Recently, Erika Velazquez Alpern, CEO & Founder of Tactile, began researching the challenges faced by working women. When asking how companies can best support female workers, she found three common themes: These women are looking for pay equality, a “more inclusive work culture,” and more support for working moms (including paid family leave and flexible work schedules).

As The Breadwinners Project points out, the wage gap is real: The American Association of University Women reports that white women were paid 79 percent of what a white man was in 2015. It gets worse for women of color: African-American women earned 64 percent and Hispanic and Latina women only 53 percent that which was earned by a white man last year. “In too many jobs throughout my career I have found out that my junior male colleagues make more than I do,” Velazquez Alpern said. “Even when I feel that I am paid competitively or I am given a generous raise, I always seem to find a male colleague making more for a more junior job.”

Creating a supportive workplace with equal pay for women isn’t only a matter of fairness — having women in the workforce benefits the economy as a whole. A 2016 report from the McKinsey Global Institute suggests that if we could attain gender equality in the labor force by 2025, it would add $4.3 trillion to the U.S. economy, and $12 trillion to the global economy. As Alisa Leonard, founder of Hello Q, explains, “The highest wave floats all the boats — as female breadwinners we need to be that wave. I believe our greatest achievements can be to lift up other women, and in turn everyone.”

To get involved with The Breadwinners Project, check out the project’s Instagram. You can also take a survey on the project’s website about your own position in the workforce and the issues that matter most to you. The Breadwinner Project will use that data to learn more about the challenges that working women face everyday.

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