Friday, November 20, 2009
While women have made economic and educational strides, many have found themselves outside of a solid economic mainstream. The loss of a job, the birth of an ill baby or a divorce, all extremely common events in the fabric of American life, can drop a woman from the middle rung of the middle class to a free fall off of a stable economic ladder altogether. Women, like men, have common needs, and these needs cost money. The culmination of assets is the means by which we meet those needs. Both men and women, independent from one another, require the growth of the following assets over a lifetime.
Assets for Female Economic Well-Being
• Earnings to sustain growth during a working lifetime
• Knowledge and skills to enhance those earnings
• Physical and mental health to fully use knowledge, skills, and other capacities, pensions for support in retirement;
• Insurance or other protection against risks—unemployment, illness, disability
• Financial resources to complement and enhance all of the former
• Networks of personal, community, and professional connection, and
• Community-based infrastructure of resources and services
Asset Development Institute, Brandeis University
Female asset development is directly tied to living out the values of an American dream-female style. It is hard for anyone of us to vision a life for our daughters, granddaughters or ourselves that does not include women having the same rights to build strong futures for themselves, on their own. Secure women require, not “may like to if they want”, the following traits during the various stages of their lifetime. First they need opportunity. Every young woman has her own right to choose what the good life is for her and to construct a plan that when steadily worked over a lifetime, provides her opportunities to grow and develop. A flexible plan accompanied with genuine life skills will help her to cope with inevitable changes, to make choices, such as having a family or to sustain her during serious challenges such as recovering from illness.
Female “assets are what women need to make choices about their lives; what they need to succeed in the choices that they make. When we possess assets, the future holds promise; there is reason to hope and strive for a better life”(The Asset Index).
Secondly, a female American dream requires fairness. Girls and women should be pushed to take part in creating financial skills of their own and having their voices heard regarding the very issues that are critical to their well-being. Girls and woman require increased information and encouragement to enter those careers and professions where their hard work, training and dedication will reap substantial higher earnings than those jobs and careers where women have super-glued themselves. It is time to coach our girls and young women the same way we coach our boys and young men.
As a result of reading the literature on female work and writing this chapter, I had a conversation with a young woman that I would have previously let go for the sake of not offending her. I was at my local bank when I struck up a conversation with a young female teller (the only gender of teller found in the bank). She was telling me she was taking classes beginning in one week at our local technical college. I assumed it was in the area of banking but she corrected me and said it was in cosmetology and barbering. I responded by encouraging her to explore the financial difference in moving up the ranks in the financial industry as opposed to starting at step one in the grooming industry. She replied by stating the stereotypical female thing—that she was really interested in cosmetology. I encouraged her to consider owning her own saloon eventually because after ten years at work, work is still work and you really want to be earning some substantial financial rewards as well. It is surprising how a good pay check can alter how much you like a particular career choice!