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So Much For the Feminine Mystique

It's not so surprising that women earn an average of 80 cents on the dollar men earn. It doesn't even come as a shock that their 401(k) balances are about $57,000, 40% less than the $95,000 to $100,000 men have stored away. That's attributed to the fact women earn less in the first place and often leave the workplace for years, permanently or opt to work part-time in order to raise children and act as caregivers for their elderly parents.

What's most shocking is that this stark savings gap is going to continue at least into 2050, according to the frank estimates of Employee Benefits Research Institute researcher Jack VanDerhi.

So much for the revolutionary words of Betty Friedan in her 1963 book, "The Feminine Mystique," which urged women to assert their own identities and find their own independence through higher education and careers-setting off the women's liberation movement. The New York Times' obituary of Friedan in 2006 called the book "one of the most influential nonfiction books of the 20th century" because it "ignited the contemporary women's movement in 1963 and as a result permanently transformed the social fabric of the United States and countries around the world."

Women certainly have advanced themselves in the workforce and in politics and even as mothers, be they a stay-at-home mom of their own choice, or a single parent. Since the women's liberation movement, there's even been a return to more conservative morals and manners.

But the fact that women are so tremendously underserved as investors-and are projected to continue to be underserved-is shocking.

A recent article in BusinessWeek, "Can Women Bridge the Retirement Savings Gap?," purports to offer women solutions to this problem.

But the article only offers calculators and the advice to decide to save.

The mutual fund industry, certainly, can do much better than that. We can equip financial planners and RIAs with educational materials and a goals-oriented action plan to motivate women to look ahead to their future. We can launch specialized advertising campaigns and encourage more women to become financial advisers.

By 2060, 100 years after the days of Women's Lib, we should be a key driver narrowing the savings gap.

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