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Joi Gordon

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Women's History Month: Celebrate By Strengthening Women's Financial Futures

Posted: 03/ 1/2012 11:10 am

Women make the world go round! At work, at home, and in the community -- women are the driving force that propels our economy. Unfortunately, recovering from the recession has proven more detrimental to women in the workforce than our male counterparts. This must change. I am asking you to join me this Women's History Month to not only celebrate the accomplishments of great women around the world, but to also work together to uplift the many women who need that extra boost in order to make great accomplishments of their own. When we empower a woman, we uplift the world -- and the world needs uplifting right now. There is no stopping us when we are afforded the opportunity to build a better and brighter future.

Women drive the global economy; women are the world's largest source of potential economic growth; women are the key to ending poverty. While more women are now in the workforce than ever before, we continue to struggle. Women make, on average, only 77 cents for every dollar earned by our male counterparts and women are often stymied from high level positions within our companies.

Over the past few years, women have struggled even more from the devastating effects of the recession. A 2011 economic study published by the Ms. Foundation for Women revealed that 71 percent of women polled had been affected by the recession, compared to 65 percent of men. This disparity was revealed again when the poll was narrowed to focus solely on the low-income population, with 80 percent of women indicating the recession has had some or a great deal of impact on them compared with 73 percent of low-income men who indicated the same. As a nation, we can certainly do better than that and given the impact that financially empowered women have on the global economy, we absolutely must do better.

Women make households run as well. Whether we work inside or outside of the home and whether the home is single parent or dual parent-run, it is predominately women who make household decisions; in fact statistics show that 85 percent of all purchasing decisions are made by women. We feed our families, increasingly doing so on limited budgets. We clothe our children, take care of the family's health care needs, ensure the children are prepared for school and make vital purchasing decisions.

Although we still have years ahead of us before the economy is back on track, the news that women's job growth was nearly identical to the rate for men's job growth during the last quarter of 2011 was very promising. Getting women back to work is paramount to getting the global economy back on its feet. Knowing that women are making headway in getting hired in these difficult times is reassuring and we must work together to ensure that this trend continues.

It is well documented that when women are empowered to lead, great success will follow. Important organizations such as CARE and the World Economic Forum have produced important literature quantifying the impact that empowering women and closing the gender-based economic gap has had throughout world. Businesses such as Walmart, PepsiCo, and Tupperware are restructuring their business models and consumer engagement practices to empower women in order to help fuel spending and boost corporate earnings. However, I do not need external studies or CSR reports to prove the merits of these facts. I see it with my own eyes every day in any one of our 115 offices -- empowered women are changing the world. For the past 15 years, Dress for Success has been committed to helping women achieve economic independence. By the time they arrive at our doors our women have overcome great financial, physical and emotional obstacles, but they are committed to making a brighter future for themselves. In turn, they are changing the future for their children and their communities.

How can I say that an empowered woman is making a difference? The evidence is in the changes they make for themselves and their families. There is the woman who came to Dress for Success after overcoming years of abuse and homelessness. She has since graduated from college and now works as a paralegal. Her oldest child is evaluating colleges and all of her children are looking forward to bright futures. Our women are changing their communities too. Recognizing a tremendous problem facing her city, a food desert, one client from Ohio decided to take charge. Her neighborhood was suffering and had no access to affordable, healthy food. With encouragement from Dress for Success, she created a community garden -- providing food, money, opportunity and hope to her neighbors.

What we have learned at Dress for Success is that if you give women the tools to succeed and the encouragement to be confident in themselves, they will soar. As a society, we can all take part in this important transformation. We can work together to empower our daughters, mothers, sisters, and neighbors. We can support and uplift one another. Not only will this help the individual woman, but it will also help our communities and the world at large. We know that women are a great force in the economy -- so let's get them back to work.

In honor of Women's History Month, join me in uplifting (at least) one deserving woman. Whether it's hiring, promoting, or mentoring, helping one woman will change her life. If we all band together, there is no limit to what she, and subsequently we, can achieve.

Join me in developing the next generation of women history makers. The lives we change today may be the same lives we honor tomorrow!

 

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