The global financial crisis will have a lasting impact, without question. But it will have a particularly pronounced impact on women. Women with the same qualifications of their male counterparts and working the same number of hours, earn on average only 77% of what men in the same jobs earn. Women are falling into poverty faster than men today, as the United States Census is bearing out: as of 2010, 4 million more women were living in poverty than men, out of a total of 46.2 million people. That number has risen over the past several years, at a time when governments on every level from municipal to federal are slashing programs as an attempt at austerity.
Early in the global financial crisis, many reported that men were losing more jobs than women, at least in countries like the U.S, where the hardest hit industries were construction and manufacturing. However, the Pew Research Center reports that, since 2009, women are losing jobs at a faster rate and are having less success finding new positions, due in part to jobs in sectors like teaching and health services disappearing as budgets are slashed. Even as jobs in some sectors seem to be coming back, austerity measures are hitting women hard.
Even for women who have access to more opportunities, financial situations now seem much more precarious. Kathryn Garrison, an advisor with Moss Adams Wealth Advisors, has seen dramatic differences in how her female clients are handling tough times: "The market volatility of 2011 unnerved quite a few people and women seem to be more intent now on paying down debt and building up savings. That's a good thing on an individual level."
While keeping as much cash available as possible can help alleviate some fears about what's going to happen to a person financially, it's symptomatic of a larger problem that many women are facing right now. The global financial crisis is leading both women and governments to be financially conservative. That means that women may pass up opportunities, from education to investing, for fear of depleting emergency funds. It also means that there's less money available in governmental budgets for programs that work to reduce poverty and its impacts; philanthropic organizations that would normally help bridge some of the gaps in governmental spending are facing financial problems of their own.
The Poverty Line
The whole impact of the financial crisis on women and girls is dramatic. The number of women living below the poverty line has grown for each of the past four years, and the poverty line is considered somewhat arbitrary; for households consisting of one person, it was $10,890 in 2011. It's difficult to live on that amount as an individual, even double that amount can seem tight. The steps necessary to reduce poverty, at least to pre-crisis levels, seem to be entirely counter to the strategies that governments are taking to cut costs. The Center for American Progress specifically recommends building supportive social services that look at the employment needs (as well as the personal needs) of women and girls, an approach that would benefit women living over the poverty line, as well as well below it.
The Bottom Line
The financial crisis has already had a lasting impact on the opportunities available to women and girls. With governments both local and federal still looking for ways to balance their budgets, it's not unreasonable to expect that many women will find their financial situations getting even worse, before they have the chance to get better.