MOLINE, Ill. — Women have long fought for equality, to give the world notice that women do, in fact, have a seat at the decision-making table. The fight for financial equality, though filled with history, is far from over.
According to the Census, at the current rate at which the pay gap is closed, "it will take until 2059 for women to achieve equal pay".
The National Committee on Pay Equity says, over a working lifetime, this wage disparity costs the average American woman and her family an estimated $700,000 to $2 million, impacting Social Security benefits and pensions. Right now, the average woman makes 81.6 cents for every dollar a man works.
While the work is far from over, there have been women who have stood out, and stood up for financial equality.
Maggie Walker became the first African American woman to charter a bank. Walker served as president of St. Luke's Penny Savings Bank until she died in 1934. According to Farmers State Bank, Walker, "was a leading advocate for women and African Americans in the segregated south, and founded St. Luke’s as a way to encourage them to harness their economic power by saving their money."
Madam C.J. Walker
Madame C.J. Walker was born to enslaved parents in Louisiana in 1867. She became the first self-made woman millionaire through her business, Madame C.J. Walker Company, selling haircare products for African American women.
Walker has been quoted saying:
"I am a woman who came from the cotton fields of the South. From there I was promoted to the washtub. From there I was promoted to the cook kitchen. And from there I promoted myself into the business of manufacturing hair goods and preparations….I have built my own factory on my own ground.”
Muriel Siebert was the first woman to have a seat on the New York Stock Exchange in 1967. According to Farmers State Bank, Siebert was the only woman on among 1,365 male members on the floor. The bank went on to say, "Siebert was a loud voice for equality, having changed jobs numerous times throughout her career because of being paid less than men. She went on to open her own brokerage firm and serve as superintendent of banking in the state of New York in 1977." Siebert was also the first female New York superintendent of banking, according to Siebert Financial Corporation who transformed her firm into a discount brokerage in 1975.
Women's history as it relates to finance or otherwise goes far beyond these three trailblazers. The Library of Congress, National Archives, National Endowment for Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum work to bring women's history to the forefront with their website.
Celebrating Women's History Month didn't start as a month-long event. It started as a week-long celebration beginning March 7, 1982. It didn't become a month-long event until 1987, according to the Women's History Month website.
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