As I am about to complete my second master’s degree in six years, I have accumulated a vast amount of knowledge across three different disciplines. Within each course of study, I have found that there are a few singular pieces of information that resonate with me and that I hold on to as a guide or a piece of motivation. The bit of information that I think about from time to time is an article from a global studies course that I actually missed until I was reviewing for an exam. I have the article buried in my archives somewhere, but the information that my mind extracted and held onto was the information on the high level of poverty that occurs when women divorce. This information is highlighted in an article from the the Atlantic:
“Despite the common perception that women make out better than men in divorce proceedings, women who worked before, during, or after their marriages see a 20 percent decline in income when their marriages end, according to Stephen Jenkins, a professor at the London School of Economics. His research found that men, meanwhile, tend to see their incomes rise more than 30 percent post-divorce. Meanwhile, the poverty rate for separated women is 27 percent, nearly triple the figure for separated men.”
And the prospects in retirement for women are just as bad as cited by the Social Security Administration :
For decades, policymakers have discussed how to remedy the high poverty rates of older widows. Yet older divorced women are more likely to be poor than older widows, and historical divorce and remarriage trends suggest that in the future a larger share of retired women will be divorced.
I can only muse on these statements from my own experience, but we know that there is still a significant gap in wages between men and women and is often further exacerbated by race. As women, we spend years raising our families, sacrificing career choices, and struggling against the ethereal glass ceiling. I’ve been poor and until recently I have been scared that I would end up right back there. REALLY SCARED. I let my “tough” side come out and know that I can do anything, but the reality of poverty is that it stinks.
I watched my mom fight this struggle every day when I was growing up. Being the naturally analytical person that I am, as a kid I calculated my mom’s salary and was pleased to discover that we were upper poverty level. I used to think that perhaps there was a way out. I now realize that the steps out of poverty for single women are fraught with obstacles. My mom put my father through law school with the intent that she would be able to pursue her own interests after he completed his degree. He left, never practiced law, and would send us a few dollars on occasion that only helped provide a minute relief to my mom’s continually financial stressors. I am sure that there are a multitude of similar stories from single women.
This battle is real and I deeply believe I have a responsibility to help other women get and stay out of poverty. I have a gift. I was born smart and I can help lead the way. I have a resounding mission in my career to address the issues of poverty and being a mentor and leader in this arena. We all have gifts that can contribute to the strengths and uplifting of others. The best gifts are those that are paid forward. We are all in this together.
How can you pay it forward every day? How do we make this a priority? Share your collective thoughts below!