In the summer of 2004, pregnant with her first child, Google executive Sheryl Sandberg had an epiphany: Women in the workforce faced a widening gender gap.
Ever since women went to work in droves in the 70s, leaving a legion of latchkey kids to fend for themselves (yes, I’m looking at you, Mom!), women have experienced an unequal playing field.
The dilemma women face, and the epiphany that surfaced for Sandberg, raised the same question — how does a woman succeed in her career while being a Supermom?
For Sandberg, the epiphany hit during the late stages of a problematic pregnancy.
“One day, after a rough morning spent staring at the bottom of the toilet, I had to rush to make an important client meeting,” she writes in her best-selling book, “Lean In.”
“Google was growing so quickly that parking was an ongoing problem, and the only spot I could find was quite far away. I sprinted across the parking lot, which in reality meant lumbering a bit more quickly than my absurdly slow pregnancy crawl.”
The next day, Sandberg demanded to Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin that they make space for pregnancy parking at the Google campus.
We’re witnesses to an historic era as the gender issues of Caitlyn Jenner and gay marriage make for tectonic shifts in our laws and in our cultural mores. We’re also witnesses to smaller, less divisive gender shifts: of women avoiding gaps in their careers while their husbands increasingly become stay-at-home dads. These men have even formed a group — the National At-Home Dad Network.
Yes, it’s true, gender roles have never been more blurred, and yet…and yet, it doesn’t get to the question of women in the workforce, and, an equally important question — women in retirement.
The gender gap
As I began writing this column on Sept. 15, Financial Finesse, a California-based financial education company, released its annual Gender Gap in Financial Wellness Report. The CliffsNotes version: The news is not good for women. Yes, they’ll live longer than us men, but they’ll need more money — a lot more money — to do so.
According to the report, on average, women earn 78 cents to every dollar a man earns. If that isn’t bad enough, women will need to save $126 for every $100 men save. I was never good in math, but somehow this doesn’t add up.
A silver lining?
“All things being equal, women face a greater likelihood of running out of money in retirement,” says Greg Ward, Director of Financial Finesse’s Think Tank.
“However, averages are not what matters. If you are in a situation where you are saving a large percentage of your income and investing appropriately based on your time horizon, you reduce your risk dramatically — just like when you eat well and exercise to reduce your risk of disease.”
The lion’s den
Some people mistakenly call me Dan; some have even called me Danny, but the truth is, when I was born in 1966, and my parents held me in their arms at the hospital, the fourth and thankfully last child they would bring into this world, there was only one name that would fit: Daniel.
Being good Southern Methodists, they named me after the Old Testament prophet. Though I’m sure it fits snugly in the realm of family lore, my dad insists that he held me aloft in the hospital and announced to all within earshot, “We shall call him Daniel, for surely he has entered a lion’s den.”
I made a joke earlier in this column about being a latchkey kid. And, while it’s true, I did enter an empty house and stare ET-like into an open fridge on weekday afternoons, my mom made the seemingly impossible a reality. She got her PhD in education, taught at the university level for 40-plus years, has stayed married to the same old jokester for the past 61 years, and raised four kids.
If I were asked to explain to her how I thought she did it, I’d say it was “work, pray, love.”
And I can imagine her response. With hand to chin, eyes cast pensively to heaven, she’d say, “I think you’re right, son, but not in that order.”