March is Women’s History Month, celebrating the contributions of women to American society.
It’s great to honor women, who have continued to make significant progress in closing gaps with men. But many women in the workforce nearing retirement still face significant financial challenges.
A recent AARP survey found that 25 percent of women ages 50 to 64 are not confident that they will have enough money to live comfortably throughout their retirement years.
A major reason is that fewer women are in the workforce than men. Bureau of Labor Statistics information shows 58 percent of women were working in January — nearly 12 percent less than men.
This gap exists in part because women take more time out of the workforce to care for children or older relatives. The trend was accelerated during the pandemic, as about 2 million women left jobs, many to care for children whose schools had shut down.
Fewer women working contributes to a stubborn disparity in pay and wealth. Women on average earn 83 cents for every dollar earned by men. Over a 40-year career, women stand to lose $400,000 because of that wage gap. Women of color are particularly vulnerable. Latina, Black and Native American women will average $1 million less than white men over their careers, despite doing similar work.
And when it comes to age discrimination in the workplace, gender is still a major factor. Some 63 percent of women age 50-plus say they feel discriminated against regularly, and 67 percent of working women 18 and over report experiencing workplace discrimination that hurt their earning potential.
A lifetime of lesser pay can result in a smaller Social Security check. And women retire with a staggering 30 percent less savings than men. When you add it up, it shows a huge gender disparity in retirement security. AARP is working to close that gap.
We advocate for laws and policies to improve the economic well-being of women of all ages and to protect Social Security, improve pension benefits and ensure that women receive fair pay.
AARP lobbied in support of the Securing a Strong Retirement Act of 2022, which made several changes to how workers and retirees can save for retirement.
We also have supported auto-enrollment in retirement savings plans, as well as automatic state and federal IRA programs for the roughly 57 million U.S. workers who don't have access to an employer-sponsored plan, a situation more prevalent among women working in the private sector than men.
And we’re working with employers to expand opportunities for career advancement for women. This includes addressing gender pay equity, affordable child and elder care, and other workplace policies to make it easier for family caregivers.
AARP is pushing lawmakers for tax credits to help defray out-of-pocket costs for caregiving expenses and expanded access to workplace retirement savings plans.
These measures will go a long way toward ensuring a secure retirement for millions of women.
Still, for too many women, retirement security remains an unattainable goal. But AARP believes we can change that. As we celebrate Women’s History Month, we’re working hard to build on the progress women have made, especially in the workforce.
Editor's note: This article was updated with additional information about women's access to workplace retirement plans.