Empowering women empowers all of us

Seventy-eight percent of Americans live paycheck to paycheck. This means that while they can afford their rent and monthly expenses, any unexpected hit from one of life’s curveballs could push them into financial hardship. What saddens me about this is that most people have experienced the stress of their hardest moments compounded by worries over financial strain.

“Will I be able to travel to my brother’s 30th birthday celebration? How will I afford a gift for my best friend’s wedding? I can only afford my child’s prescriptions if we spend less money on groceries,” are thoughts that many of us have had to consider.

A person can be even more susceptible to this type of financial vulnerability if they are already impacted by forms of inequity. Reflective of systemic issues in our society, women are disproportionately impacted by certain financial barriers.

The reasons for gender inequity span across societal expectations that can reinforce certain beliefs about women in the workplace. For example, it is a common expectation that women be caretakers above all else.

“Other countries have social safety nets. The U.S. has women.” This quote, from sociologist Jessica Calarco, speaks volumes to the role women play in our society.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, various inequities have risen closer to the surface and become even more pervasive. As schools closed, family members became ill and daycares shut down, everyone, especially women, stretched themselves thin to try and cover the gaps. In fact, even when unrelated to the impacts of the pandemic, the Center for American Progress found that women are five to eight times more likely to have their employment impacted by caretaking responsibilities. This role comes with a significant cost. The same study revealed that women leaving the workforce or reducing work hours for childcare would cost the country $64.5 billion per year in lost wages and economic activity. If just one percent of mothers left the workforce, working families could lose $8.5 billion.

Beyond this, women who are working tend to get paid less. The U.S. Census reports that women, on average, are paid 82% of what men earn. Furthermore, the Center for American Progress found that Black women are paid 64 cents for every dollar that non-Hispanic white men earned, and Latinas earned only 54 cents for every dollar.

As financial institutions, we have a responsibility to cushion our members from disparities in the economy. But it shouldn’t stop there. We hold an incredible ability to partner for our members as they navigate life’s challenges and opportunities.

We’re being called to challenge our industry’s reliance on non-sufficient funds (NSF), overdraft (OD), and courtesy pay fees. As an industry we’ve long discussed just how important innovation is to our sustainability. Isn’t it time we deploy that perspective to find new ways to solve important problems for human beings?

A 2023 Consumer Financial Protection Bureau report revealed that NSF and OD fees most negatively affect unmarried Black and Hispanic women with children, particularly those who make under $60,000 per year.

I’ve challenged our executive team to leapfrog our industry’s best practices because the human beings we serve deserve more. Understanding the household liquidity challenges of this moment married with our epic team’s subject matter expertise led us to build CloseEnuff™.

I’ve often quoted credit union pioneer Roy Bergengren who challenged us to “get big without getting biggity … Credit unions are not banks, they are institutions of the people which are finer than any banks because they are operating way down at the level of the people. They are banking democracy and our great responsibility is to prove constantly our ability to operate in large fields with the same old fashioned honesty and simplicity which made credit unions so very exceptional in the beginning.”

Let’s walk forward from Bergengren’s challenge. This is why we exist.

Tansley Stearns

Tansley Stearns

Tansley Stearns is the president & ceo at Community Financial Credit Union. “No” is not a word in Tansley’s vocabulary. If there is an opportunity to bolster Community Financial Credit ... Web: https://www.cfcu.org Details