How Investing in Women Helps Everyone During a Pandemic
Above photo: Shaw Legal Services, a Self-Help Credit Union borrower based in Chicago, IL, provides free legal services to immigrants and people who don’t have access to the legal system. Before COVID-19, they were in the process of expanding, but clients soon put services on hold and the court system shut down. Attorney Anne Shaw used all the funds to pay her employees so they could provide for their families. Photo courtesy of SHCU
Can women really have it all?
Women have made much progress in the last century. They gained the right to vote, currently earn a higher percentage of college degrees than male counterparts, and represent more than half of the American workforce. Despite their strides, women have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic’s economic effects, and their progress is in jeopardy.
Many women with varying levels of income have been successful at juggling their work and family lives — those with strong support systems were able to “have it all,” albeit with much hard work and stress. But today, the pandemic and subsequent economic downturn have placed new pressures on women, especially those who are essential workers, parents, or both. Supervising children who are engaged in remote learning and balancing other caretaking responsibilities means that many women are in two places at the same time: at work and at home.
The United States is now facing what some experts are describing as the “first female recession.” Many industries impacted by the pandemic — like retail, childcare, food service and entertainment — have a majority female workforce, causing women to be more vulnerable to layoffs. Because women are often the primary caretakers in a household, many have also been forced to reduce their work hours to care for children and sick or elderly family members.
Economic insecurity among women brings long-lasting consequences for American families and our overall economy. As families have evolved, many women are now the breadwinners in their households. Their loss or reduction of income impedes their ability to provide for their families. This, in turn, can have a negative impact on the well-being of children and can lead to increased education and economic inequality.
Working women need support now more than ever. Investors seeking high impact can tailor their funding choices to have a direct, positive effect on women and their families. Here are five ways:
1) Invest in Community Development Credit Unions
Community Development Credit Unions (CDCUs) have historically supported women, people of color, and low-income communities. CDCUs, therefore, are well-positioned to support women who are carrying the weight of today’s public health crisis and economic downturn.
Many CDCUs also participated in the Paycheck Protection Program and provided funding and hands-on support to help women-owned businesses stay open and pay their employees during the pandemic. For example, Self-Help Credit Union provided over $183 million in loans to business owners and have saved 19,895 jobs. Fifty-two percent of the funds lent were to businesses led by women.
One of the easiest ways you can help is to place your cash reserves in a CDCU because they provide on-the-ground support for women in local communities. For instance, Self-Help Credit Union has a Women & Children’s CD that supports women as they start their own businesses, buy homes, and support their families. By investing in products like this, you can have a direct impact and earn a competitive return on your cash.
2) Invest in Corporations with Diverse Boards and Leadership
When women feel supported in the workplace, their productivity and retention improve. To build a strong, productive, and resilient workforce, companies must have leaders that come with diverse experiences and a commitment to creating a workplace that values female employees. Diverse leaders build a more inclusive and resilient culture by implementing policies that support women, such as offering on-site childcare, remote work options, and equitable promotion opportunities.
Invest in companies that have diverse board members and executives. US SIF has created a Mutual Fund Performance Chart you can use as a starting place to learn which mutual funds and ETFs screen for diversity. Their report, “Investing to Advance Women: A Guide for Investors,” also helps you use your investments to advocate for diverse leadership.
3) Use Your Voice and Hold Corporations Accountable
Your voice matters. Review your investments and ask the corporations you’re invested in to disclose their board and employee diversity data. Inquire about the number of women in leadership positions and ask if their female employees are receiving equitable pay. Use your voice to encourage fair treatment for women.
4) Support Women-Owned Businesses
According to the US Chamber of Commerce, 47 percent of female business owners ranked their business’ overall health as “somewhat or very good.” In comparison, 62 percent of male business owners ranked their businesses as such. Women-owned businesses are reeling from the pandemic, and many do not expect much improvement in 2021.
Small businesses are vital parts of our communities. When you help women-owned businesses, you are helping families and local economies. You can support them by ordering online or over phone, buying gift cards, or even tipping extra. Every little bit helps.
5) Advocate for Workplace Policy Changes
Federal and local legislation can support working women across industries. Increased minimum wage, mandated childcare support, increased employee benefits, and tax breaks are just a few ways legislation can provide much-needed relief. Contact your local, state, and federal elected officials to encourage them to pass legislation that will support all women and families.
When we support women, everyone wins. Use your investments and your voice to provide direct impact and make a difference for working women.
Article by Ebony Perkins, a dedicated, solution-oriented social entrepreneur whose heartbeat is community. She has a demonstrated ability of working with investors and philanthropists to help them make smart and strategic decisions. As the Investor & Community Relations Manager at Self-Help Credit Union, Ebony manages a 7-person team that helps groups and individuals invest funds in a socially responsible financial institution that supports communities of all kinds, especially those underserved by conventional lenders. Before that role, she served as the Donor Relations Manager at Central Carolina Community Foundation where she managed a system to engage and educate over 400 individuals and groups to help them achieve their charitable goals.
Ebony’s commitment to community investing is evident by her service and contributions to Women In Philanthropy, Financial Planning Association, Durham Center for Senior Life, and the University of North Carolina MPA Alumni Board. Ebony was also recognized on the SRI Conference’s inaugural 30 Under 30 List.
Ebony holds a Master of Public Administration from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a Bachelor of Science in Marketing from Claflin University as a summa cum laude graduate. She also has an Executive Certificate in Financial Planning from Duke University.