I blog about women, money, and the Financial Freedom Party for Women. Most of the time I write about basic financial information for topics such as life insurance, long-term care insurance, investing, wills, debt, goals, values, and expense management. There is an additional important topic which really is part of the foundation of our financial lives, income management. Most of us need to make money to have money to manage and spend, right? Income management starts with income.
Making a living, or earning income, really means we trade our time and skills (or expertise) for money to buyers. Explaining all the potential buyers would fill this page. So, an example of a buyer is an employer in a business or organization. As a business owner, a buyer could be an external customer who purchases goods or services. The value of what we earn is directed mainly by the marketplace. You know the term, supply and demand. Sometimes earning income is also greatly affected by the attitudes and experiences of those who “buy” from us and the culture and norms of the business or organization.
It is estimated in the United States that women make 78 cents for every dollar earned by men. This doesn’t mean the world of buyers owes us as women a better living, or that someone owes us more money. It does mean that we have to be willing to advocate better for ourselves and to take some chances. Once we gain a little success, we need to reach out and help others. When we open doors for others, we give them a chance to change their lives.
I recently learned that one of my “door openers” passed away. His name was Roger and he had been an Air Force Officer and an Air Force Academy graduate. These two experiences formed some of his attitudes, values, and his approach to life.
Our paths crossed when he selected me for a position as a civilian planner in a small command post. I was not what the high-ranking officers had in mind when they created the position. They were looking for a retired enlisted man. I was a younger woman with no military service. My credentials were great, but I was not the preferred type for the position.
Roger selected me based on my qualifications. It was a challenge for him to select me. After all, he had graduated from a class of all male Air Force Cadets. It wasn’t until a few years later that women were allowed to attend the Air Force Academy. As time went on he admitted that when he hired me he had some concerns for me and for our work unit. We answered directly to the Commanding General. The success or failure of our work was highly visible. In the beginning I was told by one of my new bosses, also a high-ranking officer, that I was there in spite of his wishes. My normal welcome to the organization was not so welcoming. I had gotten used to these things and just did my work. We began passing inspections and getting high ratings on our headquarters reports for my area. Over time the concerns about me as a woman in that position were no longer aired publicly. I became a respected part of the team.
When I left the position for a promotion, I was replaced by a very capable woman hired by Roger’s replacement. She and I became close friends and remain so to this day. I am talking about a 20+ year relationship. Our careers progressed. Some folks told the two of us that we were “fast burners”. I was promoted three times into different positions . Of course promotions equate to more responsibility and more income. Eventually I left the federal government. My friend stayed, earned promotions, and went on to a prestigious position which involved her in many interesting assignments and projects throughout the city where we lived.
The legacy of Roger’s career is not about a stellar rise to the top in the military. He found a better fit elsewhere for his interests, talents, abilities, and considerable brainpower. A new path and lifestyle resulted in a life with a different rhythm and purpose. Among other things, he earned a Master’s Degree in Architecture and became involved in creative arts. His legacy is, in part, about the door he opened for me, and then indirectly opened for my friend. He also led the way in showing those given the title of superiors and subordinates how to judge women and men on their qualifications and contributions, not on their sex.
I thank Roger for showing me that leadership isn’t about bossing people around. It is about reaching out to others, helping them develop their talents, opening doors, and staying constant when it is easier to just give up and conform. I think pay equity is more prevalent now for women in many career fields, but it took some men and women to help us along the way. I do not know if women will ever reach a time where we earn dollar for dollar for men. I am confident it will continue to get better faster if more of us become “door openers”.
I strive to be a “door opener”. It has become a natural part of my life. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I don’t. However, I have gotten pretty brave about giving it a try.
Please reflect on your life. Are you opening doors for others? Are you constant in your efforts? Will your legacy include fond memories from those who enjoyed better lives personally and financially because you took a chance and acted? As the 78% statistic changes and moves upwards, will you count yourself as part of the process?
Until next time