Let's Focus on Single Women
Dear Readers: As has happened for over a century, countries around the globe came together this month to celebrate women and promote a gender-equal world. Dubbed International Women's Day, it's a special occasion to not only acknowledge women's vast and significant contributions but also challenge ongoing inequities and plan for a future that provides women with opportunities, respect and stature equal to that of men.
The theme for this year's celebration was #ChooseToChallenge, with a focus on our individual responsibility to call out and challenge injustices. The organizers rightly point out that "a challenged world is an alert world" and "from challenge comes change."
For my part, I'd like to capture this spirit and focus on the needs of single women, an ever-growing but often overlooked segment of our population.
Attitudes Toward Marriage Have Changed
When we discuss single women, it's important to realize we're no longer talking about a small group. Roughly 20% to 30% of women between the ages of 18 and 65 are single. Women are also far more likely to be single later in life -- with about half of women ages 65 and older on their own. By some estimates, around 90% of all women will be solely responsible for their finances at some point in their lives.
The reasons for this are as varied as the women themselves. For divorced or widowed women, being single may simply be a matter of circumstance. But for increasing numbers of women, being single is a conscious choice that provides increased independence and self-determination.
Financial Obstacles Are Magnified for Single Women
There's no question that women in general continue to lag behind men when it comes to job opportunities, equal pay and access to resources to prepare for a financially secure and productive future. But the most challenged of all -- and the ones whose personal finances were most impacted by the COVID-19 recession -- are those women living on their own, running households and raising children at the same time. Without another adult to share financial and daily responsibilities, the challenges unpartnered women face are magnified.
Ways to Take Action -- Now
For much of the last year, millions of American women were in survival mode, simply doing their best to stay afloat during the pandemic. Now, with some insights gained from this extraordinarily difficult year, I'd like to encourage all single women to reflect on their circumstances and take whatever steps are necessary for a fresh start.