08 March 2014

on International Women's Day y2014: from Australia's Mz Jane Caro on Mz Parker and $

"" Ladies, don’t put all your eggs in one bastard. "" --- Mz Dorothy Parker

--- Mz Jane Caro:  " Dorothy Parker is one of my heroes. A woman of wit and wisdom, she had a way of cutting to the truth of things that makes you laugh and think. The line above is a brilliant way of warning women how risky it is to hitch your wagon to a bloke.

Having been born in 1957, I watched a great many of my contemporaries do exactly that. They did what they had been taught to do. They left school early – I actually had friends who were forced to leave in 4th year (now Year 10) by their fathers because they were ‘just’ girls and their husband would look after them. They went to secretarial school or got a job in a shop until a man proposed. Then they married, had kids and kept house. They were the good girls and they were made promises. They were told that their husband would love them and provide for them and that they would be protected from the harsh, unfeminine realities of earning their own living. In return, they promised to obey their husbands & worship them with their body. Hmmm.

Girls like me, who were ambitious and went to university, were called ‘career girls’ and were gently patronized. One day, it was assumed, we would see the error of our ways and fall in love with a nice man.

I don’t know a single one of my friends for whom any of those promises have been kept.

Sure, some of them (including me) are still with the same husband, but absolutely all of us have ended up in the workforce. Those who left school early and obeyed the prevailing views of what good girls ‘should’ do – namely, leave worrying about money to the men – have, without exception, ended up facing the very real prospect of a vulnerable and penurious old age. Even if they have gone back into the workforce, their lack of skills and long period away from paid work means they are generally in insecure, low paid jobs. A friend in this position was one of nine employees recently retrenched from the company she had worked for as a clerk for decades. You know what all nine workers who lost their jobs had in common? They were all women over 50. The chances of them getting another job are terrifyingly slim.

Indeed, economists and policy makers are becoming seriously concerned about the impact of a generation of poor old women, eking out an existence on the single pension currently at around $375.00 a week. Imagine trying to cover rent, food, utilities, phone, clothing and transport on that! And that’s without even mentioning one of the biggest financial burdens of aging – medical and pharmaceutical expenses. Unsurprisingly, given the above figures, the proportion of single women over 50 who are homeless is rising and rising rapidly. Tragically, this is apparently the reward many women of my vintage will get for being the good girls who did what society told them to. Remember, they just weren’t told they could expect to be protected by a man but they were also told that they should let their man take care of the money, their money.

Even women who went to work have been badly served by the way we divide up the money in our society. When compulsory superannuation was designed in the 80s, the male decision makers failed to take into account women’s very different working patterns and lives. Women routinely take time out to have children and then go back into part-time work. Not only that, the stubborn 17.5 % gender pay gap in fulltime earnings means they earn less than their male peers from day one.

Even if women work fulltime from school to retirement they will earn $1 million less than a man. Anne Summers calls that the million dollar penalty.

Women who do not work fulltime for 40 years – and that’s most of us – are even further behind, and that impacts severely on how much money we will have in our old age.

Remember my friend who was retrenched from her clerical job at the company she had been with for decades? She walked away with $50,000 in super and she is only 55. Given she can expect to live to be 81, that’s $1,923.00 a year. She won’t be eligible for the pension until she is 67.

For your own sake, don’t do what my generation of good girls did. Work, insist on being paid properly and make wise investments so you can enjoy – as you should – a comfortable and secure old age.

O, and Dorothy Parker? Sadly, it didn’t end well for her either. She died at 73, alone with her dogs in the Volney residential hotel in New York on her beam end. "  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jane_Caro

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