Kaitlin Mahar: Impoverished women find an unlikely hero in Melinda Gates

aYes, that’s Melinda Gates, wife of Microsoft creator and billionaire Bill Gates. In the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s annual letter, Melinda tells the ugly truth: poverty is sexist.

Everyone’s aware of the gender pay gap. But what few realize is that this pay gap is perpetuated by the fact that women spend more time doing household duties than men.

Melinda writes: “Housework comes first, so girls often fall behind in school. Global statistics show that it’s increasingly girls, not boys, who don’t know how to read. Mothers might say they’d go to the doctor. In poor countries, moms are usually responsible for their kids’ health.” Furthermore, working mothers earn approximately $0.73 for every male-earned dollar, essentially having to pay a “mommy tax.”

Women are also met with unrealistic expectations to keep their households in order, which can deter them professionally. For example, women need to work an extra 155 days to catch up to their male co-workers, which is nearly impossible when also having to balance another “full-time” job – motherhood.

bClosing the wage gap isn’t just about providing equal pay for single, white women – it’s imperative for all women, particularly those raising families. Studies show that equal pay could cut poverty amongst working mothers in the South alone by over half. Since motherhood’s a full-time job by itself, shouldn’t we be helping working moms, rather than stacking the odds against them?


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