By Wendy Stewart, Atlanta Market President for Bank of America
Women’s History Month is a celebration of the contributions and progress being made by women across the globe, and this is especially true given the past year with coronavirus-related disruptions.
Balancing work and life can be challenging for mothers even in the best of times, but it became even more so in the past year. Women experienced higher coronavirus-related job losses in 2020, while also bearing more childcare and home management responsibilities than men. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly 2.4 million women exited the workforce during the past year, compared to less than 1.8 million men.
In Atlanta, women make up 51.5% of the population, yet they earn nearly 20% less than their male counterparts. It is crucial that women are not forced to choose between their financial wellbeing and caring for the ones they love in an uncertain economy. That difficult choice can be addressed with progressive workplace policies, such as the childcare reimbursements or adult care services programs for aging parents that Bank of America provides its employees.
Investing in women is not just the right thing to do; it also makes for good business because diverse and inclusive workplaces are essential in meeting the needs of today’s clients, communities and key stakeholders. Bank of America recognizes the significant role women play in advancing thriving economies. It’s why we continue to invest every day in helping them make meaningful contributions within our company and in their communities at large.
For example, the bank partners with more than 350 colleges and universities around the world to recruit diverse talent, and our most recent summer intern class was 47% female. Locally, we partner with Georgia State University, Georgia Tech and Spelman College to attract the best female talent, which is critical to sustaining our company, making Bank of America a great place to work and driving responsible growth. We have programs designed specifically to support the retention and career development of female employees, such as our women’s employee network, which is more than 36,000 members strong, as well as other professional development opportunities to help engage, develop, retain and support our female talent across the company.
Outside of the workplace, we must give women the tools they need to achieve their own economic success as well. Financial security means more than money for women; It represents financial independence, freedom and empowerment in a world that often does not prioritize their prosperity. Financial institutions can be a major catalyst on this front, such as Bank of America’s initiatives focused on gender lens investing strategies or the Tory Burch Foundation Capital Program, which pledged $100 million in affordable loans to female entrepreneurs.
In Atlanta, we are continuing to invest and partner with Access to Capital for Entrepreneurs, the Atlanta Women’s Foundation, YWCA of Atlanta, as well as women-led organizations like Atlanta Technical College, Atlanta Habitat for Humanity, Atlanta Land Trust and Grove Park Foundation. By supporting these organizations and the women they support, we all achieve our collective goal to advance women’s roles in business and in the community.
In addition to supporting these groups, we can personally advance this cause by engaging women in important financial discussions, promoting strong financial habits and encouraging women leaders to become mentors for others down the line. It is also crucial that we urge women to begin planning early for unexpected future challenges, such as career interruptions and higher healthcare costs.
As we celebrate Women’s History Month, let us make a difference in Atlanta by putting women’s lifelong financial wellness front and center. Financial health will not only be vital to achieving equality; it will prove essential to preserving balance and advancing economic opportunity for generations to come.