Reflections on “Women’s Equality Day”
By John Hope Bryant
This week began with “Women’s Equality Day”. It’s a day that the nation reflects on the certification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1920, granting women the right to vote. Despite the significance of this momentous day nearly 100 years ago, and the positive progress that’s happened afterward, I wonder if men and women are all truly equal… especially when it comes to advancing financially. If you look at the straight facts… the answer is NO.
According to the Pew Research Center, the gender pay gap is narrowing, but it still exists. In 2018, women earned 85% less than what men earned. The numbers are also striking when it comes to women-owned businesses. Women own more than 11.6 million small businesses in the U.S., with 5.4 million owned by women of color. As of 2017, these businesses have generated $1.7 trillion in sales.
African-American women are the fastest growing demographic of entrepreneurs in the country and generate billions of dollars in revenue. But yet, they are often overlooked for venture capital and other grants.
That is why my team at Operation HOPE and I are doing our part to bring change here. Our goal is to help women thrive at all levels of their lives and businesses. The generous support of our partner Coca-Cola, with a $1 million donation to HOPE to empower women and girls with financial education and entrepreneurship training, kicked things off in 2015. The impact of this pledge continues today, and we remain grateful to Helen Smith Price, Vice President of Global Community Affairs and President of the Coca-Cola Foundation; and Wanda Rodwell, Director, Community Partnerships, Global Community Affairs/Public Affairs and Communications, Coca-Cola.
Partners CIT, Mastercard, and MetaBank have also stepped up — launching women-focused HOPE Inside programming on both coasts, and sponsoring initiatives like our Women’s Entrepreneurship Accelerator at the 2019 HOPE Global Forum.
Empowering women with financial literacy is the foundation for achieving full equality in the workplace and marketplace. Through women-focused initiatives with our partners, we’re working to close the gap, nearly a century after the landmark 19th Amendment. It’s appropriate to point out that 70 percent of the employees at Operation HOPE, and my other companies, are women. As we round the corner toward the next 100 years, Operation HOPE is ready and positioned to meet that challenge.