Closing the Gap for Women

By Susan Neely, President and CEO, American Council of Life Insurers (ACLI)

When women are strong financially, we all thrive. That’s why business and government have to sit down at the (kitchen) table and listen to what women need.

Women hold two-thirds of the student loan debt in this country. 

When I share this with people, the first question they ask is “Why?” That’s hard to answer, because there are many reasons. For starters, women outnumber men in universities, but when they step out into the workforce they earn less. 

I’m more interested in the question people aren’t asking about the student loan debt: How does it connect to all of the other gaps women must overcome today and what does it mean for the long term? 

The pay gap is still very real. On average, women make 82% of what men do. Women are more likely to take time off work to care for a family member. Those who step away lose $300,000 in wages over a lifetime. For women of color, the challenges are even more daunting. Two-thirds of Latinas work for employers that don’t sponsor retirement savings plans. And almost three-fifths of African-American women ages 65+ have no retirement income from savings and assets. 

But women live longer and we need more money to live and thrive in retirement. If you are a mom in your 40s today, your children have a 50/50 chance that they will live to be 100. If you have a daughter, she could spend 30 years in retirement. All of those gaps—pay gap, savings gap, caregiving gap—make the “retirement savings” mountain far more difficult to climb. Closing the gaps today is not just about solving present day challenges, but it’s about our future selves. 

So what can we do? 

Well, women are doing a lot (ask any full-time working mom who is now also managing virtual school). From the boardroom to the kitchen table, women are making decisions about finances and their future selves. Ninety-five percent of women are directly involved in their households’ financial decision making. We contribute $7.6 trillion annually to our nation’s GDP. Consider that for a moment. That’s a moment for us to say “hell yeah!”

It’s time for business and government to come together and work for women. 

That’s what ACLI is doing. America’s life insurers provide financial protection products for every stage of life. We’re using the full force of our industry to go to bat for women through platforms, policies, and purpose. 

This month, America’s life insurers launched an Economic Empowerment & Racial Equity Initiative, which establishes four steps to help more Americans access opportunities that lead to financial security. The initiative places special focus on reaching financially underserved communities and increasing diversity on corporate boards.

We’re bringing Congressional policymakers around the virtual kitchen table— long a symbol of coming together and creating new understanding. We’re taking on issues like caregiving, savings gaps, and retirement security to push for policy solutions that put women first. You can follow along at

This year, we hosted our first ever Women and Diversity in Insurance Conference to shed light on the need for diversity in our industry, and to tackle issues like increasing access to financial savings products for those who need it most. And we’re partnering with organizations like Engage that are committed to identifying meaningful actions to benefit all women. 

This is an issue that is bigger than one industry, sector, or sphere of our society.  Each of us, from our unique vantage point, has a role to play to close those gaps. Much like Engage is doing, let’s keep this important conversation going, because when women are financially stronger, we all thrive.

Let’s do it together—for ourselves today, and ourselves tomorrow.


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[…] women get an equal footing on the road to financial security. You can read more about this in an article I wrote for the Bipartisan Beat blog for Engage, a Washington D.C. public policy organization. The […]

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