Why financial literacy matters for women and girls

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By Dana Campbell Saylor, Chief Executive Officer, YWCA Maricopa County

Dana-Campbell-SaylorSeventy percent of parents teach their teens how to do the laundry. Only 29 percent talk to them about credit card fees and how interest works. When asked, students say they want to learn about personal finances. They want to know how to balance a checkbook, create a budget and avoid debt. Why, as a culture, don’t we get that teaching the basics of responsible money management is just one of the many ways we’re helping young women and men grow up to become responsible adults?

The single most important factor for women, in contributing to a stable existence, is to be financially secure. “It is equally important to a young woman as it is to a young man,” said Marsha Firestone, Ph.D. “An understanding of money and finance empowers women in all aspects of life. Too many of our girls grow up without knowledge in this area.” Perhaps this is why young women tend to feel less confident than young men about managing their money. Regardless of the career paths young girls may choose, we need to ensure that all of our daughters are prepared to achieve their dreams.

The ability to use basic math and financial concepts to make decisions about earning, saving, spending and sharing money is a learned skill set. As with reading and writing, an understanding of basic financial literacy is critical for future success. Whether a girl or boy is from a low-income or wealthy home, or whether they live in a rural or a suburban community, they are likely to work for pay for much of their adult lives, and will be responsible for their own financial well-being in addition to the well-being of their families.

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The longstanding gender disparity in pay and income still exists today. Women still earn about 77 cents to every dollar a man earns. It is critical that young women have the support and skills necessary to gain a sense of economic justice, so they can assert rights for their own economic well-being, as well as the economic well-being of their families and their communities. The pay disparity also adds up over time, often resulting in smaller social security payments decades later, and less money to build retirement savings. There is also the “mother penalty” – over the first five years of her child’s life, a mother loses an estimated $5,000 in pay, which is reflected in retirement benefits.

President Obama believes that, for America’s women, economic security is a key component in our quality of life. In his inaugural address he stated, “It is now our generation’s task to carry on what those pioneers began, for our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers, our daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts.”

Activist Gloria Steinem, who recently visited Phoenix to speak at a YW event, says, “If we just had equal pay in this country, we would have the single most important economic stimulus this country could possibly, possibly ever have.”

Fortunately, in our community, financial education programs are being offered to educate and empower our girls and women. The YWCA “Own It” Financial Education Program offers a free, comprehensive curriculum that teaches students essential skills like how to save money, balance a checkbook, understand credit, budget, set financial goals, open a checking account, reduce debt, etc. “Own It” classes are offered in both English and Spanish, and are also offered to teens. Classes are taught by YW volunteers, all of whom are financial professionals. Students can register online at and select a class from one of our various locations. When an “Own It” student graduates, he or she will have developed an understanding of economic concepts at the individual and family level, and will be on his or her way to becoming an economically independent community member. 

“Own It” Financial Education Class schedule


Tuesdays: March 5, 12, 19, 26

Location: Care1st Avondale Resource and Housing Center

Wednesdays: March 13, 27 

Location: HOPE VI Emmett McLoughlin Community Training and Education Center

Wednesdays: March 6, 13, 20, 27

Location: Salvation Army Kroc Center

Thursdays: March 7, 14, 21, 28

Location: Fresh Start Women’s Center



Wednesdays: April 3, 10, 17, 24

Location: Fresh Start Women’s Resource Center

Tuesdays: April 9, 16, 23, 30

Location: Salvation Army Kroc Center

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