Let’s Talk About #WhatWomenNeed

The Shriver Report is a non-profit that seeks to improve our country’s relationship with women. Recently they put out a special report called “A Woman’s Nation Pushes Back from the Brink.” This particular report explores the struggles involved in being a single parent in the United States. It features research from top universities and testimonies from celebrities, scholars, and regular American women.

Research showed that 70 percent of single mothers are living at or at the edge of the poverty line. This is true because women are three times more likely than men to raise a family alone. With no one to share the endless hours of the hard, unpaid work known as parenting. No second paycheck. No security blanket. Research also shows that many single mothers are also left required to care for their own elderly parents.

Two thirds of minimum wage workers in America are women. Most of these employers don’t guarantee maternal leave or the right to earn paid sick days. These jobs don’t provide the flexibility women require as caregivers. This causes women to cycle through many low paying jobs. It makes it difficult to build any type of career. Most of these women couldn’t pull together $2,000 in the event of a family emergency. They live one small disaster away from financial ruin. These women are the caretakers and the breadwinners. Where is their safety net?

Maria Shriver writes in the introduction, “These are not women trying to ‘have it all,’ These are women who are already doing it all — working hard, providing, parenting, and care-giving. They’re doing it all, yet they and their families can’t prosper, and that’s weighing the U.S. economy down.”

Women make 77 cents for every dollar a man makes. African women make 64 cents for every dollar. Latinas… 55 cents. If women were paid the same as men, the economy could generate an additional 447 billion dollars.

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Beyonce made a small contribution to the Shriver Report at around 200 words. She suggests that men hold an equal role in the movement for the equality of the sexes. Beyonce writes, “Men have to demand that their wives, daughters, mothers, and sisters earn more—commensurate with their qualifications and not their gender.” Some feminists found her suggestions to be problematic and came out with the pitchforks saying a woman’s status shouldn’t be at the mercy of a man’s demands. Although I don’t believe that is what Beyonce was suggesting. Like her, I don’t think men should be idle In the struggle for gender equality. They should be allies.

Lebron James contributed a moving personal essay about the sacrifices of his single mother. He writes, “My mom worked anywhere and everywhere, trying to make ends meet. But through all of that, I knew one thing for sure: I had my mother to blanket me and to give me security. She was my mother, my father, my everything. She put me first. I knew that no matter what happened, nothing and nobody was more important to her than I was. I went without a lot of things, but never for one second did I feel unimportant or unloved.”

I grew up in a single parent family. My parents divorced after eighteen years of marriage leaving my mother to care for three girls. My mom worked nights at a hospital 45 minutes away and she’d floor her old white Pontiac all the way back home to pick me up from school on time. Even though I could tell in her eyes that she was dead tired, she’d still ask me what I’d like for breakfast. It requires a lot of selflessness and sacrifice to raise children on your own. My mother worked hard so that me and my two older sisters to have the best life possible. We didn’t have everything but I don’t feel like I ever – not even once – went without. I honestly couldn’t be more grateful. I know not everyone is so lucky.

Photographs by the author

My mother always taught me that the most important thing is to be independent no matter what path or paths I choose in life.

There are so many ways in which women in our society are divided. Women are wedged apart by their political views, their decisions to get married or have children, their sexual orientation, their color, their age. The strongest message of The Shriver Report was that women need to unite to make things better.

At about 400 pages The Shriver Report brings together a myriad of voices thinking intersectionally about women on the brink. Its demonstrative with figures and testimonials that gender equality is a myth. Women deserve every opportunity to succeed. We need to work together to make sure the right opportunities are created to foster the right environment for success. Let’s get a conversation about what we need as women to do better for themselves.

If you are wondering what you can do to help, The Shriver Report put together a list of 10 Things You Can Do to Power a Woman’s Nation.

Start by sharing this article.

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