You may have heard the saying that money is a feminist issue. Maybe you’ve wondered what this means, and, if it’s true or not. And if it is true that money is a feminist issue, why is this so?

First of all, feminism is all about equality. This means giving women the same social, political and economic rights that are given to men. Sounds fairly simple, right? And it definitely sounds ideal. After all, in this modern day and age, there should be no earthly reason to give men preferential treatment.

Well, one area where money has been a feminist issue is with the so-called “gender pay gap.” This happens in many societies where men are paid more than women for doing the same job. For example, in the United States, in 2016 women were only earning 82 cents for every dollar that men were.

Does Singapore have a gender money gap?

The short answer to this question is yes, there is. The long answer is that the severity of the pay gap depends on the industry where you work. On average Singaporean men are earning almost 20 percent more than Singaporean women, according to ValuePenguin, a consumer research firm.

That’s a painful statistic to think about, isn’t it? But here’s what’s even more painful. In some sectors, the gender money gap is as much as 40 percent.

ValuePenguin’s data from the Ministry of Manpower is based on the median gross monthly income of men, which is S$3,991. This is 18 percent more than the median gross monthly income of women, which is S$3,382. Both figures include employer contributions for the Central Provident Fund.

Still and all, Singaporean women are better off than their Asian sisters. In Korea, men make 37 percent more than women. In the Philippines, the figure is at 24 percent, in Malaysia, it’s at 21 percent.

In Hong Kong, interestingly enough, it’s a different story. Women in their 30s make 11 percent less than their male co-workers. However, the pay gap widens as the women grow older. By the time women in Hong Kong are in their 60s, they make as much as 50 percent less than their male counterparts.

One possibility that could explain the gender wage gap in Singapore is that of national service. There are employers who give men higher starting salaries as compensation for the two years served in the armed forces.

Which industries are better for women, and which are worse?

Forewarned is forearmed, right? For any young woman looking at a possible career for her future, it’s good to know what to expect from the industry she’ll enter. This applies to any woman looking to shift careers as well.

In the following industries, the pay gap between men and women is quite noticeable. “Health and social service, manufacturing, public administration and education, information and communications, financial and insurance services and professional services had some of the widest income gaps in the country, where men made more than S$1,000 per month more than women,” according to a Straits Times report from a year ago.

But the same report said that in the transportation and storage sectors, women earned much higher salaries than men.

Sectors where men and women earned pretty much the same amount of money are “arts, entertainment and recreation, labor-intensive industries like agriculture, fishing, quarrying, utilities, sewerage and waste management, and administrative and support services.” However, these jobs are mostly at the lower end of the pay scale. Incomes in these industries are between S$2,000 to S$4,000 per month. Industries that have bigger pay gaps between men and women pay considerably more money, between S$5,000 to S$6,400 monthly.

Surprise, surprise. The biggest offender when it comes to the gender pay gap in Singapore is in the highest echelons of the business world. Female company directors can be earning salaries as much as 40 percent less than their male counterparts. Ouch!

Are you happy with the job you have now, or are you looking to expand your career options? Let us show you how today more and more millennials are taking on multiple careers.

What can a savvy woman do to counter the gender pay gap?

Well, having learned all that, now what? Here’s the thing. Experts say it may take many years, perhaps even a whole century, to close the gender wage gap. This may be true, I don’t believe this is a reason to sit down and cry and feel hopeless.

All the more that women need to attain financial freedom. As Gloria Steinem said, “Nothing changes the gender equation more significantly than women’s economic freedom.”

Therefore, the best thing that a woman can do in the face of the wage gap is to invest. This will ensure her financial freedom. We do not have control over the inequality in salaries. However, we do have control over what we do with our salary, and the best thing to do is to invest it wisely.

Let’s face it. Research shows that women are already better at investments than men are. This is partly because women are more risk-aware than men, which helps us make better decisions when it comes to money and investments.

Investing may be a new idea for you, or it may be something that you’ve been thinking of for a while now. If you ask me when the best time is to start investing, I would say, with all my heart, “Now!”

Don’t be afraid. There are investment advisors around who will put your best interests first. But before you talk to a financial advisor, I would encourage you to read this piece. It will explain why engaging one is one of the best decisions you’ll ever make for your life.

There is much to learn about the different types of investments: bank products, bonds, investment funds, annuities, stocks, businesses, etc. But, as everyone knows, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

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Anna Maria Romero is the Deputy Director of Lifeline Foundation by day and a freelance writer by night. Lifeline Foundation’s advocacy includes empowerment through financial literacy, which is why she has written and taught on this subject on numerous occasions.An educator by profession and training, Anna Maria graduated from the University of the Philippines, cum laude, and taught for more than two decades, having opened a school in 1995. She stepped down as as principal of South City Central School in 2015 in order to pursue a career in the non-profit sector.She is a contributing writer to an online news site, and has been on the creative team of “This Journal Will Actually Change Someone’s Life” since 2008, which is published by FreeSpeech Publications in Manila, Philippines.Anna Maria is a passionate advocate, volunteer, organizer, counselor, communicator, editor, and traveler, who’s always ready to pack up and go where she’s needed.

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