By Clara Montanez, a member of the Rotary Club of Washington, D.C., USA
Women are mothers, sisters, daughters, wives, supporters, even a shoulder to cry on. Yet women still earn less than their male counterparts. In my field, women comprise maybe 12 percent of all financial advisers. Women need to feel there is a support group, a sisterhood, they can go to for help.
And that is why it is important for us to celebrate this special day, International Women’s Day. Motherhood is one of the most important roles a woman can have. But it can be an isolating role in a society where most women work. We need to celebrate all aspects of womanhood. We need to support the women who are pursuing careers, and those who choose to have children and take a break from their careers, and those who decide to do both.
I see five fundamental concerns most professional women face today. I have found Rotary has something to offer in each.
The burden of raising a family still falls primary on women. We need an extended network. For me, Rotary was that network. As I became active on more committees, one of the things I wanted to do was have my Rotary friends visit my home, so I did a lot of committee meetings at my house. They became potlucks. I wanted my daughters to meet my Rotary friends and see them like family. It became that to the point where my daughters can pick up the phone and call any of quite a few of my Rotary friends and feel just like family.
Many young professional women are saddled with college debt. And salaries don’t pay for everything. Rotary has given me a platform to empower young women to overcome their fears and take control of their finances. I teach them to not focus on the dollars and cents, but to focus on their goals. If you focus on what you want to do, it will happen. Rotary is a place where you can safely reach out and get help.
Most women now work outside the home. At their jobs, they are trying to envision how to climb the corporate ladder. Mentoring is a huge benefit Rotary provides. A lot of young people come to me for help, and not just financial. I find that I can always refer them to a Rotary friend in their line of work who can help.
Happiness is a key ingredient of health, which is an essential component of a balanced life. Happiness flows from being with friends, giving back to the community, and being allowed to be creative. In Rotary, this means coming up with projects, working with your friends to see how you can help others. All of this contributes tremendously to my happiness and as a result I find the energy to exercise, take care of myself, and find time to help others.
The biggest concern of many women is what is going to happen to them in their retirement years. The statistics say many women will live 30 years beyond work, and many will outlive their partners. Women tend to think of everybody else first. But it is vital for women to begin putting aside money for themselves. What are you going to do with yourself after your career? What kind of lifestyle do you want? This is where Rotary can play a huge role. I have invited quite a number of my retired friends to join Rotary, and it has become the main source of their happiness and community. It is an outlet that lets them feel like they are contributors.
View a special International Women’s Day event Rotary is sponsoring at the World Bank on 8 March. The event will be streamed live from 14:00 to 15:00 Eastern Standard Time (UTC-5) and available on recording afterward.
About the author: Clara Montanez is senior director of investments for Oppenheimer & Co., Inc., and is based in Washington, D.C. She has served as Rotary’s alternate representative to the Organization of American States since 2010.