We’ve all heard the statistics: Women still get paid far less than men and women’s work is undervalued by society.

But a new survey released by The Penn Mutual Life Insurance Company on Friday reported something we may not have realized - women themselves are undervaluing their own work, with potentially devastating consequences.

Even in 2011 mothers and single women do more work at home than men and yet don’t put a high enough sticker price on those duties. When asked in Penn Mutual’s third annual Worth for Women Survey to put a dollar value on the work they do as part of the “second shift,” outside of their jobs, both men and women estimate their value around $25,000 a year. Yet when these same respondents were asked to list the number of hours they spent on each task, men overestimated the value of what they do by nearly 13%, reported Penn Mutual. Women, on the other hand, underestimated their worth. In fact, when Penn Mutual calculated the actual median value of services, a woman’s contribution to the home was $34,256 and men’s was $19,322. In addition, men were 9% more likely to overestimate their contribution by $30,000 or more. Women, especially those with young children, are the worst offenders when it comes to downplaying their worth: They perceive their worth at $29,000, while there computed worth is $44,913. Fifty-two percent of these women underestimate their worth by at least $10,000, while 36% do so by at least $30,000.  (Check out the Worth Calculator, which allows you to measure your actual economic value, including often-overlooked contributions like childcare, budget management and homemaking: www.WorthForWomen.com)

Although this may sound like just another study telling us women need to ask for more money or be more assertive, the consequences to our futures, and those of our children, are substantial.

“As a life insurance company, we often see evidence that women underestimate their value to their families—with serious or tragic consequences when that work has to be replaced by outsiders after the untimely death of a wife or mother,” said Tracy Marrocco, Director of Women’s Marketing for Penn Mutual, in a press release. “Far too many families fail to account for this value, leaving women uninsured or under-insured.  This survey revealed that women own significantly less coverage than men do, with the median individual coverage amount for women being $100,000 as compared to $150,000 for men.”

Women often don’t understand the various life insurance options available, the company reported. For example, the Worth Survey revealed that women believe building cash reserves to borrow from for big expenditures such college or starting a new business is critical, but they aren’t aware that permanent life insurance can provide this benefit.

“What’s surprising is how significantly women under-value the contributions they make to their homes and families—yet this thinking has negative repercussions for women and their loved ones and undermines their prospects for a secure financial future,” said Marrocco.

The annual study was conducted by Penn Mutual from March 2 to March 17, 2011, and encompassed interviews with a nationally representative sample of women and men ages 25 to 64 across a wide income spectrum, including those with and without life insurance, as well as both married and single parents.  




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