Jessica Williams Shows Why the $10 Bill Is the Least of Women’s Money Problems
When news broke last week that a woman’s face will land on paper currency for the first time in more than a century, U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew played it off coolly. “This historic endeavor has been years in the making,” he said in a video announcement, suggesting the U.S. Treasury has been on board with women’s rights efforts all along.
But maybe the change that was years in the making had nothing to do with honoring women’s achievements—it was simply about redesigning the $10 bill for security reasons. Business as usual. At least that’s the suspicion of Daily Show correspondent Jessica Williams, who took the U.S. Treasury to task in a segment that aired Wednesday night.
“Do you actually think that a bunch of people in the Treasury Department got together and said, ‘You know what? Let’s do something for women today!’ ” Williams said. The Treasury Department selected the $10 bill for redesign in 2013 “to address current and potential security threats to currency notes,” according to its website. That Lew decided to elect a woman to grace the $10 bill may have been a consolation to activist groups like Women on 20s, which has been campaigning for months to replace Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill with a leader such as Harriet Tubman.
So, Why Should You Care? As the Women on 20s campaign reasoned when it launched earlier in the year, there’s no greater symbol of our gender pay gap—women in the U.S. still get paid about 78 cents to a man’s dollar—than our paper currency. The $1 coins minted in recent decades to display images of women’s suffrage activist Susan B. Anthony and 18th-century explorer Sacagawea were little used, which only seemed to underscore inequality between the sexes. It doesn’t help that most Americans under age 30 favor plastic over cash; as Williams points out, paper currency could be practically a thing of the past by the time the new $10 bill is released in 2020.
“That’s always how it works, Jon,” she said to Jon Stewart. “They put our faces on things that are about to disappear: They did it with coins, stamps, and now the $10.” Her solution? Put Eleanor Roosevelt’s portrait on Apple Pay or Harriet Tubman’s face on PayPal. Then again, there are some objections for that argument too, from activists who say putting an abolitionist leader on a symbol of capitalism might be more than a little ironic.
More money, more problems.