The post below was originally published on my previous site on June 18, 2015. In my defense, this was before the musical Hamilton became huge. Can Lin-Manuel Miranda be on the $10?
Stop the (treasury) presses! The federal government is listening to the people.*
The Treasury Department announced last night that a yet-to-be-determined female will replace Alexander Hamilton on the $10 bill. Many are hailing it as a step forward in gender equality, and it certainly is a long-overdue, symbolic milestone.
But it’s essentially meaningless, and I’m here to tell you why.
First, let’s talk about the choice of the $10, in particular. Activists who had petitioned for a currency change had actually asked for Andrew Jackson to be taken off the $20. The political and social reasons for that request have been covered elsewhere, so I won’t get into them here. But it’s a puzzling decision for other reasons.
Treasury secretary Jack Lew says the decision was more about security. To prevent counterfeiting, they add new security to the bills every so often, and the $10 is the next one due for an upgrade.
But here’s the bigger issue: the $10 is one of the least-used currencies we have. Yeah, there’s $1.9 billion of them in circulation, but that’s only slightly more than the $50 and the $2.
That’s right. The $2. The denomination that your Great Grandma used to slip into your birthday card every year with a comb is almost as prevalent as the $10.
Put it this way, if all of the U.S. currency in circulation were shrunk down to 100 bills and shoved into your new Father’s Day wallet, you’d have:
- 30 $1s
- 28 $100s
- 22 $20s
- 7 $5s
- 5 $10s
- 4 $50s
- and 3 $2s.
You get the idea. The choice of the $10 is dubious, but it pales in comparison to the other fact that we’re missing here.
Paper money is dying.
According to Javelin market research, cash was used in only 27% of transactions in 2011; plastic was used 66 percent of the time.
That was four years ago. Think of all the advancements since then. Yeah, there’s plastic, direct deposit, and pre-paid debit cards. Then, there’s the rise of mobile payment options. Apple Pay is accepted in 700,000 locations (including 40,000+ Coke machines).
You can send money directly to a person via email or text through many banks. We ordered a pizza from an app the other day, and we had the option to split the check right there in the app — a situation where I ALWAYS thought cash would be needed.
Don’t get me wrong. Cash is not dead, but it has certainly retired and started shopping for time shares in Punta Gorda.
Oh, and by the way, the $10 note with a woman’s picture won’t be available until 2020.
We will probably never be a cashless society, but can you even imagine how many non-cash options will be available then?
So why are we celebrating placing a woman’s face on a dying item? We might as well put a Native American’s picture on a pay phone, or an LGBT figure’s image on all compact discs!
I’m not arguing that they shouldn’t have made the switch. What I hope is that we start measuring the progress of women by much, much more important things.
For example, the percentage of women serving in elected office is still crazy low. Whether you are looking at Congress, statewide elected office, state legislatures, or mayoral positions, the standard lies somewhere between 1 in 5 to 1 in 4.
Females sit in about 15% of CEO roles, but the number drops below 10% when you look at the Fortune 500.
I’m proud to have worked for many of Indiana’s top female elected officials, and I’m a true believer that we need more women running for office, not necessarily more women in my money clip.