Feminism begins with finance. The problem is, many of us don’t realise this.
For its part, society has not encouraged women to think about this. The financial sector has a long history of ignoring women. From the gender pay gap to financial advertising being targeted almost exclusively to men.
Women have been kept out of this self-proclaimed boy’s club, but not without repercussions. We think it’s long overdue that we take matters into our own hands.
With this exclusion comes a lack of knowledge and easy access to educational resources. Without these it becomes difficult, not to add intimidating, building our confidence in a sector that has a larger collection of confusing acronyms than the Olsen Twins oversized coats.
But it’s more than that. As women we’re all told we’re ‘splurgers’, ‘shopaholics’ or ‘bad with money’. And so often we begin to believe it's our reality. These one-dimensional portrayals couldn’t be further from the truth, but they don’t exactly help rally us together in support.
As a result, we’ve got some catching up to do. Women may currently lag behind men in terms of financial literacy - but we don’t believe it has to stay this way. By choosing not to engage with this sector, we’re disempowering ourselves too.
Here’s why financial literacy for women matters:
We’re kept in the loop
A lack of financial literacy impacts women’s ability to make smart financial decisions, invest in the stock market and build our wealth. What is in our power is the choice to change this - we shouldn’t have to stay on the backfoot.
Good opportunities won’t pass us by
Combined with existing inequalities, it’s estimated that as women we miss out on £1 million across our lifetimes. Just imagine the world of good you could do with that money...
We regain our independence
Financial inequity has often been used to keep women in positions without power, leaving them dependent on men. Why the hell should anyone have to ‘find a rich husband to provide for us’. A third of millennial women are entirely or somewhat dependent on their other half for finances. This means if something like a break-up or divorce happens, we could find ourselves in a vulnerable position where we’re unable to support ourselves. If you’re adamant this couldn’t happen to you, just remember how a pandemic literally came out of nowhere. Like ASAP Rocky at the Met Gala in someone's great grandma’s duvet cover....Life can be unpredictable.
It’s a fast track to a level playing field
The pandemic has disproportionately affected women, with sectors heavily populated by women taking the hardest hit: retail, hospitality and childcare. It’s more important than ever we bridge that gap. We need to take matters into our own hands.
We can raise a generation of future feminists
Most of our money habits are created by the time we’re 5 years old. Five. Studies show children as young as five develop emotional responses to spending and saving money. These emotional responses which they would have largely picked up at home, from their families and surroundings, can determine which learned behaviours they develop into later on in life. Whether you’re a mum, auntie or cousin, we should want to raise the next generation of financial feminists, break the money taboo and teach them everything we wish we had known too.
Now you may realise, if you haven’t already, why it’s vital we empower ourselves and become financially independent. But how to go about this?
Start with your personal finances
The good news is you don’t need to understand equity markets inside out, or be able to recite the yield of government bonds off the top of your head to become financially literate. And thank god, because the reciting bit sounds seriously dull…
Start by diving into the topics that will play an important part in your life: getting a handle on your income and spending, your emergency fund, your pension, your stocks & shares ISA, and how to negotiate a pay rise.
Surround yourself by role models: financial influencers and inspiring people on Instagram who can get you excited, interested and inspired to learn more about finance
Build up a community of friends and family where you can ask them questions about finance and turn to them for support
Take small steps to build up your financial confidence over time i.e. start with building up your emergency fund, then focus on longer term goals, such as your pension or ISA
Be confident, challenge your beliefs
This is all about having the courage to fight the false narratives we’ve been told about ourselves. A recent study by economist Annamaria Lusardi, founder of Global Financial Literacy Excellence Centre, found that one-third of the gender financial literacy gap can be explained by women’s lack of confidence.
Annamaria’s study reveals “when it comes to financial literacy, women know less than men, but they know more than they think they know''. So let’s give ourselves some more credit. Let’s build our confidence by focusing on getting 1% better, until we realise that’s in our grasp and we have the confidence to achieve even more. Remember, fake it until you make it is never bad advice...
Find solidarity in support networks
It’s time we broke the taboo. Let’s start speaking to our friends about money and getting informed about other people’s experiences. This isn’t about bragging about who has the biggest salary. This is about finding out from other friends in the industry if you’re getting paid a fair wage by industry standards, or maybe getting an outsider's perspective on how to set your rates in an industry you’re unfamiliar with. And if in the process you have a little rant about Mr. Fitzherbert in the office, that’s OK as well - we all need those groups.
Women are not a homogeneous group, despite what these one-dimensional stereotypes would lead us to believe. We don’t all have the same experiences so having networks which can help fill in some of those gaps are invaluable. We need validating groups where experiences of women and non-binary people can be seen, shared and heard.
Let’s be clear about the causes of structural inequality and sexism: it’s not our fault. And it shouldn’t be our personal responsibility to lean in more and play by the existing rules. But right now if it is and if that’s what it takes, we’re ready to prove everyone who thought we couldn’t do it wrong.
Knowledge is power so that we can change this system. Together.