Finance has long been an ‘old boys’ club’
There’s a huge disparity in gender — starting from the wage gap to the demographics of the finance industry — when it comes to money.
Annamaria Lusardi, professor of economics and accountancy at the George Washington University School of Business (GWSB), says older women may have grown up in an environment where they couldn’t or didn’t need to make as many financial decisions. This is something that’s changing with younger generations.
“Things are getting better. But in my view, we need to do more,” Lusardi says.
Talking about money hasn’t typically been an acceptable norm, but it’s even more stigmatized for women.
Sonia Kang — Canada Research Chair in Identity, Diversity and Inclusion and associate professor of organizational behavior and human resource management at the University of Toronto — points to the existence of “crypto bros” and the male-dominated GameStop Reddit forums.
There are large online communities of men who like to talk about investing, but that doesn’t mean women are less interested, she says.
Kang thinks they might just be less willing to discuss investment opportunities over public spaces.
“Finance bros playing gatekeepers, and in a much broader sense, the patriarchy as a whole prioritizes the voices of old, white men over almost anyone else.”
There’s a confidence gap in personal finance
Dunlap says she’s always felt comfortable talking about money and her parents imparted some important financial lessons to her from a young age. “I was always the friend who my friends came to for money advice.”
However, not all women feel the same way.
The Bank of America study found that less than half of women are confident about their finances, even though 92% say they are confident in paying their bills and 82% say they are confident in managing a budget.
Lusardi points out that some women may be less comfortable with long-term goals, like saving for retirement or investing.
Lusardi has conducted her own research on the gender gap when it comes to finance. In a 2021 research paper for the GWSB’s Global Financial Literacy Excellence Center — which she founded and presides over as academic director — Lusardi and the other authors wrote that women are generally less financially literate than men.
And about one-third of this gender gap was attributed to lower confidence levels in women.
On the other hand, Kang believes that women aren’t necessarily less confident than men are. They’re just more realistic.
“Men are overconfident,” she says, noting that some studies have shown women have a more reasonable assessment of risk.
In fact, a 2021 Fidelity study found that, on average, women outperformed their male counterparts by 0.4% when it came to investing in the stock market over the past 10 years.
Talking more about money can change your relationship with your finances
Kang says talking openly about money can help “demystify” finance. She points out that many advances in gender pay equity have been due to transparency.
“I think part of the reason why people in power have been able to hold power — especially when it comes to money — is because they also hold the knowledge.”
Women have historically faced greater barriers to financial education than men, and this is even more prevalent in low-income households. Financial literacy that starts at school could be “a very important equalizer,” says Lusardi.
When it comes to careers, the BOA study found that younger women are more comfortable when it comes to applying for new or better positions or asking for a raise compared to older women — but it’s also important to note that women over the age of 65 are more likely to be out of the workforce.
In Lusardi’s course on personal finance, she tells her female students that if they start with a salary that’s 20% less than their male colleagues, they’re going to have $1 million less in their lifetime.
She advises that it’s extremely important to ask for a raise.
“We have an inflation rate of 9%. If you're not asking for a raise this year, and if your rate is less than 9%, you're being paid less,” she explains.
Lusardi also recommends that employers introduce programs to help their employees with their personal finances, such as their 401(k) accounts.
Dunlap accomplished her savings goal by taking on an additional freelance job on top of her regular 9-to-5 role in marketing. She says 20% of her main income and all of her side hustle income went into her savings, plus she began investing into a Roth IRA when she was 22.
Dunlap later created her own business to help other women with their finances after her story went viral and she received questions from followers about things like saving, paying off debt and investing.
“The trend was the same — almost all of the people messaging me were women. They felt left out of the narrative with other money creators and wanted a space where they could learn about money without shame or judgment,” Dunlap says.
“I love that women are more open to discussing money now. I want it to continue.”
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