I dread women’s month because I become inundated with pink invitations to industry events on topics ranging from Botox, self-esteem improvement coupled with the money mistakes women make. What are we thinking? I would love to know if any of my male readers have ever been invited to a comparable financial industry event? The industry invites women receive in women’s month are frustrating precisely because of their narrow specificity; frameworks that are positioned, yet again, around women which serve to keep them unequal.
These actions, despite good intentions, pander to the female stereotype and in our industry reinforce the female experience: that the financial industry doesn’t take women seriously; they often just pay lip service to advancing the financial futures of women. Can you imagine a male colleague getting an invite to a session on Botox and the money-mistakes men make? How seriously would they take that? There is nothing wrong with learning about the benefits of Botox or the mistakes women make with money; however, when paired together they create a particular framework that denotes meaning. Meaning that does little to serve women. The car industry made the same mistake until they realised that most car decisions were made by women and that they’re not just interested in the glove compartment.
The frameworks positioned around women have serious consequences. Women in 2020, still earn less than their male counterparts for doing the same job. They save less. They invest less. They receive less funding for entrepreneurial ventures. Their businesses fail more often as a result of a lack of support and funding.
Most of this is not their doing. It is the role that society has assigned to women – that they must support their children and extended families, often to the detriment of their own financial security; support their husband’s careers or simply not be seen as good enough for the top jobs or the top pay. We see this play out in practice when female professionals arrive with a fraction of the retirement savings of their male counterparts because they paid for their children’s education before they saved for themselves, and they earned less than their male colleagues for doing the same work.
Women want and need to be spoken to in a way that is familiar and pertinent to their problems – their real problems, not the problems of wrinkles that shackle them to the stereotype and side-track the dialogue necessary for empowered change. In the same way, women do not relate to the competitive talk of our industry. We always talk about beating benchmarks and hitting targets. Whose benchmarks and targets? I think we know the answer to that. When only half the room is doing the talking or being heard, we need to stop and reconsider. If #blacklivesmatter, #metoo or #challengeaccepted has taught us anything, it’s that. Stop. Reconsider.
How you are spoken to really does matter, be it by yourself, others, culture or industry. When that talk serves to limit growth, does damage, demands silence or lies, amongst other things, then there is a problem and there will be a consequence eventually.
Our industry should take note. Women are serious about their money and they need the industry to take them seriously. They need hard-hitting strategies to earn more, save more, invest more and build better businesses and rise to the top – being pretty and Botoxed to look ten years younger doesn’t get you to the top. They want respectful advice and financial empowerment.
Foundation Family Wealth is an example of how women respond when financial firms speak their language, take them seriously without patronizing them, and empower them. Three-quarters of our clients are women – they are either the breadwinners, the main decision-makers or equal financial partners. If women were treated equally when it comes to money, especially by our industry, then our firm would not be the exception to the rule. Women, after all, make up half of the population so why should they not be half of the clients of the industry?
Our male colleagues can help us best by changing the debilitating reality of what is the current female financial truth. All of us need to examine the contribution we make every day to ensure that we make the playing field equal for women when it comes to money. Trust me, it will benefit all.
And please, stop sending me pink invitations.