Feminism & Finance – a look at the way finance can be a tool to further the feminist agenda
2 min read
Frankly, you’d need to hold a degree in Gender Studies to appreciate the breadth of feminist literature that is available out there – and for good reason. But, this Women’s Month, we’re shining the Spotlight on how finance can be a tool used to further the feminist agenda.
To kick us off, we’re posing the question: have you ever come across the term “financial feminism”?
Financial feminism can be broadly defined as encouraging, educating, and empowering women to bridge the gender wealth gap. Let’s get real, though: the only way to achieve effective fiscal feminine empowerment is to deconstruct the institutional barriers that keep the vast majority of South African women from enjoying the same earning power as men. We’ll get into that in a bit. But, first, let’s explore financial feminism a little further.
Investing in finance is investing in feminism
We’re all familiar with the pay gap – shockingly, women in South Africa are earning 27% less than their male co-workers – but did you know about the investment gap?
As part of their #MakeMoneyEqual campaign, Starling Bank engaged a team of researchers at Brunel University to produce a comparative analysis of money-themed content aimed at women and men. Their research found that a whopping 90% of articles on money written for women are about saving and budgeting. In comparison, 73% of money articles geared towards men are about making large investments.
Don’t get us wrong – learning how to effectively save and budget your income is extremely important to maintaining good financial health. It’s an essential skill for women to master if they want to be in control of their own financial destinies. However, that’s only half of the story. Learning how to invest your money and grow assets which contribute to your wealth is equally important to long-term financial health and feminist empowerment.
So, what story is this comparative analysis telling us? It’s chillingly telling that men are generally perceived as more financially aggressive and adept enough to invest their money, whereas women are perceived as more timid and conservative with their cash. Again, while learning how to save is an essential skill, it doesn’t help the financial empowerment of women if the only narrative they’re being sold is one of constant financial anxiety.
This carries over into real-life practises, too. A survey experiment conducted by the Global Financial Literacy Excellence Centre shows that women are less financially literate than men – mostly due to a lack of confidence.
That might also explain why women are less likely to invest than men. Despite this discrepancy, however, female investors consistently outperform men. Women are also more likely to invest in assets that have effect positive social and environmental changes. Who run the world? Girls!
What we’re hearing is that women ought to be investing their money to invest in themselves. But, how do we grow the confidence and the financial literacy of women to advance the financial feminist agenda?
Sharing is caring
Never underestimate the power of book club chatter. If women swapped investment tips as frequently as we swap reading recommendations, we could build a community of well-informed and fiscally flourishing women.
The idea that speaking openly about money is rude is an outdated notion. In 2022, we’re chatting emergency funds, sinking funds, investment portfolios, and retirement annuities over cocktails at girls’ night.
There’s not much use in chatting cash management, however, unless you have the financial literacy to back that up. And this knowledge, unfortunately, is disproportionately scarce amongst women. One of the most challenging obstacles that South African women face is education inequality.
This 2021 government report tells us that, out of every ten young women, fewer than six were actively engaged in some form of employment, education, or training in the first quarter of last year. Most women cited “family commitment” as a reason for their lack of participation in these activities. If education is inaccessible to women, how are we to achieve financial emancipation?
All the well-intentioned financial advice is not going to make much of a dent unless some seriously heavyweight institutional issues are resolved. Here are just some of the changes that need to take place if finance is to be wielded as a feminist tool:
- Fair parental leave which makes room for paid maternal leave as well as dual-parent support during the first few months of baby’s life
- Universal childcare support in the workplace
- Flexible work cultures which support employees who are also parents and/or caretakers
- Equal pay!
- Equitable access to financial education
We’re working towards a world in which women are empowered with the financial tools they need to lead a dignified life, one which allows them to do things like start a family or a business (or both!) without being forced to depend on The Man – or any man, really.