As the month of March came to a close, winding down the month-long activities dedicated annually to the worldwide celebration of women’s achievements, it’s important to keep the conversation alive. This year’s International Women’s Month highlighted our struggles for recognition and equality both in the work space and social context; hence the tag-line “Each for Equal”. As the spate of events, reports and articles have died down as the month ended, it’s time to redeem those pledges for a better tomorrow and to ensure the conversation does not die out, but is a constant and persistent buzz in the ears of those who have promised and committed to a gender equal world, both individually and as a society. A gender equal society means a society where the biases against women are addressed in all areas, socially, politically and economically. As women make bold choices in their personal lives, this can also be extended to the way money and personal finances are handled. Financial security and equality go hand in hand. We’ve put together five ways for women to become “Financial Feminist Superpowers”.
TALK ABOUT MONEY
As it is inevitable that women will have to manage money at some point in their lives, we need to be confident and comfortable speaking about it. However, women talking about finances is seen as taboo in some cultures. Speaking openly about money is just as important as women speaking up for themselves in other areas of life. Women should be open to comparing experiences with other women and speaking about money with friends, partners, parents and even with their children. Studies have shown that couples that talk about money tend to have a stronger relationship; couples who talk weekly about money are much happier when compared to couples who do so every few months and those who hardly talk about money tend to have challenges at some stage in the relationship. “Talking about money” needs to be comprehensive. The conversation should go beyond just budgets and purchases and should include conversations around financial goals such as saving, investing, retirement and more importantly, about relevant documentation (e.g. bank statements, mortgage statements, loan agreements, pension and insurance policy documents). This means that if a crisis should strike either partner, the information would enable the other partner to track down and figure out the family’s finances.
Women often find it difficult to negotiate their salaries with their employers or their fees with clients. This is because many women do not feel comfortable speaking about money and have been conditioned to see negotiation as an unattractive and aggressive (if somewhat masculine) characteristic. Negotiation is an important skill that every woman should acquire. Research has shown that a woman who opts not to negotiate her starting salary after graduation could be foregoing an average of $7,000 the first year, and could potentially lose a hundred times that amount over the course of a 45-year career (as a professional) It doesn’t have to be this way. Negotiation is a skill that can be learnt through preparation and practice. This means being fully aware of your skills and capabilities and being able to use them to your advantage when negotiating. Practising and visualising the negotiation via role play for example can also help to embed the skill and to increase the chances of success even more. Before embarking on salary negotiations, it is important to know what people in your field with the same level of expertise as you are earning. Experts would advise speaking to colleagues, reaching out to former coworkers, mentors, and other people you’ve met along the way who work in your industry.
Society expects women to be the main caregivers and this means they often put the needs of others before theirs. Married women tend to defer to the needs of their husbands and often put their goals on hold to raise a family. This is a laudable and often necessary trait. Prioritising yourself does not mean that you should care less about the people in your life, instead it means that whatever path you choose, (whether caring for your family or focusing on your career, or both), you must make it a priority to be financially secure. For example, if you’re a stay at home mom, be sure to have open and honest conversations with your spouse about your financial needs. This may mean setting up a personal account for yourself where an amount is set aside each month. The nature of life means being prepared for emergencies. Prioritising yourself means being prepared for possibilities like ill health, injury, or death of a spouse, or even divorce. In all these situations, women tend to be more financially impacted than men, as it often means she will be splitting her attention between full-time parenting and having a full-time career and this tampers with her earning power. Prioritising yourself means being financially aware of the options and solutions that can prepare you for these situations. With women’s financial needs in mind, W8 Advisory will launch a digital wealth management portal (in Q2 of 2020) focused on women with an African connection (wherever they are). Watch this space!
INVEST IN OTHER WOMEN
A key part of being a Financial Feminist is investing in other women. Women can intentionally invest in female-led businesses (if they are well managed and show good returns) as a way to address gender disparities and to make other women stronger financially. We are also hearing more and more about women supporting each other in the workplace, advocating for each other, talking each other up . Senior professional women should ‘invest’ their time in mentoring and supporting younger women on their professional track, to help ensure that many more women last longer in their jobs to achieve leadership positions. Women tend to leave their jobs to seek better opportunities elsewhere if the internal culture of the company is not conducive to their development, or does not adequately reward them. Very few women will ask for a raise, but if they can strike up the courage to do so, they will usually receive one. A study by Deloitte showed that women hold less than 20% of board seats, globally. While most businesses claim that gender diversity is a priority to them, women are still missing from leadership positions, top-earning roles, and in key entrepreneurial opportunities.
Women are stronger when they have an inner circle of other women. This means that valuable opportunities can be shared with each other and important career decisions can be made with different perspectives in view. Female friends are also great for your mental health. At the office, having close friends means having someone who can keep an eye out for signs that you’re overworked or stressed. Away from the office, sometimes you just need someone who knows you really well to tell you what’s what. They can help you feel more positive and they can give you their trusted opinions, whether about your career or your personal life. A good friend can be a sounding board and adviser on things like negotiating a raise, asking for a promotion, pitching a new project and other important life decisions. If you’re in similar fields, you may even compare salaries. Friends bring friends along when they succeed.