About a year ago, one of my colleagues at Ellevest did an informal survey with 10 of her girlfriends. One of the questions was “Which [your savings account or sex life] are you more likely to talk about at brunch with your friends?”
Which answer do you think got eight votes and won by a landslide?
Yup, you guessed it — women generally shy away from talking about money. (Fidelity ran a formal survey and also found that eight out of 10 women decided against discussing finances with close friends and family.) And who can blame us? It’s seen as gauche, crass, and just plain rude.
But the truth is, money is power. The society we live in is a capitalist one, and money steers it. It plays out in politics; it plays out in the way companies handle (or don’t) allegations of sexual harassment against their senior employees; and it can even play out in our personal relationships.
Avoiding conversations about money because they make us uncomfortable doesn’t change this. Instead, it can leave us as women worse off. How do you know how much of a raise to ask for…if you don’t know how much of a raise to ask for?
Ok, so the topic of money is a tough one.
There has also been a backlash against the concept of “feminism.” One might think it’s a bit hard to argue against the concept of the “political, economic, and social equality of the sexes” (not my definition; Merriam-Webster’s). But for some sizeable group of people the concept makes them see red.
So if you’re crazy enough to talk about money and feminism in the same breath, to date you’ve entered a third-rail situation. Don’t believe me? Check out the comments section of some of my LinkedIn posts on the topic. Makes me wonder how angry some folks might be if their comments were anonymous. Heart attack stuff.
Some of the critiques around feminism and money in the past have been valid: The feminist movement has a history of prioritizing the needs of affluent, white women over those of women of color, women with different sexual orientations, women with less money and education, and women with disabilities. And it’s a valid concern that conversations about women and money will leave women with little or no money forgotten on the sidelines.
But if we women aren’t talking about money — about how it affects us (and I mean all of us), about how far money takes people in our society, about how we’re at a disadvantage by not having as much money as men especially as we get older, and about how we need to change this…who will?
Now, more than ever, is the time for financial feminism. And it’s easier than ever for us to put it into action.
The “What” of Financial Feminism
Financial feminism is about women doing four very important things with money: earning it, making more of it, saving and investing more of it, and using it to make our world better. It’s how we achieve greater security. It’s how we reduce the number of situations in which the other person holds most, if not all, of the power…be it in our personal or our business lives. And it’s not just good for us: the more opportunities women have, the better off society is (and the research backs this up).
The “Why” of Financial Feminism
The United States is the richest country in the world, yet we’re facing a retirement savings crisis. And who’s losing out the most? Women. On average, we retire with two-thirds the savings of men.
So, on the one hand, there’s an immense amount of wealth in this country. But on the other hand, we women don’t have our fair share.
A big reason why women retire with less money than men is the pay gap, yes — but also that we’re not saving and investing as much as we need to. We live longer, we earn less — and we need to account for that while preparing for retirement.
That’s why I founded Ellevest — to help women save and invest more for retirement. That, and to help women achieve their other big goals in life…ones that may be out of reach today because we don’t invest as much as men do.
The Financial Feminism To-Do List
Ok, so how do we do it? How do we get more money? Through action on two fronts: for ourselves as individuals, and for women as a whole. And you can start with the steps below:
Ask for that raise.
The gender pay gap is narrowing s…l…o…w…l…y, so you often have to ask for higher compensation to have an actual shot at getting it. Find out how much money you should and could be making on GetRaised, Payscale, ZipRecruiter, and Comparably. Then bring proof — hard numbers and facts — of why you deserve that raise to your meeting with your boss. (You can read our tips on preparing for that meeting in Mind the Gap — and Close It: The Ellevest Guide to Dominating Your Financial Future.)
Buy from companies that value women.
Women control 80% of consumer spending. Let’s put our money where our values are. The BUY UP Index rates brands, companies, and products on how well they actually support women. That’s bad news for companies that pay us lip service with Olivia Pope-approved statements on gender diversity and gender equality yet are pale and male at the top.
Back women entrepreneurs.
Women founders typically have a harder time raising money than men when they go the standard venture capital route. But women do really well on crowdfunding sites: Two-thirds of women-led campaigns meet their #goals while one-third of those led by men do. You can support women entrepreneurs on iFundWomen, Kickstarter, and Indiegogo — how much you give to each campaign is up to you. And if you want to back in a bigger way, sites like Plum Alley help you invest directly in women-owned businesses.
Invest. Invest. Invest.
Broken record here, but it needs to be said. Over and over again. When you invest, you give yourself the opportunity to earn more money than what you’d likely get from keeping your money in a barely-earning-interest savings account. That could mean a better retirement. A nicer house. A bigger F-Off fund.
With financial feminism, women will start talking about money. We’ll ask for more money, we’ll save more money, we’ll invest more money, and we’ll give ourselves the opportunities we deserve.
Money is power. It’s way past time that we got ours.
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