Money is hardly ever what my clients view as their main problem. Indeed, often, interwoven in their stories are signs that they don’t care for it that much. And why should they?
‘Money is the source of all evil,’ they say in English. In French ‘money is the sinew of war.’ In Dutch a person with money is called ‘a rich stinker.’ In German ‘when money speaks, the truth is silent.’ Like in many languages, in Spanish too they say that ‘money does not buy you happiness.’ The bad image of money is pretty universal. So should we thank our lucky stars to be women, who consistently draw the short straw when it comes to money?
The World Economic Forum (WEF) states: ”in absolute terms, earned incomes of both men and women have been increasing, but this upward trend has been steeper for men than for women. The growth in prosperity is not equitably distributed along gender lines.” In Europe, on average women still earn 16% less per hour than men, despite all the efforts to bridge the gap. When it comes to the best paid jobs, those in the highest levels of management, only 6,3% are occupied by women. The vast majority (78%) of one-person enterprises in the EU consists of women. These account for 11% of the turnover generated by businesses run by their owner. American Express found that 40% of businesses in the U.S. are owned by women, and generate 4.3% of total revenue. And then there is wealth, the amount one owns after all the bills are paid. American research estimates that the average woman has 30% of what the average man has. White women, that is. Coloured women have 10%.
The answer to the question in the title is obviously a resounding “no”. With more women than ever being the main breadwinner for their families, living alone and longer than ever before, having more money and accumulating wealth is crucial. Not only that. Money makes the world go round. It is a powerful tool, that buys you influence. To ensure the well-being of the planet, women urgently need a say in which direction it spins.
I am a strong advocate for the need for women to take matters into their own hands. After all, if we expect those in charge to solve these issues for us, we have to wait another 217 years before we reach parity, according to the WEF. Recently I was given the chance to put my money where my mouth is: I was invited to give a talk by PWI and the Fry Group Belgium, in their educational programme called Women and Money.
Compared to men, financial literacy is low for women all over the world leading to all sorts of problems, from high debts to retirement in poverty. So I was grateful for the insights of Agathi Pafili about Asset Management, and those of Amanda Newell about wealth management.
Rarely, however, is women’s inner world taken into account when talking about money. Self-doubt, self-criticism, crippling perfectionism, fear of failure, lack of self-worth … all these are ways that a woman can hold herself back. I call it the inner glass ceiling. And often it goes hand in hand with a lack of net-worth. That is what I spoke about: how women’s mindset around money deals them a double whammy.
A recent survey by Merill Lynch found that 61% of women would rather discuss their own death than financial topics. According to Visa, 54% of millenial women happily share details about their sex life with a friend, but only 16% will disclose how much they earn. The topic is shrouded in shame. Studies show that women who don’t want to admit their lack of knowledge, fear they might be perceived as dumb. By not seeking education or advice, they block themselves from prospering.
More often than not my clients have given away their power over their finances. How? For example: they don’t know exactly how much comes in or goes out, they have solely relied on their spouse for retirement funds, they haven’t made sure they get their fair share in a divorce, they spend money on expensive things which they then not use, and more. For me these are symptoms of the inner glass ceiling. So I invite you to ask yourself whether you know what you’re worth. If you hesitate to look into it for fear of disappointment, that’s a sign you might have some work to do on boosting your self-worth.
What a powerful, inspirational talk! I know I’m speaking for many who were there. By weaving in your own story, you drew us in. There was a lot of recognition. I think we all understand a lot better why some of these gender gaps are so persistent. And what to do to go forward and ensure that they diminish. Thank you, Jessica.
My mission is to accelerate gender parity by working with strong, self-reliant, driven women who have a lot to offer, but risk driving themselves into the ground. Know what you’re worth and get it, and take up your rightful space.