I hate to be the grinch, but it’s time young women knew the truth.
“There is no white horse, there is no knight in shining armour, and there is no security in relying on someone else for your financial stability”.
This fairytale persists to foster a sense of financial dependence in women and it is doing us a lot of harm.
The fact is women need to start talking about money in a constructive way, and we need to stop feeling ashamed when we do.
Whilst it is now okay to covet powerful roles like Prime Minister or CEO it is still considered unseemly for a young woman to be doing something ‘for the money’. From teachers, to police to founders, for a woman to admit that yes they go to work each day because they ‘want the money’ is still very much frowned upon.
In the same way that, in the large, some of the big issues facing men, can only be fixed by other men, I’m asking women to take responsibility for fixing this one.
When you tell your daughter that you’re no good at maths, when you laugh off your ignorance around money and when you blame others for your financial situation you are just perpetuating the cycle of dependence.
Just last week, I got talking to a woman in her 50’s who mentioned that she rented out a unit under her house. Knowing a bit about home and incomes from my own upbringing I asked how much she rented it out for. She immediately declared that she ‘isn’t in it for the money.” Ah what? So what is she in it for? “Well, it does help pay the mortgage” she sheepishly admitted. So how is this ‘not being in it for the money?” and why did she find it necessary to suddenly be so apologetic around the fact that she received income FFS (For financial sake)?
And this attitude prevails in my age group too. I remember asking a friend how much his parents house sold for and being rounded on by female friends for being so “rude”. Somehow I doubt boys police each other in this way.
If we maintain this idea that it is not comely to talk about money how is a young girl ever going to grow up with the confidence to negotiate a pay rise, make major financial decisions, and ask the questions she needs to ask?
It’s not cute to play dumb when it comes to money and even if you are fortunate enough to have gotten away with it, you can be damn sure it won’t work for your daughter. You are the number one role model in your daughter’s life. No matter what she learns at school, or in books, it is your behaviour which will most greatly influence her.
Are you encouraging your daughter to take charge of her own financial situation? I hope so.
You can bet that savvy NZ business leaders like Teresa Gattung and Diane Maxwell (Commissioner for Financial Capability) downright reject the notion that money is no matter for young madams.
I felt like standing up and cheering at a recent Women in Business event when upon listening to two women speakers saying that they are “hopeless with money and don’t like to handle the finances”, Teresa stood up to call them out. She told of her frustration when a woman she was mentoring didn’t even know the turnover of her own business. If we want to address the issue of only 3% of global Venture Capital funding going to women, clearly we need to start with ourselves and take responsibility for understanding both our personal and business financials.
Diane too, is an excellent role model and I wish that every young woman in NZ had a chance to hear her story. She makes no bones about the fact that she wishes she invested earlier and she advises young women to ensure that the careers they choose will pay enough to sustain them when they have children and to enable them to save for retirement.
With women retiring on average with $80,000 less than men, the current wave of digitisation set to significantly impact industries women dominate in (such as retail and administration) and a growing gig economy I believe it is a matter of urgency for every young NZ woman to have a set of business and financial capabilities and attitudes.
At GirlBoss New Zealand, our mantra is “only 2% of NZX CEO”s are women. We’re changing that.” Well we won’t be changing that unless we urgently adjust the way women look at and talk about money.
Recent research, published in the Harvard Business Review, interviewed female CEO’s to determine what helped them to achieve their success. The results showed that 40% of the female CEO’s had a STEM background and 20% a Business/Finance background. Not a single one had a background in HR, the field which is most popular amongst women. With only 3% of 15-year-old women in NZ interested in a tech career and a persistent aversion to all things money, we have urgent work to do.
Whilst I meet a lot of young male founders who proudly tell me of their ambitions to “exit in a year for millions” (despite the fact they haven't built the company website yet) in contrast many young female founders proudly declare “its not about the money for me” or “oh I don’t focus on the finances’ (something I'm sure every investor wants to hear). At best they might guiltily confess that “yes we do hope to be profitable”
Career advice needs to get real too. I’m all for telling young women to follow their passions, but if it is not followed up with strategies to commercialise those passions, or to invest their income smartly, then our well meaning advice could in fact increase economic inequality.
As a side note, I wonder whether parents advise their boys to follow their passions, regardless of the financial impact of those decisions?
In the same way we need to tell boys it’s ok to cry, we need to tell our girl’s that it’s okay to charge.
Alexia Hilbertidou is the founder of GirlBoss New Zealand (www.girlboss.nz)