There isn’t much we can do without it, we never seem to have enough of it, and it’s sad to think that it makes the world go around. We all need money, yet why are women so shy to talk about it?
We are not suggesting that we should all be having obnoxious or public discussions about how much we have, or don’t have, but rather, mastering a mindset where it’s perfectly okay to earn what we are worth, price ourselves accordingly and demand our dues.
As 2020 saw a rise in women starting their own business enterprises, whether through loss of job security or simply after having the time to really consider their life choices, we are noticing the dreaded ‘ M’ word crop up more and more – but not in obvious ways.
The ability to take control of your own destiny, or that of your family comes via financial independence. Personal, financial independence means that a career break is not off the cards, due to maternity or caregiving reasons, or sadly, ill health. The financial independence that means we do not have to rely on others in the event of a relationship break down, a redundancy, bereavement and more.
If we don’t have a strong enough understanding of money, what it means for us, how we can make more of it, how much we should be earning or what to do with it to create generational wealth, or make charitable impact on the world, then we are doing ourselves a huge disservice.
Despite great strides, we still live in a world where women earn less than their male counterparts for the same job, and let’s face it, often-greater output by the females in the team. Global equality experts are suggesting that thirty-something women will not see this gender pay gap closed within their lifetimes.
We are brought up not to talk about money, as a taboo subject, and it certainly creates emotional reactions in many. This leaves us uncomfortable to discuss pay rises within the workplace for example, or to negotiate with suppliers or service providers, and even set our own rates too. Why is this? And why do we need to get better at it, for our own sakes as well as the little girls we nurture into the next generation?
It’s an ‘ugly’ conversation topic, conditioned from childhood and one that has stayed with us. This attitude is bolstered in both the workplace and business life by those similarly conditioned and the cycle continues.
Money talk triggers power and status issues, as well as jealousy, fear and anxiety. None of these are traits that are either healthy to carry or things we wish to advertise, so we stay silent. If we overcome these feelings, we can have more empowered discussions and positive outcomes in the longer term, whilst fostering new habits that lead to greater impact at a societal level.
When women do better, economies do better, Christine Legrand, President of the European Central bank once famously said.
Globally, only 50 per cent of women aged 15 and above are in paid employment, compared with about 75 per cent of men. At the same time, women do about three times more unpaid work than men. When women are paid, their jobs tend to reflect gender stereotypes and provide relatively low earnings, poor working conditions and limited opportunities for career advancement. On average, women are paid less than men, even when women perform the same or equal-value jobs. Women are often under-represented in leadership positions in both business and government. In addition, compared with businesses owned by men, enterprises owned by women are smaller, employ fewer people and are more concentrated in sectors with limited opportunities for profit and growth.
Within our network of thousands of women in business, or looking to start their own business in the UAE we have daily conversations surrounding pricing of products and services, difficulty in opening business bank accounts and the challenges of getting paid for services rendered. These are typical business challenges across the genders, but we see that a woman’s ‘money mindset’ is often very different to our male counterparts.
We all have a right to talk openly about money. There may be a workplace culture that ‘forbids’ salary discussions between colleagues, but is most definitely not the law. There may be an unspoken rule historically that the ‘men of the family’ take care of the finances, or that women in business are only working for ‘pin money’ or running expensive hobbies. Many women learn the hard way, and usually when it’s too late. Creating our own true financial independence and understanding of money, and how it can work for you and your family can be the difference in surviving or thriving should a life challenge occur and leave you without the security that others have provided on your behalf.
When we raise financial understanding, we are able to demystify things that are usually seen as ‘boring’ or unnecessary – we’re talking about savings, pensions, mortgages, loan management and of course investing – and to help women negotiate better salaries for themselves in the workplace or terms and payments more successfully in their business.
Keren Bobker, Senior Partner, Holborn Assets (Dubai) says; “These days, fewer women get married or have a life partner, and fewer relationships last a lifetime. If a relationship falls apart, in the majority of cases women are the ones who are at a financial disadvantage so at the risk of sounding like a cynic, it is wise to protect yourself. Basic financial management is a fundamental life skill and at some point in their lives the vast majority of women will be solely responsible for their finances, whether because they are single, divorced or widowed”
Keren shares five things women need to do to protect their financial independence:
1. Be informed. It is important to know what is in place, what accounts and assets you have, what they are, or what any partner has. To know about their debts too. If you have a partner it is fine for one of you to take the lead in financial management but you both need to be aware of what you have and where it is.
2. Have your own bank account. Having your own account isn’t about mistrusting a partner but having financial independence. It doesn’t need to be a secret but you should absolutely have money of your own.
3. Have an emergency fund. Don’t just have your own account but keep a decent ‘rainy day’ fund somewhere safe but accessible. Global events over the past year have shown just how important it is to have money to fall back on if life throws you a curve ball.
4. Have your own retirement plans. It is not wise to rely on someone else for your whole future. Have your own investments or at least ensure that there are assets in joint names. Be involved in ensuring your future will be finically secure.
5. Wills. These are essential if you have children but even if you don’t a will specifies who will receive assets on death, not leaving it to the law of the land, which may not be what you want. This can be especially important if a couple are from different countries with differing inheritance laws.
Within business, we encourage women to have a full and solid understanding of their revenue strategy and to keep on top of their ‘financial resilience’ and to seek help, advice or coaching to enable them to lead with robust plans and projections that will help them enjoy better margins, profit and work/life balance.
We believe that more women must be ready to say ‘no’ when negotiating a better deal for themselves or their business. Every deal is not meant to be closed, and by being part of communities such as Female Fusion Network we can share success stories and challenges that motivate each other and encourage ourselves to ‘do better business’ in ways that work for us, rather than the other parties.
‘Rising tides lift all boats’ and it’s important to remember, women’s financial empowerment is not a competition – everyone wins. By having open and honest conversations about money, we open up roads to independence and wealth generation that can lead to successful and happy lives, and thriving businesses.
Typically, women don’t ‘ask’ for money, and we think that needs to change. According to Forbes, almost a third (32%) of the world’s wealth is now controlled by women and their assets are growing rapidly. By 2023, women globally will be worth $93 trillion, compared with $77 trillion today. However, women in general have been more negatively impacted by the pandemic, leaving a bigger lifestyle strain and imbalance linking both health and wealth. Self-esteem and financial confidence has definitely suffered.
A support network is vital, as education and empowerment around financial literacy will help overcome the challenges in securing a woman’s financial future. In the wake of the pandemic we need more women to take stock of current income, assets, and liabilities, then map out detailed and realistic financial goals.
It’s okay to start from scratch, but start from somewhere. Gaining clarity on future goals, wants and needs means that you can start to map out your route to financial empowerment. You can make your money work for you too, but first make sure that you are working for it in the first instance, and that you are able to cover outgoings and commitments. Lean into online communities, talk to friends, but please, start talking about money! There is a wealth of media, books and information at your disposal, whatever stage of the money journey you are at. Your future will thank you for it, and small steps, over time, will go a long way to a stable and secure you, and the impact your planning and confidence will have over the next generation and society at large.
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- Words by Kellie Whitehead and Jennifer Blandos of Female Fusion Network