It is impossible to write about any subject at the moment without acknowledging the terrible toll that Covid-19 is taking on society.
So I first wanted to extend my sympathies to anyone that has been personally affected. Who could have imagined this awful new reality just a few months ago? There have been early indications that the virus will have very different ramifications across sectors of society – whether by gender, wealth, occupation or generation. While it is too early to understand what the long-term effects of the virus will be, it has brought some things into sharp relief – not least the importance of balance in our lives at a time when many of us are working and schooling from home for the first time, or involved in key jobs that come with added stress.
As the CEO of a majority female-owned business, I cannot help but be aware of the specific challenges faced by many women. In a recent study called COVID19Voices (run by Made You Think and Recollective), the biggest issue for the women they heard from was the lack of ‘alone time’ – even for those without children. By and large, women have taken the lead on organising the new family ‘normal’. The challenge of juggling childcare, elderly care, education and work is bringing out increased levels of ‘compare and despair’. We know from our own research that women tend to prioritise other people’s needs above their own and the current situation is compounding this. This is even more evident when it comes to financial wellbeing.
There are well-publicised pay, pension and wealth gaps for women that are likely to take a very long time to address, not least because of the current crisis. From our ‘Yes She Can’ campaign, we don’t think simply addressing the pay gap will be enough. We also need to encourage women to put money aside for their financial futures. We know that for many women saving more is not an option, but there are plenty of women who could afford to put more aside and don’t. Why is that?
We hear all the time that ‘barriers’ (jargon, complexity) stop women investing to the extent that men do. So we listened to real women across the UK (from all walks of life) to understand how these barriers affected their savings habits. We learnt that the industry isn’t just speaking the wrong language for women, it is often having completely the wrong conversation.
Many women don’t get far enough to be put off by jargon. In a survey of 2000 men and women, we found that almost half of the women had never invested, against less than a third of men. Of those women who had never invested, more than half had never thought of investing; 9 out of 10 had never been encouraged to consider investing; and 85% didn’t think ‘people like them’ invested.
Just 4% of investing and savings conversations on Twitter are posted by women. This is partly because women are put off by financial communications that assume women are risk averse or lack confidence. The women we spoke to don’t see themselves like this. For them, femininity is about strength and resilience. Women are ambitious for their futures (and for their children). Once women do invest, they are just as confident as men and are actually more likely to talk about it.
There is hope that we can change the conversation. We ran a small-scale social media campaign working with female micro-influencers, but not from the world of finance. We wanted to prove that you can get women talking about pensions and investing when you do it ‘in my world and in my language’. We were, frankly, amazed at the response, as our tiny campaign reached just under 2.5 million women. If we all encouraged the women we know to take finance seriously and indulge in some financial ‘self-care’, we could make huge strides towards closing the wealth gap. If we can also persuade the finance industry to sit up and take note, we have a real game changer.
If you are concerned about the impact that Covid-19 is having on yours or your family’s finances, please talk to your usual adviser or reach out to us [email protected]