Financial Planning for Geeks

I am Strong. I am Invincible.

- Potpourri

Hooray for International Women’s Day, which was March 8! This is a day to celebrate women’s achievements and remind us to keep working toward gender equality.

Don't. Mess.
Coya Cahuana, Empress of the Incas

In the immortal words of Gloria Steinem, “The story of women's struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organization but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights.” Notice how she said “human” there.  

Let’s start with some statistics around women in the workplace in the US and Canada (all from The International Women’s Day 2020 deck “50 Ways to Fight Bias” and their 2019 study, “Women in the Workplace”): 

  • 66% of women receive negative feedback about their personal style during reviews at work. Would you like to guess what percentage of men get that same kind of negative feedback? It’s 1%. 
  • When one in ten senior leaders in a company are women, 45% of men feel women are well represented in leadership, and 28% of women agree. We get used to NOT seeing women in positions of leadership at work, so 10% seems pretty good. 
  • 22% of C-Suite positions are held by women…and only 4% of those are women of color 
  • 41% of women say they have experienced sexual harassment during their career. That percentage is higher for bisexual women (62%), senior-level women (59%), lesbian women (53%), women with disabilities (51%), and women in technical positions (48%). 

It’s particularly ugly among financial advisors. Although 50% of the entry-level employees in banking and consumer finance are women, Barron’s says only 15% - 20% of financial advisors are women. This number hasn’t changed in decades, but why? Barron’s speculates that there are recruitment issues and the industry isn’t all that attractive to women. We need to see more women in leadership roles at these firms.  

I can tell you from personal experience that as a woman advisor, Financial Services feels like an episode of “Mad Men.” High Tech seems like the Enlightenment in comparison to Financial Services, people! If I had a nickel for every time a white Boomer guy asked whose assistant I was, I could have hired a ghostwriter for my blog by now. OK, rant over.  

Let’s look at some of the numbers around women and money. They’re not great, either: 

  • According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s report from 2019, women in the US are 36% likelier to live in poverty than men (11%, vs. 7% for men). It’s worse for women of color and women with disabilities, too.  
  • It’s similar for people over 65: 11% of women live in poverty, vs. 8% for men.  
  • Given women’s longer life expectancies, they make up 62% of people over 65 who live in poverty. And, yes, it’s worse for women of color.  
  • According to Pew Research Center, in 2018 women earned 85 cents for every dollar a man earned. It would take an extra 39 days for a woman to earn what a man earns in a year.   

It’s not all gray skies and poo emojis, though; we’re making progress. The number of women in senior leadership jobs is growing, and we’re moving away from trying to “fix” women so they fit into the existing workplace structures. Organizations are adapting to fit women, and men are coming aboard as change-leaders, too. We’re starting to notice imbalances and get gender equality on the agenda.  

So what can an enlightened crusader like you do? 

  • Simple, not easy: support gender equality in your day-to-day life. The International Women’s Day folks have some great resources and ideas here.  
  • Women, get your financial ^&@#)* together! Start with my blog post about where to start, then work through the rest of my Financial Planning section.  
  • Hire a woman to be your financial advisor (if you can find such a unicorn!). Heck, just hire a woman in general (and don’t forget to pay her as much as the men). 
  • Get off your mom’s/grandma’s gravy train as soon as you can unless she is financially secure and working with a financial advisor. I get it…life’s hard. However, in my practice I have observed that women are willing to destroy their financial future to give money to their kids and grandkids. Don’t do that to Mom or Nana.  

I like to end on a high note, so let’s celebrate for a moment. Women officially got the right to vote in the US on August 18, 1920, when the 19th Amendment was ratified. We’ve come a long way since then…yippee! Yes, we still have work to do. Choose one thing you can do TODAY and do it.  

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Penny Farthing

I, Penny Farthing (non-wizarding name Kerry Read ), actually have a day job in the world of finance. This blog came into being because of my deep and abiding love for geeks and Personal Finance.