As the world pushes forth in its pursuit of gender equality, issues like the gender pay gap and inequities in lifetime financial burdens between men and women have taken centre stage in both political discussions and the media. While awareness and action around these issues paints a picture of progress, the disparity between men’s and women’s finances run deeper than what’s in our bank accounts.
Women’s financial rights historically
Contrary to what many believe, in much of the ancient world men and women were actually afforded the same financial rights. Women were permitted to own property, inherit estates, and even operate in the business world and trade with men as equals. It was actually modern civilisation that led the charge in the financial oppression of women.
In many countries, married women were denied access to their own bank accounts without their husband’s permission – this lasted right up until the 60s and 70s. In the UK, women could legally be refused service in pubs in the UK until 1982, and the US allowed companies to use loopholes to pay women less for the same roles as their male counterparts until 1970.
We’ve come a long way, but the hangover from this historical inequity certainly hasn’t worn off yet.
While minimum wages apply to all genders equally, the types of work women often do commands a much lower wage than male-dominated roles. Even women in high paying positions face the disproportionate pressures of having a family that companies and governments still refuse to sufficiently acknowledge.
Financial confidence still doesn’t include women
So, we can get our own bank accounts without a man’s permission, and companies can’t (technically) pay a woman less than a man for the same job – but we’ve still a long way to go.
The deep-rooted notion that men are the financial providers or that women must fulfill the ‘caring’ role has left us stuck in a state of social inertia.
Financial media continues to perpetuate the male-dominated narrative, and despite efforts on some fronts to make finance more accessible to women, we still live in a reality where financial confidence doesn’t include us.
Men are still far more likely to invest than women. Men still have more in their superfunds than women. Men still command higher salaries than women, simply from a deeply ingrained sense of confidence.
How do we include women in the financial confidence narrative?
With time and the persistence of women’s representation in financial media, content and marketing, I think we can achieve a greater sense of equality. Younger generations will grow up seeing females investing, seeing women-led businesses listed on the ASX, finding financial content specifically aimed at women part of their regular social media consumption.
The louder we shout, the more we’ll be heard. We’ve a way to go, but I think we’re onto something…