Why Are Fewer Women Investing? And What Can We Do About It?
Many women are just not investing enough. In fact, they are often parking more in cash and missing out on important opportunities to grow their wealth through investing.
Often referred to as the ‘gender investment gap’, this issue really matters because many women are likely to face a significant financial shortfall in the longer term, particularly when it comes to retirement. Of course, the gender pay gap compounds the problem which is something not to be ignored. So, being careful not to gender stereotypes, what is it that is holding women back? What are the common barriers that women face and, more importantly, how can we address these?
Let’s start with confidence, or lack thereof
Research points to women lacking confidence when it comes to investing and investment decision-making. Many women tend to err on the side of caution when it comes to investment proactivity – which of course is a self-fulfilling prophecy as it is that very experience that builds confidence.
Lack of confidence is compounded by self-perception
Believe it or not, many women hold the self-perception that ‘investing is not for them’ and, as a consequence, avoid becoming active investors, in some instances outsourcing to partners to make the investment decisions.
Language can put women off
Yes, conversations about money can be intimidating, and sometimes this is made worse by the language and terminology used by investment professionals. In the past, the investment industry has also done little to build levels of financial literacy with their female customers and avoided resolving the problem.
We are failing women by the way we communicate about money
It’s not just the language and terminology used. It is also the core message we communicate to women when it comes to money assumptions and expectations. Linguistic research highlights that the media and advertising industries encourage men to ‘dare to invest’, subtly implying that financial success makes you ‘more of a man’. Whereas they tend to depict women as needing to limit, restrict and take better control of splurges. What can we do to turn this around? What steps can we take to support women to invest more, for their financial futures?
Start by focusing on improving levels of financial literacy for women
The investment industry itself can play a constructive role in this, so can schools and universities by teaching young women the investing fundamentals and building investor confidence. The good news is that there are more and more female-focused investment networks and solutions available now – we need more so let’s actively support these.
We need more women working in the investment industry to design and deliver better products and services for female clients
A better gender balance is critical because diversity of thought, experience, and action are core components of what the industry needs to be fit for the future. In addition, more women working in the industry will help to build trust with female customers, and will support the design of products and services better suited to women’s financial needs.
Back to communication
Let’s change the way we communicate with women on money matters. This is really important – we simply must change how we communicate with women about personal finance. This should start with stopping the portrayal of women as excessive spenders, in need of guidance to help them save and restrict. We can also highlight female role models who are making their way in the investment world in order to send the right messages.
Looking for new channels of delivery, we can leverage tech to democratise the way that women invest
Developments in tech offer us a pathway to connect and communicate with women in different ways from the past. To do that we must employ a female lens when designing tech-based investment solutions for women. In addition, we can customise investment products and services that fit best for what women are looking for today.
What do women really want?
It is time for us to think more deeply about women’s financial needs and deliver on these. Simply rebranding products for a female audience will not achieve the fundamental change we are looking for. The industry also needs to think more deeply about the kind of products and services that women want. For example, increasingly women are seeking out sustainable and impact investing products and services to include in their personal portfolios. More and more women are prioritising environmental and social impact when considering their investment choices. It is time the industry recognised this shift and started addressing it.
The COVID pandemic has been financially tough on many women – often disproportionately so. This makes the call for addressing the gender investment gap even louder – but small steps can be taken, with potentially huge benefits to be reaped.
About the author: Jessica Robinson is a leading expert on sustainable finance and responsible investing, and author of Financial Feminism: A Woman's Guide to Investing for a Sustainable Future. Find out more at moxiefuture.com