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How to bridge the financial literacy gender gap

Dr Tracey West of Ecstra Foundation shares her advice on financial literacy and the harmful image of women we keep perpetuating.
Financy
December 20, 2023

“It’s time we moved away from a deficit model approach when it comes to financial literacy, which often portrays women as lacking smarts and needing saving.” That’s the view of Dr Tracey West, who manages Talk Money, a school financial education program funded by Ecstra Foundation. Dr West shares her views below on what’s needed to create equal financial futures starting with education.

 

Gender gaps persist in financial literacy, which widens over time, painting a concerning picture of unequal financial knowledge and empowerment.

The Women’s Economic Equality Taskforce responded to this issue by recommending immediate action to ensure that financial literacy programs are part of the curriculum for all high school students. This is necessary to ensure women’s economic security, for many reasons.

Many women lack basic knowledge, terminology, and concepts of personal finance and often struggle with mathematics-related questions. This gap is further exacerbated by the fact that men tend to prioritise personal finance more than women.

Several structural factors in our society contribute to women’s weaker relationship with money.

The gender pay gap and women’s disproportionate contribution to unpaid and caring roles significantly affect their financial independence.

Lower incomes and the tendency to delegate major financial decisions to a partner result in a lack of practice in managing finances and seeking feedback on financial choices.

One notable aspect of this gender gap is women’s reluctance to take financial risks.

This risk aversion translates to lower returns over their lifetimes, particularly in superannuation investment options and investing in shares directly.

Women often choose safer, low-return investments, which contribute to lower wealth accumulation and can have long-term consequences on their financial well-being.

A change of trajectory requires an understanding of the importance of role models.

Role models play a crucial role in shaping our financial behaviours.

Research has shown that fathers model financial behaviours more often than mothers.

These gendered financial role patterns become internalised norms and contribute to the gender gap.

Furthermore, parental conversations about money differ significantly by gender.

Mothers tend to have more discussions about finances with their daughters, while fathers and mothers communicate differently with their sons compared to their daughters.

Conversations with same-sex role models have a powerful influence on financial attitudes and knowledge.

It is essential to move away from the deficit model approach, which often portrays women as lacking financial knowledge and needing saving.

Many women manage household budgets, often under challenging financial circumstances, and do an exceptional job. The current measures of financial literacy often fail to capture these positive aspects.

Addressing the gender gap in financial literacy is about closing the knowledge deficit and empowering women to make informed financial decisions.

This can be achieved through educational initiatives that provide young women with the tools and resources to enhance their financial literacy.

Additionally, encouraging conversations about money within families, regardless of gender, can help create a more equitable and financially literate society.

 

Financy covers gender finance, diversity, inclusion and ESG issues. We advocate for gender equity change through the Women’s Index report and help businesses take action on DEI through tech solutions like IMPACTER.

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Financy
December 20, 2023
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