I wrote my first post on LinkedIn on Women’s Day in 2015. As I sat down to write this one, I realised my posts on ‘women and money’ have followed a similar arc as that of feminism itself.
In my posts, I have wondered if women are from a different money planet, cajoled them not to be scared of numbers, confirmed that women know more about managing money. Even questioned my own assumptions looking for an explanation for why women are not interested in finance. Basically, I was asking women to survive in a male-dominated area.
The first wave of feminism promoted women's right to vote. The second wave campaigned for legal and social equality. We’re now in the third wave fighting illegal yet persistent biases, especially in the workplace. In my own Indian middle-class upbringing, I’ve seen my grandmothers stay at home, my mother and aunts going for post-graduate degrees until they found suitable arranged matches, and I still being the only one aspiring to build a career.
The men’s table. The table where men make rules in line with how they behave – competitive, numbers-driven, profit-focused. Leaning in at this table means we have to play by men’s rules.
Even today, women are outnumbered, outranked and underpaid at the workplace. We are fighting for equal opportunities and pay. The #MeToo and #TimesUp movements highlight that we will no longer tolerate inappropriate behaviour but through the 30% Club, we are still asking the men very nicely to let us have a seat at the table. The men’s table. The table where men make rules in line with how they behave – competitive, numbers-driven, profit-focused. Leaning in at this table means we have to play by men’s rules.
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It’s time to change the table.
I know my passion exceeds reality, but the time is right. Let’s flex our muscles a bit and make our presence felt.
Here are some suggestions -
Let’s use our power as consumers
Women decide what to buy for, and including, our homes. We also influence what the men in our lives buy. That’s a lot of power and influence over the economy.
Women represent a market bigger than China and India combined, yet it seems companies are least interested in serving them.
Women represent a market bigger than China and India combined, yet it seems companies are least interested in serving them. “Financial services wins the prize as the industry least sympathetic to women—and one in which companies stand to gain the most if they can change their approach” states an HBR article.
Guess what? If there is one stakeholder that the men’s boardroom table has to listen to, it is the customer. We are the consumers. So when we don’t like a product, or how a company is run, we can boycott it.
Indeed we can do more than that. In today’s social media world, the companies face huge reputation risks. If we’re upset, we can tell them so. We can flood their Facebook page, we can post it on our timelines with the company name as hashtag and add a few sympathetic influencers to help amplify the message.
Let’s use our power as audience
We control the TV remote. We have our own phones and tablets. Also we dominate the audience for general entertainment channels where the advertising money is.
We can ask for more creative and effective ways for finance to be presented on the entertainment or lifestyle channels. Or just bypass the gatekeepers and support independent shows on YouTube.
If we don’t like the fact that business channels have good-looking female anchors but all-male-expert-guests reinforcing stereotypes, or screens packed with jargon and numbers, we can ask for new formats. We can ask for more creative and effective ways for finance to be presented on the entertainment or lifestyle channels. Or just bypass the gatekeepers and support independent shows on YouTube.
Let’s use our power as beneficial owner-investors
Also, let’s not forget that we are equal beneficiaries of our father’s inherited wealth and our husband’s earned wealth.
Today the men in our lives may not tell us about the nitty-gritties of such investment portfolios, but that’s probably because they think that we are not interested and that we don’t understand. Probably true. The more interest we take, the more they will need to share with us about what’s legally ours.
The consumers are the ladies table
Spare a thought for the women who don’t have an inheritance or share in their family’s wealth. Those are the women we really need to empower. Just this week, Melinda Gates wrote ‘When money flows into the hands of women, everything changes.’
So let’s start a ladies table. A table where women make the rules in line with how women behave – more collaboratively, more creatively, triple-bottom-line-focused.
Hansi Mehrotra is the founder of The Money Hans. She empowers women financially through personal finance and investment portfolios. The views expressed are author's own.