Data and research and the everyday socio-political reality we live in prove that becoming financially independent is often an unreachable dream for women. Expectations of modern women are incredibly high, and support (I’m referring to both, financial and social support) in many countries is deficient, especially for working or single mothers.
From the female perspective and experience having a job doesn’t automatically guaranty that we could be self-sufficient and on our way to financial independence. We still earn much less than the men, and often, women with an accent (I’m one of them) aren’t taken as serious candidates for higher-paying positions, even though they are fully qualified to do that job.
Sexist discrimination and inequality of pay are just two problems we, women, face daily. Many goods targeted towards women have “special prices”, meaning that on average, we need to pay 10-20% more than men; in case of a hairdresser, women in the UK pay even up to ten times more than men do. For some people, the price hike may seem irrelevant, but eventually every penny counts on the way to financial independence.
When I dropped my phone in September 2020, my screen needed replacement. My husband went to one of our local repair shops and he was offered £90 to get the phone fixed. When I went to the very same shop later that day the price for me was £110. I have to think it was only because I was a woman, and the assumption was that I was stupid/naïve enough to agree to anything. I got the phone fixed for £80 elsewhere.
Overspending in chase of happiness or as a substitute for the need to belong, fiercely promoted by women’s magazine, doesn’t only hit our saving rate. Still, it directly adds to the devastation of natural resources, while promoting the worst type of wastefulness. Instead of focusing on spending, women’s magazines should concentrate on educating women about investments, finances, and savings.
The subject of financial independence gets even more complicated when a woman decides to become a mother; not all countries or/and companies offer maternity leave. Even if a young mother is eligible for a maternity leave, when it ends, going back to work may be very tricky.
The costs of childcare are so astronomical that paying for someone else to look after your child and travel to work (not talking about COVID times when we are primarily working from home) mean that women often end up working for nothing.
This harsh reality of spending all your money on childcare while you hardly ever get to see them, plus added pressure to prove yourself at work, that being a mother didn’t change your capacity to think and be productive, often pushes women to take a break from their jobs for few years to look after the little ones.
We also have to remember that not all partners are willing to support their partners who take time away from work to look after the kids. If the partner doesn’t offer financial support, a woman often has to dig into her savings, retirement fund or ask her parents for money. That kind of financial dependency is very unhealthy and, in some cases, may lead to physiological and physical abuse.
The support system that would allow women to go back to full-time employment doesn’t exist in many countries. Besides, if a woman decides to go back to full-time work, the social judgment of her “selfish” choice is pretty harsh. Hardly anyone tells a man they are missing out as parents if they are in full-time employment.
In many instances, women are bigger spenders than men, but at the same time, society tells women that this is what they should be doing. Society and popular culture doesn’t insist on women to get financial education (I don’t mean a degree in finance. I’m going to link up resources below to kickstart your journey.), learn how to invest and be able to take care of their future.
The messages bombarding us from every direction are obvious: live in the here and now, and don’t worry about your spending and debts. Unfortunately, every decision leaves a footprint behind, and it can have either a negative or positive impact on our future. Thus, financial literacy should be as critical as learning how to read or write. Money shouldn’t be treated as a taboo subject by society.
We need to stand up for our rights, even if we think that our stand is small and feels insignificant on a grander scale of things. If each of us takes independent action and won’t agree to a low pay, sexist treatment, and being silenced, we will build the momentum we need.
For instance, in my filmmaking and writing freelance work, the number of requests I get from men to work for free on their projects is staggering. I even once got an email from a dude, who found my pricing laughable because everyone who was attached to his project worked for free, and he assumed that I had to do the same. He categorically refused to pay me. Another one wanted to pay me with shares of his company that was long dissolved.
I know it’s not easy for a woman to say “no”. It comes down to centuries of conditioning and brainwashing of girls and women.
Women need to be financially sustainable and independent to be able to say “no” and walk away from situations, people and places that are toxic. Look at the high-profile sexual abuse cases in the show business and how powerful men got away with anything and everything for so long, while ruining career opportunities for any woman who spoke against them. That should be a lesson for us all to seek financial independence and self-sufficiency early on in life.
Apart from the equality of pay, treatment, possibilities and opportunities, we need to drive and demand further change in the popular culture narrative about women and womanhood. Throughout the cultural avenues, a woman’s image as only a beautiful spender, who needs to forever rely on someone else to support her must go. The image of an independent woman, who can take care of herself, also financially should be our new narrative. We need to have a laser-sharp focus and push for financial literacy and independence while driving our new narrative to the centre stage.
To learn about investments just read JL Collins blog or book.
Vicki Robin the author of “Your Money Or Your Life”
Afford Anything – I like her podcast
rich & Regular – interesting blog from a pretty personal perspective
Mr Money Mustache – if you think you can take frugality to the next level