This article was written by Bola Sol on behalf of PensionBee, leading online pension provider. Bola Sol is a financial wellness coach, podcaster and author of ‘How To Save It: Fix Your Finances’ published by #MerkyBooks in January 2021. You can find her musings about finance and feminism at @Bola_Sol on Twitter.
I bet you think this is a typical feminist article about women wanting equal pay. Well you’re in for a treat because I’ll be giving you more than you expect in that arena! Women are told that it’s impolite to talk about money but where has that left us as a gender? You’ve guessed it, at the back of the financial queue. Of course you may think there’s an equilibrium because you have a female manager who is a top earner in your field. Congratulations to her but the rest of us are still playing sink or swim with our finances and fortunately for us, sinking isn’t an option!
You might be thinking, how can I help? After all, you were born into patriarchy, you didn’t invent it. If you want to help, start by reading this article and listening. Women want men to listen actively, not passively, because nothing is going to change if you continue to nod your head and hope someone doesn’t ask you, “What do you think?” which results in you having to say, “Sorry, what was the question again?”. This time, there’s no question, I’m just telling you what men need to know about money in work, relationships and life.
1. Speak up for women when it comes to the gender pay gap
The gender pay gap among all employees was 15.5% in 2020 according to the Office for National Statistics, down from 17.4% in 2019. Since we have a lifetime to go until the gender pay gap closes, women would appreciate it if you started speaking up for us already. Gents, with all the bass available in your voice, why not use it for the good of womankind?
Now more than ever, we need more allies to take the microphone on women’s behalf. A nod or ‘I agree’ at diversity and inclusion events no longer cuts it. This is where you, as chromosome XY come in. When you’re at work and you see a female colleague doing the same job as you but their earnings aren’t matching up, don’t mind your business. This is where women want you in our corner, encouraging us to go and ask for what we deserve. “Could I give you some advice on how to ask for more money?” are the magic words we never hear at work. Let’s leave the “Nice hair/outfit” comments out for a while and trade them in for financial equality. We like our hair and outfits already, thanks. Let’s get to the money!
2. If you ask a woman out, offer to pay for her dinner
When you invite a woman to go out with you, offering to pay for her meal should happen without hesitation. It’s just good manners. And yet, the bill comes and I’ve often been left to wonder if chivalry is all the way dead because you didn’t say, “Don’t worry, I’ve got this”. As a woman I want equal rights but we’re a long way away from it and every time you want to go Dutch, you add to that distance. Women earn less because of the gender pay gap, so men should be offering to pay the difference. After all, your date can always say “no”. I, on the other hand, might not.
3. Women don’t expect you to pay for everything (It’d be nice though)
Alas, we understand that as the economy is struggling, everyone else is too. Hooray! We love a struggle party where everyone’s invited because frankly, it’s better to sit in the mud together than alone. And with the gender pay gap, women are a little more in the mud than men are so personally I’d love it if you’d put your hand in your pocket by about 100% more?!
Just kidding! Take the ‘S’ off your chest, you don’t have to be a hero 24/7 in every way, finances included. Although it’d be nice, it’s not really fair is it? The whole notion behind equality is everyone doing their part on the money side, even though some of us aren’t making as much (the gender pay gap is always on women’s minds). Don’t think that every time a bill comes your way, women will look in the other direction. I only do that on the first date! In all seriousness though, women don’t need nor expect you to cover it all. Take this article as a free pass to run for cover from anyone that’s always expecting you to be the sole provider.
4. Splashing the cash isn’t always ideal
Yes, you’ve read that right. Receiving gifts on a regular basis can make the recipient feel giddy in the beginning. Who doesn’t love surprises?! They’re welcomed, however, somewhere down the line, your significant other needs to be sure you’re not participating in illegal activities to fund your Champagne lifestyle.
Unless you’re a secret billionaire, I wouldn’t want you spending frivolous amounts of money on me at every turn. Why do you wonder? Future, meet security. Security, meet the future. Financial security is attractive and if I’m going to be building a life with you, it can’t be in a shed. No offence to those who live in sheds, but I have property dreams more akin to Grand Designs. Given this desire, a sporadic trip here and surprise gift there is welcome but let’s not throw our future down the drain now.
5. The pink tax is real, and it’s a disgrace
The narrative that women spend a lot of money may be accurate, depending on who you’re talking to, but the pink tax is no laughing matter even when we’re giggling over lunch with our friends. Monzo’s article perfectly depicts how products aimed at women are more expensive than the male equivalents – from clothing to perfume. We know you know because every time you go to pick up a gift for a woman in your life, you’re shocked at the price of our products. And don’t get me started on all the things we’re expected to buy that most men aren’t, from sanitary products to make-up to bikini waxes…\ being a woman is a lot more expensive, period.
6. Don’t be surprised if women don’t jump at the idea of joint bank accounts
Do women fear you’ll run off with the money? Yes, I certainly do! In all seriousness though, don’t run off with our money just because we recorded over the Champions League or something. It was potentially a mistake and we might make the mistake again but that’s not enough of a reason to bolt for the exit with our finances!
While a joint bank account is a transparent way to build up financial trust, and maybe even practical when it comes to mortgage payments and other important bills, it doesn’t mean it’s essential. Women fought hard for financial independence so don’t be surprised if your girlfriend isn’t in a rush to give that up.
A woman not wanting to share a bank account with you doesn’t have a coded meaning unless, of course, you’re raising suspicions and setting off any of these three alarm bells. The first being that you have a gambling problem or addiction we don’t know about. The second is that you have a secret family that you’re funding. The third is a combination of one and two.
7. Women really need you to step up when parenthood arrives
As our body becomes less elastic and we’re changing tops all the time due to milk leakage, we can’t help but wonder if you truly have our backs for life. We join mothers groups and all it takes is hearing one bad story to think, “Could that be me?”. There’s always a woman scorned in the mummies circle who starts her sentence with, “I thought he’d never do that to me either” that makes you wake up in the middle of the night and ask your partner if they still love you.
When you have the emotional side down pat, let’s also address that some mothers are quite keen to return to work and their pre-baby lives so it would be nice if you could share the duties of childcare. That includes the bottle feeds, dropping them to school and cleaning up after them whilst maintaining a household. It’s not so easy, is it? Parenthood is the time where we want you to reassure us that you’re here for us physically, emotionally and financially because frankly, we can’t do it all on our own no matter how many times we sing ‘Independent Ladies’ on karaoke nights. It may be a great song but it’s not the lifestyle most women want.
8. Help women bridge the gender pension gap
Whilst we’re working on raising the next generation and you continue to “work work”, we’re taking career breaks which can feel incredibly daunting because there’s always someone more upbeat and energetic ready to take our position. “Hello. Anxiety, is that you?”
We know that women make up around three quarters of the part-time workforce in the UK, and the combination of lower salaries and long career gaps, with little or no pension saving for years, are a massive disadvantage for women. Call a spade a spade, women are scared of what this means for us and our future. Research from PensionBee revealed the gender pension gap to be as high as 57% in parts of the UK. 57%!
While women are supporting you at home, you can support us financially by topping up our pensions while we’re not working so we don’t end up having to eat baked beans in later life while you dine out on filet mignon. Getting life insurance would also give your partner peace of mind so they know that they’re covered if anything happens. P.S. we’re not plotting anything, we want you here for a long time because we can’t open jars without you!
9. Talk to women about money, and how you feel about it
When it comes to money, men are expected to earn a living without complaining or discussing how they feel. Women talk a lot about how patriarchy sucks for them, but, we get it can suck the life out of you too because of expectations of masculinity. Now, we’re not expecting you to have an outburst of emotions all in one go but know that there’s a safe space in us to have those chats. We promise we won’t hold it against you or use it as a weapon in an argument because frankly, that’s childish.
Do we love you because of how much money you have? Hopefully not. If you’re unsure about the answer then there are so many other conversations that need to be taking place…
We understand that everyone has their own financial plan and love may have not been a prerequisite when you were writing out how you were going to get and keep your affairs in order. Just be straight and let us know, preferably sooner rather than later, if we have different financial goals. Same goes if you followed Elon Musk’s advice about crypto and the returns you’ve seen aren’t exactly what you thought they’d be - women want to know everything!
10. Women want to talk about investing too
Surprise! Women want to chat about how their money can make money too. We’re here to tear down the men’s club that is investing. Research found on Forbes shows that women tend to make better investors. Yet somehow, we’re still left out of the conversation. Yes Wolf of Wall Street is a fun watch but pause it for a minute and ask yourself where women are in the movie. It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day and we don’t want to be wives that cackle along to the men’s jokes because we have our own jokes too.
Now we aren’t saying you should pull out loads of charts and graphs, it’s all about taking one step at a time here. We aren’t trying to be Cathie Wood. If you don’t know who that is but you know who Warren Buffett is, this is your opportunity to do better. Conversations about investing can start with, “Have you heard about fund X recently?” and then follow up with the reasons why it’s worth doing independent research into. What women won’t enjoy is you bragging about an investment you have that’s gone up that we had no prior insight to. Bring us into the discussion, don’t be a know-it-all and share your losses as much as you share your wins. Okay, the last point is unlikely but I thought I’d throw that out there.
I hope this gives you a little bit of insight into where women’s heads are at when it comes to money. Now it’s time for you to catch up!