For any economy to reach its full growth potential there is an obvious need for women to be financially empowered. Yet sadly it seems that the days of full financial empowerment are still a long way off.
This was the subject of a recent event hosted by AMBS to mark International Women’s Day entitled Empowering Women in the Economy through Financial Inclusion. The event discussed the current state of financial inclusion for women and practical tips on how to further empower women.
The session was facilitated by Jennifer Rose, a Senior Lecturer in Accounting and Finance, who was joined by Sola David-Borha, Chairman of Stanbic IBTC, and AMBS Advisory Board members Alison Horner and Damaris Albarran. It was truly fascinating to hear these highly accomplished women share their stories, and hear advice that was so easily relatable to our own lives.
At financial risk
One of the most striking takeaways from the event was that a lot of women still simply do not talk about money. While women are increasingly becoming the primary breadwinners in many families, it seems they still feel uncomfortable discussing financial issues. As a result, this can put them at risk financially during crucial life moments, such as when they are experiencing divorce or becoming more dependent on their children in later life.
A recent study from USB Global Wealth Management showed that more than half of women globally still leave critical, long-term decisions up to their male partners. And what also struck us from the AMBS event was that even in developed countries many women are still afraid to talk about money.
What can be done?
We believe there are several practical actions that can be taken to overcome this situation. Firstly, women need to be taught far more about monetary management from a young age, both by parents and schools.
In this regard AMBS is already working with local schools to understand how financial literacy is embedded in the school curriculum. The project is led by Professors Susanne Espenlaub and Arif Khurshed from the Accounting & Finance division, and they are also working with colleagues from the Department of Education on developing a new method (FinScapes) to map financial literacy in adults.
Secondly, women need to be spending more time understanding the basics of financial management whether from seminars, books, or workshops. Information is power and they should not let the lack of understanding of financial terminology and industry jargon become a barrier to making investment decisions.
And thirdly, another very practical action is to have access to a community of women where experiences can be shared and women can receive practical support around financial questions and concerns in order to take control of finances. In this regard, finding a mentor within the industry they work in would be another very useful action.
Another dimension to this debate, and one which was discussed during the AMBS session, comes from government and the importance of framing deliberate policies which can support women in the workplace. Indeed one of our key takeaways from the session was the need to make deliberate policies to secure women’s sources of livelihoods even through childbirth and other stages of family building. As we seek to empower women through financial inclusion, it is very important that we pay attention to those things that can potentially cut off their sources of income.
For instance in a lot of countries women have to choose between having children and progressing in their career. This is often because of the high cost of childcare compared to the woman’s earnings and the lack of support from the workplace or their partners in caring for the child. Hence, they are left with no other choice but to stay off work until the child is older. Contrast this with countries across Scandinavia where generous paid parental leave policies not only help a new mother get a paid break off work but also encourage fathers to take paid leave too.
Another example of where policy can make a difference is in providing platforms for mentorship and in helping create networks where women can share useful information about their experiences in the workplace, thereby making the journey to financial freedom a less lonesome one.