Even in a moment when brands are publicly embracing diversity and inclusion (D&I), companies are modernizing their family leave policies and the U.S. Democratic presidential field was the most diverse in history, we are still not talking about one of the most crucial pillars of our society: money.
We know that women’s economic empowerment is central to realizing women’s rights and gender equality. Yet, money is a complex, intimate thing shaped by factors like upbringing, education, lifestyle, geography and race. Learning how to successfully navigate all of these elements can be near impossible, especially if there’s no one to help or even tell you where to start.There are some well-known approaches, like budgeting and saving, but they don’t account for the complexities of the pay gap or the lesser-known wealth gap. Wealth is different than income, it includes resources like college savings or a retirement fund and can also include assets like a home or a car. While women earn about 79 cents on the dollar compared to men, they own only 32 cents; women of color own only pennies on the dollar compared to white men and women.
And if you’re living paycheck to paycheck—a reality for 78 percent of Americans—building an investment portfolio probably doesn’t seem like a priority right now. Employers that automatically enroll employees in a 401(k) plan and match their contributions have helped boost the number of Americans who are saving for retirement—but that doesn’t help millions of gig economy workers and others who don’t have access to a retirement plan.
Brands should continue to transparently publicize how they’re going to achieve pay parity, eliminate bias from the interview process and sweeten their benefits with healthy 401(k) matching and solid stock options. But when it comes to lifting employees into leadership roles, those company-wide efforts won’t make a huge difference until the workforce is financially literate.
If you’re looking for some inspiration, the financial industry has transformed in the last decade, and between increasing use of social media, good branding and women in the sector gaining visibility, it is more accessible than ever before. The following influencers are unique in their personal experiences and approaches but offer a basic, well-rounded understanding of being financially empowered:
NBC’s TODAY Show’s financial editor, Jean Chatzky covers all platforms and offers financial advice across her podcast, books, blog, twitter, conferences and television. She launched Hermoney.com as a media platform for improving women’s relationships with money. Her journalistic approach and money philosophy are easily digestible by anyone, not just financial experts.
Erin Lowry (@BrokeMillennial)
Geared towards investment beginners, Erin Lowry’s book Broke Millennial is all about how to get your financial life together (#GYFLT) and empowering everyone to invest. Since the success of her book, she’s developed courses, worksheets and a YouTube show. Her Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are frequently updated with timely tips and her personal financial journey.
Tonya Rapley (@MyFabFinance)
Deemed the “New Face of Wealth Building” by Black Enterprise Magazine, Tonya Rapley started My Fab Finance to empower anyone to find financial success. Her site offers a free Financial Success bundle, and dives deep into topics like financial insecurity and shame.
Kristin Wong (@TheWildWong)
A freelance writer and journalist, Kristin Wong tackles topics of psychology, money, career and gender including her book Get Money. In addition to her articles for the New York Times and Refinery 29, her YouTube channel breaks down money advice into 60 second tidbits along with ranting about the “latte factor” and how money can affect your mental health.
Launched by @SallieKrawcheck, Ellevest is an investment service uniquely customized to consider the financial factors that women and non-binary people face. The service provides alternative investment services with $0 minimums. Their “Magazine” or blog on their website has resources ranging from how-to-guides and professional development tips, to written pieces calling out sexism in the industry and practical advice on how to navigate it.
If your brand is going to start the conversation around money, pay attention to what the influencers above all have in common:
Authenticity: These women have shared their personal struggles with finances and are undeniably passionate about helping others.
Plain language: The world of finances can be intimidating and personal. And too often, those seeking education are met with condescension, dismissal or overwhelmingly technical language.
Using real numbers: Part of breaking the stigma around discussing money is to use real numbers and percentages to help illustrate concepts. It also creates more impact and relatability, especially when it comes to things like negotiating a raise or knowing how much to save, spend or invest.
Goal-oriented: In the marathon of a financial journey, being honest with yourself and your goals is key to staying on track. Whether it’s paying off debt, purchasing a home or retiring early, there should be no shame associated with your financial goals.
The same way there is no “one size fits all” approach to investing, there is no easy solution to the disparity in financial literacy. Every individual’s financial journey is different, and while creating standardized systems that uphold parity and create a culture of equality is critically important, so is acknowledging the unique experiences of those individuals.