Lower financial literacy for women is a problem that must be addressed

Tessa Warburton
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Closing the financial literacy gap is a necessary step towards equality.

Women, specifically women of colour, consistently report less confidence in their finances and economic future than their male counterparts. This is an alarming statistic considering financial literacy rates are correlated with wealth accumulation, stock market participation, and retirement planning and saving.

Increasing financial literacy not only increases women’s economic positions but empowers them to support and invest in female-owned businesses and female entrepreneurs. It is a necessary step toward gender equality.

I began reflecting on my own financial literacy after a conversation with my bank. What started out as me begrudgingly accepting a phone call from my bank’s representative turned into an hour and 45-minute call about investments, TSFAs, interest rates, and a promise to call again the next week to discuss the pros and cons of credit cards.

Most enlightening to me was our conversation about investments. I realized that while I knew all the investing buzzwords: stocks, bonds, interest, I’d never considered investing. Why hadn’t I? Why have most of the guys I’ve talked to dabbled in investments, but almost none of the women have?

A recent survey found that only half of millennial women had started investing for retirement compared to 61 per cent of men. Another survey explained that while men are more likely to invest in stocks, 71 per cent of women keep their money in cash forms. 

Considering how low interest rates are today, this is a worrying trend, as it means women’s net savings over their lifetimes remain negligibly lower than men’s. While the ethics of the stock market are undoubtedly shady—and investing isn’t the best choice for everyone—if the economic playing field is leveled, it’s imperative that women feel as empowered as their male counterparts to educate themselves about investment options.

But financial literacy isn’t just about investing; it’s about knowing whether to take out loans from the bank, how to avoid overextending your credit limit, and how to properly manage debt. It’s about knowing how to make everyday decisions that contribute to long-term financial prosperity.

Increasing women’s financial literacy starts at home with parents providing their daughters opportunities to develop skills in money management and openly discussing family finances.

Beyond the home, schools should think critically about how they educate their students financially, as it’s increasingly clear that civics and careers no longer cut it. At the university level, schools can host female speakers and seminars that discuss investing and finances.

The bottom line is this: in our capitalist economy, money talks, and not just to men. Women are just as qualified as men to make important financial decisions; we should all be worried that the statistics don’t reflect this.

Tessa is a fourth-year English student and The Journal’s Production Manager.

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