Women and money: how the tide is turning

Elle Tucker

It was only a generation ago that when people referred to a doctor, or a lawyer, there was often an expectation that we’d be talking about a man.

Thankfully times have changed, and in 2019, days like International Women’s Day on 8 March celebrate the many achievements of women.

This year, the theme of the day is #balanceforbetter, focusing on the idea that a more gender-balanced world is better for everyone.

One area where there’s still work to be done is in the world of money.

Today, most fund managers are men, as are nearly all bank bosses. The trend continues within financial advice – even though the number of women looking for advice is increasing; only 11 per cent of their advisers are female*.

The good news is things are changing

The reason more women are seeking financial advice is because more women are getting involved in saving and investing. And what’s even better is that, according to a recent study by Warwick Business School**, women are actually better at investing than men.

The research, which tracked investors’ performance for three years, revealed that women outperformed men at investing. Men were more likely to pick more speculative stocks, while female investors took a longer-term view.

Mind the gap – and it is closing

Although it seems women may be better investors, the reality is they invest less often and have less disposable income to invest. This affects their finances in the long run.

However, the tide is turning, and according to Boring Money, the investment gap between men and women narrows when it comes to the younger generation, with 55% of women under 25 having savings or investments, not far off the 60% of men in this age group saying the same.

A 2018 Financial Times article*** explained that many women are reluctant investors because of a lack of confidence. Investing money in the stock market is not a complicated process, but it requires making decisions according to Sue Noffke, a high profile UK find manager.

“I don’t think men are any more educated in taking these types of decisions – they rarely fully understand what they’re doing,” she commented. “The difference is that women want to understand, but get bogged down in all the jargon.”

Cut to the chase

For many women, this dislike of jargon often puts them off saving into anything other than a cash savings account.

“Women find the whole area of finance quite scary and off-putting. There is a lot of jargon. Speaking the right language to women, a language that isn’t all dressed up in jargon that is impossible to understand, will go a long way. But there also has to be an emotional engagement, connected to something they want to do,” said Dame Helena Morrissey about female investors on BBC Radio 4’s Women’s Hour.

Journalist Helen Wilson-Beevers can relate to this. “When it comes to money, we share the responsibility in our household, but I think that the way I approach things is different to my husband Chris.

“I’m not interested in the jargon and the small print, I want to know how financial products can help us as a family, what the benefit is, what emotions I will feel at the end of it, when we’ve saved up for the holiday we want, or been able to pay for that school trip or even got to retire a bit earlier. To me it’s about living the life we want, and I think this more emotional take on things is vital – otherwise would we get things done? Probably not – or not as well!”

It’s your money

Focusing on your finances is as important for women as it is for men, whether that’s saving for a rainy day or investing. Don’t forget your pension, whether that’s a personal or workplace one.

Women are more likely to work part time or flexibly – caring for children or relatives more often than men – but you’re automatically enrolled into a workplace pension as long as you earn at least £10,000 and meet certain conditions. You contribute, as does your employer – and you usually get tax relief on what you save.

Because pensions are invested, usually in funds, they’ve got the potential to grow over the long term and can be a great way to provide an income in later life. Of course, the value of investments can go down as well as up and you could get back less than was paid in.

It’s a great idea to understand where your money is invested and to get into the habit of regularly checking your choices to make sure your investments are still doing what you expect, especially as your own goals and circumstances can change over time.

If you’re more engaged in how your investments are performing you will be better informed if decisions need to be taken.

It’s all about saving for the kind of future you want. If you want to learn more about pensions, read What’s so good about a pension? 

Looking to the future

International Women’s Day provides a great focal point to think about issues like women’s relationship with money but bringing balance to the financial world is an ongoing process being pushed forward by individuals and organisations every day of the year.

Groups like Women in Banking and Finance and The 30% Club work to open doors for women professionally while Working Families promotes a better work-life balance for parents and carers.

But, for many of us, the first step to redressing the balance can be taking control of our own financial wellbeing.

We want to have enough put aside to enjoy the lifestyle we’d like in the future. And focusing on our savings and investments now could make a real difference.


Elle Tucker is a freelance journalist writing on behalf of Standard Life

The information here is based on our understanding in March 2019 and shouldn’t be regarded as financial advice. Personal and workplace pensions are an investment, the value can go down as well as up and you could get back less than you paid in. Standard Life accepts no responsibility for the information contained in the websites referred to in this article. These are provided for general information only.

*Female advisers outnumbered 10-1 by men, MoneyMarketing, June 2016

**Are women better investors than men?, Warwick Business School, June 2018

*** Even women who can handle money are reluctant investors, Financial Times, March 2018