We reflect on what’s contributing to the gender wealth gap, and how we can affect positive change.
As a digital agency it’s an exciting time to be working with clients in the financial sector. With so many new opportunities to develop a healthy engagement with money we’re looking at a digital revolution that empowers the individual by making the most of our hard-earnt cash.
From analysing our spending habits with thoughtfully-designed banking apps, to accessing the stock market with robo investors — there’s so much to explore. We can even dip our toe into the world of cryptocurrency in a matter of minutes. Safe to say, we’re big fans of fintech.
Despite all this, in 2019 we’re still looking at a significant disparity between the finances of men and women. In this article we ask, how can marketing approaches to this emerging technology help tackle the imbalance, and feed into a wider discourse around money and society?
It’s not exactly cheery reading when you look at the numbers. On average women earn around £223,000 less than men over the course of a lifetime. There’s already a lot written about the gender pay gap figures published earlier this year and it’s sobering reading, but we feel it’s a symptom of a more complex story when it comes to the relationship between women and money. And what a broad subject that is.
Part of the problem is that women are often lumped together in marketing campaigns, rather than spoken to specifically as graduate, board director, early career, retiree, new mum, business-owner etc. We are not one and the same, and therefore in exactly the same way that marketing towards the ‘average man’ doesn’t work, we won’t all be sold the same message.
In order to build subtle and specific messaging into marketing we need to look at the opportunities we’re missing in engaging women throughout their lives, so that by the time we want to sell them a fintech product, they are in a confident and receptive place to be sold to.
To understand the depth of the problem we need to look at where gender inequality begins, in school.
In the UK, despite receiving 55% of A levels overall last year, girls are less likely to choose STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths). Girls accounted for only 39% of Maths A levels and just 28% of Further Maths.
With fewer maths qualifications, there is a knock-on effect in terms of the occupational choices later available to young women and consequently their earning potential as professionals. According to IFS research when you compare female graduates five years after their graduation, those with a maths degree earn 13.4% more than those without, and those with an economics degree — another subject which girls are less likely to study — a whopping 19.5% more.
We see this as a huge opportunity for change. We love initiatives like the Fintech for Schools campaign run by Innovate Finance that seek to engage and recruit the next generation of bright minds by helping to shape the subject choices they make at school in order to work in these emerging industries. It’s predicted that by 2030 there will 100,000 UK jobs in fintech. There are already 75,000 so that looks like a conservative estimate, in which case we’d be wise to start connecting with the next generation now.
It’s a dialogue we’d love to be more involved in, working in both creative and technical roles that support the fintech industry. As Charlotte Crosswell, CEO of Innovate Finance said in a recent podcast, “Anyone can work in fintech, if you just have an open mind”.
In understanding the gender pay gap it’s important to highlight what’s it doesn’t mean. It is not employers paying women less for the same work as men. As the BBC rightly puts it,
There are no official figures on unequal pay. That’s because it’s only individual employers who really know if they’re paying a woman and a man differently for doing the same work. And if they admitted they were doing that, they’d also be admitting that they’d broken the law.
name of person, position title
So if it’s not about unequal pay, what is the pay gap about?
A big part of it is how part-time work affects earnings. It’s not just that part-time workers get paid less because they work fewer hours, they actually get paid less per hour too. And this is significant when you understand that only one in seven men are part-time workers compared to three in seven women.
With family life a major reason for women working part-time, it’s worth acknowledging campaigners like the brilliantly-named Pregnant Then Screwed who are starting to shake things up. We’ve seen founder Joeli Brearley’s mission unfold on Instagram over the past couple of years and it’s awesome to see she’s now invited to Parliament to speak out on motherhood discrimination and how this contributes to the wealth gap. Good to see Mary Portas also on the subject in her recent book, Work Like a Woman.
Parenting and part-time work are just two aspects of the pay gap, but age comes into it too, whereabouts you are in the country, and the type of career you choose (which takes us back to our previous point on education).
Tear it all down and start again!
Ok anarchy aside, we’re waiting for employers to play catch-up. Companies with more than 250 employees are now obliged to report their performance on pay equality. We hope this accountability will have a positive effect. But in the meantime what can we do?
Well, we can all take to social media and support causes like those above. But it’s also crucial that we understand the different ways to squirrel away a portion of our earnings (however small) for the different ways we’ll need to use it. Which takes us to the next link in the chain, investment.
A study by Starling found that 90% of magazine articles targeting women focused on small ways to save money, like cutting back on outgoings or seeking out vouchers and bargains, yet magazines catering for men tend to speak to their readers as if they’re savvy financiers, offering advice on the best tech to use to enhance their investments.
It’s about changing the narrative around women and money and forming a new relationship with ideas that should never have been made to feel beyond our grasp.
It’s also related to how familiar these ideas are to us through our employment, and on this point we’re not doing so well here in the UK because of underrepresentation in finance. Although 46 percent of financial services employees are women, at executive level it’s only 15 percent and this is a real problem for the way communication evolves.
We inevitably speak to ourselves on some level in marketing our businesses. We can’t help it, humans are intrinsically biased. The problem is that when a marketing agency goes into their client’s office and there’s only one woman on the senior board next to ten men, a female angle is going to be less considered because it will be less voiced, and a flawed campaign can emerge from there. We’re not saying that a male board or agency is incapable of considering the importance of female consumers, but user research becomes all the more crucial.
As female fintech users, and owners of a digital agency we see a lot of scope here to advise on what we’d like to see unfold.
Studies point to women having a natural aptitude for investment. In the often-cited paper, Boys will be Boys one of the reasons women outperform men is that we tend not to muck about with things incurring extra fees, or exhibit overconfidence in our abilities.
We’d love to see more robo investment apps targeted at women as high achievers here, not nervous first-timers that need hand-holding. Ellevest is the first we’ve seen, and they’re doing great work talking about the investment gap with a healthy dose of sass. Pity it’s not available here in the UK yet…
So you’ve worked your whole life and now it’s finally time to retire and do all those things you’ve been dreaming of — travelling, writing a book, starting a side-business? Woo hoo! But wait, by age 64 women in the UK have an average pension pot of 35,700 which is just 25% of the amount held by men. Sorry ladies…
The gender pension gap is almost twice as bad as the work-based pay gap we’ve already mentioned, with women in the UK receiving 39.5% less in pension income than men. That’s about £7k per year by the way.
That’s a lot of plane tickets.
Gender-based economic inequality may start in the workplace, but it follows women for the rest of their lives.” says Sue Ferns from union Prospect. “It is not acceptable that women are condemned to less comfortable retirements and greater anxiety about finances because of inherent unfairness in the labour market and structural problems in the pension system.
Pension awareness needs to start early. We rate PensionBee for their no-nonsense approach to combining multiple workplace pension pots. But what if you don’t have a pension because you’re self-employed or have other complications with your finances? We need to speak to women of all ages about how it’s never too late to think about your retirement whatever your situation. Fintech products are a great way to reach those in need of advice.
There is some hope. The government recently published a report acknowledging the problem and says it is working with fintech firms Money Box, Plum, Chip, Portify and Trezeo all of which allow the user to put a portion of their income towards savings.
The government plans to continue to explore the opportunities provided by fintech to understand how it might boost our saving habits. What might this mean for the self-employed? Well you might get tax breaks on money you invest in a pension, or have greater flexibility with what you’ve saved than with a traditional locked-in pension scheme. Watch this space.
It’s only once we start seeing problems as opportunities and targeting them head-on that we can affect real change. So what do we bring to these situations as a female-led digital agency? Well we bring that most precious thing, insight.
When you work with us you get the female consumer, creative director, and technical specialist in one package. We think that’s a pretty unique offer.
When we think about effectively promoting fintech it’s not just a question of selling it, there maybe an aspect of selling its very necessity. We may be speaking to a female audience who think ‘that’s not for me’, and this needs to be approached with subtlety. Alternative marketing ideas such as informative talks work, we’ve been to some. The social aspect may be more important to women as we trust each other’s recommendations.
Making the communications around money more nuanced and less based on fear and stereotype is the aim here. We’re pleased to hear of the changes to Advertising Standards Authority guidelines that will ban gender-stereotypical roles from ads as of June 2019. It’s a start.
We want to contribute to dialogue with young women around their relationship with money to build confidence and carry the message that you have absolutely the same rights as a male CEO to fintech products that make your money grow. Fintech has an incredible power to democratise, and we should be shouting about that.
Bigger picture? We wonder what a fairer balance could mean for broader society, for the environment. We can now invest in only ‘green’ companies, how else could a healthier financial landscape change our world for the better?
If we could make our economy more gender-balanced, we might all work a little less and spend more time doing the things we love. Isn’t that what money is supposed to be for — giving you freedom?