By: Caleigh Joyce
Before my mother and father got married, my mother (who has a CFA, has a master’s degree from Harvard in business, and began her own financial consulting business in 1998) had already begun to take over her mother’s finances with the help of her financial advisor. After she married my father (who has a Communications degree and works in Public Relations), the financial advisor congratulated her… and asked to take her husband out to lunch. After that, every financial advisor they ever had only wanted to deal with my father- and ignored my mother.
Both of them found this ridiculous and incredibly sexist.
When it comes to investment (amongst other things), women have had their power taken away from them. There seems to be a recurring theme in our society of women who don’t want to talk about math. Why is that?
It’s not because women aren’t good at math. Studies have shown that a narrowing gap between male and female mathematical ability is narrowing, and the remaining gap is due to environmental reasons (how encouraged women are to do math, etc.). Additionally, there are plenty of women throughout history who have excelled in the STEM field. Like Hypatia of Alexandria, a renowned mathematician who also taught astronomy and philosophy in Ancient Greece. Or Amalie Emmy Noether, a Jewish mathematician who fled Nazi Germany in 1933, and whose contributions to the field of higher algebra made her regarded as the most creative abstract algebraist of modern times. There was also Katherine Johnson, an African American NASA calculator whose calculations were vital to the U.S. flights to space. Johnson was recently portrayed in the movie Hidden Figures, along with fellow female, African American NASA mathematicians: Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, and Dr. Christine Darden.
(Katherine Johnson) (https://www.nasa.gov/feature/langley/museum-exhibit-highlights-nasa-langleys-human-computers-from-hidden-figures)
More recently there was also Maryam Mirzakhani, who in 2014 was awarded the Field Medal, the most prestigious award in mathematics. She is the only woman, and the only Iranian to ever receive this award.
There are many, many more women who have excelled in math, but there still seems to be a narrative in society that women can’t do math when clearly, they can. As mentioned earlier, studies show that a lot of how comfortable a woman is with math has to do with her environment, how encouraged she is to do math, or go into STEM.
We need to start building women’s confidence in math. We don’t all have to become famous mathematicians or mathematicians at all but we can change the way the world views women and math by remembering these women and by taking steps to show the world what women and math can do.
That is why it’s time for women to start investing.
According to Ellevest, a website that helps women to invest their money, women’s salaries are likely to peak at age 40, while men’s salaries don’t peak until they are 55. This is in part because women are much less likely to invest than men.
Ellevest also did a retirement scenario between a man and woman who are both earning $85,000/year and both are investing 10% of their salaries. Ellevest showed that because of the gender pay gap, she’ll have $320,000 less when they retire at 67.
Playing the Long Game
Women earn less money than men, partly due to a lack of investment, which is a problem because women are likely to live longer than men. We can’t depend on other people to make our financial decisions for us. We should start investing when we start making money, and make investments wisely by knowing what we’re invested in, and understanding our attitude about how much risk we’re willing to take. Don’t let people condescend to you or ignore you.
Ask for that raise (or negotiate a higher salary to begin with).
Make an investment.
By making more investments and being conscious of what we’re investing in, we can also support other women by investing in women-owned companies or companies that make empowering women a priority.