How the pandemic has put women further behind the financial curve

In a less-than-perfect world in terms of gender equality across financial services, the global pandemic might be making matters worse, or at least underscoring how bad things are.

Anecdotally, based on conversations I’ve had recently with several female financial professionals, the effects of pandemic-related lockdowns, virtual homeschooling, and working from home have affected women more harshly than men.

While it might be frustrating for women who have had to shoulder a larger than usual share of the household responsibilities this year, it isn’t surprising to most women, and that is probably a good place to start.

A study by Bloomberg Media of 1,000 self-identified “ambitious investors” showed some things that have almost become cliches.

For example, the survey respondents represented by an even split of men and women, showed that 41% of women work with a financial adviser, compared to 54% of men.

Women make an average of six trades per year, while men average 10 trades.

On investing goals, 72% of women are investing for retirement, compared to 65% of men.

Likewise, 36% of the women said they’re investing for additional income, compared to 48% of men.

On the question of whether they’re making less money now due to COVID-19, 36% of women said yes, compared to 29% of men.

“Every woman I know, even if she’s making more money, has taken on the brunt of the responsibilities for things like virtual schooling.”

Samantha Russell, chief marketing and business officer, Twenty Over Ten

For context, consider that the Bloomberg study was specifically geared toward a subset of investors meeting criteria related to assets, risk appetite, and investment objectives that qualify them as above average in terms of financial savvy and experience.

Yet, even in this somewhat elite category, the gender distinctions are unmistakable, which was not lost on Bloomberg Media’s global head of data, Michelle Lynn.

“Even among these investors, women are just less confident than men when it comes to financial matters,” she said.

When the respondents, made up largely of people under the age of 55, were asked if they strive for a work-life balance, 66% of women said yes, compared to 54% of men.

When asked if they strive to make more money, no matter the hours, 20% of women said yes, compared to 29% of men.

Lynn attributes many of the data patterns to differing perceptions and attitudes that are driving many of the realities.

“Men are more positive in terms of how they’re currently saving and investing,” she said. “And even though these are women that have their own investable assets and are confident as individuals, they’re grading themselves lower.”

CONFIDENCE GAP

A number of the women I spoke with regarding the confidence gap referenced the familiar anecdote of how men will often apply for a job when they only meet some of the criteria, while women will generally not apply unless they feel they meet all the criteria.

“Women will typically grade themselves lower than men grade themselves, and the lower confidence level and fear of taking risks is a characteristic that keeps many women from applying for the big job,” said Dani Fava, head of strategic development at Envestnet.

Kristi Sullivan, owner of Sullivan Financial Planning, also sees the confidence gap but said confidence shouldn’t always be equated to ability or expertise.

“Men don’t know any more than women, they just know what they have is enough,” she said. “Men are often making more decisions on incomplete information, which is what you have to do. Meanwhile, women are sitting on the sidelines even when they sometimes know more than the men.”

Nina O’Neal, investment adviser and partner at Archer Investment Management, also believes displays of confidence can be deceiving.

“I see less confidence or a willingness to admit less confidence from both genders,” she said. “I just think the men are less willing to admit it out loud.”

Add these kinds of historical gender distinctions to the reality of a global pandemic that has shown to steer a lot of women toward more domestic responsibilities, and it can seem as if progress has stalled.

“I know this from my own circle of friends, where every woman I know, even if she’s making more money, has taken on the brunt of the responsibilities for things like virtual schooling,” said Samantha Russell, chief marketing and business officer at Twenty Over Ten.

“With COVID, it seems like the old gender stereotype has reared its ugly head,” she added.

Lynn fears that much of the progress that has been made by women is being “wiped out due to COVID.”

“We’ve made a lot of progress since our mothers and grandmothers didn’t know how to write a check,” she said. “It’s about building confidence and eliminating barriers that create the kind of fears that lead to avoidance.”

Even while acknowledging the potential abuse of gross generalizations, there is a silver lining in any data highlighting characteristics associated with investing caution, patience, and a clearer macro perspective.

“This shows me that women could be very meaningful financial advisers,” said April Rudin, chief executive of The Rudin Group.

The post How the pandemic has put women further behind the financial curve appeared first on InvestmentNews.

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