Anna-Sophie Hartvigsen, co-founder of the financial ed-tech platform aimed at women, Female Invest

mind-the-gap-ethnicity-pay-gap-featuredAll over the world, women are falling financially behind. They earn less, save less and are less likely to invest their money.

Are these trends the result of a lack of skill or ambition among women, or do other barriers persist?

The gender divide among private investors

In the UK, women significantly outnumber men in higher education. This is seen within nearly all degree subjects, and should in theory have led to a situation where women are improving their financial positions. This is supported by IFS research, which has found that around 80% of graduates will see their lifetime earnings improved by going to university, although it should be noted that men see more benefits than women.

Unfortunately, the reality is very different – and this is evident when it comes to investing. Women are falling behind. Only 23% of women actively invest their savings and men own the majority of the stock market.

The fact that women invest less than men inevitably raises the question: “Are men better investors?”. The answer to this question is a clear-cut “no”. Several studies conclude that women investing in stocks are better at it than men. This is seen in the UK, where a large study by Warwick Business School found that female investors achieve higher returns and are better at sticking to a long-term investing strategy.

Based on this data, British female investors appear to hold a significant amount of unlocked potential. This is the motivation behind our educational platform, Female Invest. Our goal is to close the financial gender gap by educating women on investing and personal finance. This work is rooted in the belief that most people can learn to invest their money – if they start by investing their time.

The concept has proven successful, and in less than two years, Female Invest has become Europe’s largest financial educator for women. What we’ve quickly learnt is that the shortage of female investors is rooted in a lack of role models, confidence and engaging educational tools, rather than an absence of skills and interest.

Our mission is to provide women with the tools they need to make personal investments, bolstering their personal finances, but also to encourage more women to choose a career in finance, too.

The financial industry is still failing women

The lack of female investors is also seen in the British financial industry, where women in senior positions are a rare sight. In recent years, this topic has gained increasing attention from the media and the financial industry more broadly. However, there is still a long way to go. A recent report on women in financial services has shown that, although progress is being made, women are still significantly underrepresented in the financial industry – and that £700 million could be made by improving female representation and better serving female customers. This shows that the problem of unequal representation and participation in financial markets cannot be solved with good intentions alone.

Companies must acknowledge and directly address (un)conscious bias in recruitment and promotion processes. Allowing women to succeed in the financial industry should not only be done because it is the right thing to do. It should also be done, because research consistently shows that diversity fosters creativity and ignites productivity.

No easy solutions

There are no easy solutions to the lack of female representation and participation in financial markets – be that women working in the financial industry, or women making private investments. With that said, the fact remains that the current lack of female-led investments negatively impacts individuals, companies and society as a whole. Therefore, we should stop contemplating whether we can afford to spend more resources on improving female representation and participation in financial markets, and start contemplating whether we can afford not to. In the UK, the pool of highly educated and ambitious women is huge. So, what are we waiting for?

Anna-Sophie HartvigsenAbout the author

Anna-Sophie Hartvigsen is a bestselling author, keynote speaker and entrepreneur on a mission to close the financial gender gap. She is listed on the Forbes 30 under 30 list and has co-founded Female Invest, Europe’s largest financial educator targeting women.

 

 


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