Mind the (investment) gap

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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Mind the Gap: A report on the UK's Technology Skills Gap | Hired

Over the past several years, successive British governments have prioritised growing the tech industry as a way to ensure that the UK economy can thrive in an increasingly digital world; and those results have paid off.

Gap - Via Shutterstock - Skills Gap
Gap - Via Shutterstock

According to recent statistics, the UK’s thriving digital industry is now worth £161bn to the economy and supports more than 1.5m jobs. What’s more, the UK has the largest digital economy as a percentage of GDP in the G20, with expected growth of 15% next year.

That said, this position is far from guaranteed. Brexit, the uncertainty around freedom of movement, and the growing appeal of other global tech hubs in Europe, the US and Asia have called into question whether the UK is well-positioned to fill the 750,000 new digital jobs that will open by 2020 and ultimately stay competitive in the global tech economy.

To get at the root of this issue, Hired dug into the hundreds of companies and thousands of candidates who have participated in our UK marketplace over the last 18 months to better understand the state of the nation’s talent and skills base. The result is our “Mind the Gap” report, which helps identify the digital skills that companies are demanding to help their businesses grow, and which we hope will inform the debate about what the UK needs to do next to maintain its position at the forefront of the global tech industry.

Among the key findings the analysis revealed include:

1. There is a significant skills gap in the key areas of data, security, Python, Ruby, UI and UX. Whether measured by supply and demand, interview requests or job offers, these areas consistently emerged as the skills most coveted by tech firms. Market appetite for these skills is far outstripping supply, with, for example, the demand for security engineers increasingly by 234% in the last 18 months alone.
2. Particularly with the uncertainty over the Brexit decision, gaps in the supply and demand of vital skills may hold back the UK tech sector’s growth. One in three people working in the UK tech sector come from another European country. Britain’s position as a digital powerhouse has been dependent on bringing in these kinds of high-skilled workers as a supplement to the country’s home-grown talent; the skills gap will only worsen if the UK can’t attract the best talent, wherever it’s from.
3. The UK’s global competitiveness against US tech hubs is an area of concern. Average salaries for tech workers in London are substantially lower than in Silicon Valley and New York, which have salaries 38% and 35% higher, respectively, than the UK.
4. There is a worrying trend when looking at the pipeline of tech-savvy students entering the workforce. Seventy-four percent of tech workers have a degree – a much higher proportion than the national average. However, the number of UK students graduating with computer science qualifications has dropped considerably since 2002. This is in direct contrast to neighbours such as France, which now provides the European market with more computer science graduates than any other country. Given this and the fact that our data revealed that a large number of developers are now self-taught, employers need to ensure passion and commitment are given due consideration in their recruitment process, alongside university degrees.

This suggests that, while the UK has a highly-qualified workforce today, it risks the skills gap widening, with fewer developers and software engineers entering the workplace despite an economy that is hungrier than ever for tech talent.

Businesses, educational institutions and the government need to collaborate closely to ensure that we are addressing this issue and nurturing the talent that will secure the UK’s position as a digital leader in the years ahead. If we do this, we will ensure that the UK remains competitive in the global tech marketplace.

Read the full report here