Women don’t care about money as much as men.
When I was a child, like most kids, I received an allowance. Some pittance – a quarter a week perhaps – and I was expected to manage it. To figure it out – save it, spend it – but it was 25 cents each Saturday, and that was that.
By the time I was a teenager, I recall a dollar a week. On special occasions, there might be five or ten dollars from a relative, but that was about the extent of my financial education.
Pennies Spawn Dollars
There were years spent babysitting, and then typing, and my own meticulous tracking of each dollar, kept in a large yellow envelope. I neatly penned the name of each client, the amount, and date earned – on the front of the envelope. When I hit a threshold, I’d take my money to the bank, proudly, and deposit it.
Think I didn’t care about that money?
As a single mother and independent contractor with no safety net, think I don’t care about money now?
I learned one critical lesson early: savings would eventually buy me opportunities. Specifically, I was taught that if you earn it, you can do it. And my very first trip overseas was financed by my own years of earnings as a teen. But that isn’t enough.
Money matters are so much more complex, psychologically as well as logistically. Money is power. Money is survival. Money is the only way that most of us can see a doctor, put food on the table, and keep a roof over our heads.
Yes, I learned to earn and to save. I learned the “can do” attitude that comes from a deeply entrenched work ethic. But as a girl, when it came to money, I didn’t learn much more. I was expected to perform well academically, and otherwise, I was channeled into the usual activities – piano, ballet, girl scouts – and babysitting or typing. But it was my older brother who was encouraged to get a “real job” after school – and likewise, he was allowed all the freedoms that came (at the time) with being a guy.
Making money. Making decisions.
Most of the women I know earn less than their husbands, their boyfriends, and in some cases, less than their children. (Statistics prove this to be the case across the US.) Most of the women I know don’t know anything about investing – and rely upon those same husbands, boyfriends or paid advisers to make financial decisions for them.
Most of the women I know are dreadful at negotiating anything – much less salary. I count myself among those women despite years of being on my own, despite a fancy MBA, and still, despite the past decade as an independent worker.
Is this a matter of demographics? My 1960s upbringing? Some social expectation that persists, that men provide and women nest? Are we back to what makes a man tick (a drive for more of the cultural trappings of success, for power?) – and a woman’s tendency to offer more affective aspects of life in exchange? I may indeed believe that biology is a significant factor in my womanhood, but I don’t buy that it impacts my desire or need to make a buck and pay my mortgage!
Cultural Bias in Money Matters
And then there are observations like these, which I came across in a 2008 article in Psychology Today:
Economists and sociologists identify three different parts to the total difference in earnings between men and women. First… “human capital” – education, job skills, training, and other individual traits that affect productivity and job performance. Second… occupational segregation by sex… Men tend to occupy “blue-collar” jobs (manufacturing, construction, truck driving), while women tend to occupy “pink-collar” jobs (secretarial, nursing, teaching). Third, the sex difference in earnings can be due to sex discrimination, where employers pay equally qualified men and women doing the same job differently.
But the article went on to offer this, with a nod to the notion of evolutionary psychology:
… If, on the other hand, men and women with the same amount of human capital and in the same jobs are nonetheless inherently and fundamentally different in ways that affect their earnings… then discrimination becomes unnecessary to explain the sex gap in pay. If men and women are different in internal preferences and dispositions… then no external factors, such as employer discrimination or a “glass ceiling,” becomes necessary to explain the sex difference in earnings.
Might I add that the name of the article is “Women Have Better Things To Do Than Make Money“?
Is this recognizing a contemporary “truth,” or presenting a self-fulfilling prophesy under the guise of evolutionary psychology?
What about the millions of women who find themselves fighting the pay gap, fighting for jobs, without access to shared (marital) earnings, alone and raising children, alone and caring for elders, or alone – period?
Are we doomed to the perpetual position of lesser power and eventual poverty?
And as we age and find it harder to get jobs, more expensive for basic care – then what?
Ultimately, are we still dependent on men?
What if I just don’t buy it? Or what if I recognize some truth to it, and the urgency of our need to ratchet up the rate at which we change our comfort level with all things monetary?
Money 101, Now Appearing At Your Local Elementary School
What if it’s a matter of making money part of our schooling? Not full-blown economics which is offered in high school (and puts many kids to sleep), but Money 101 – complete with a dose of the value of value, why money matters, basics about the cost of living (food, shelter, clothing, utilities), a touch of marketing magic (identify a need, then fill it profitably).
What if we included classroom practice in negotiating?
Workable? Any pilot programs out there that I’m unaware of?
Would this work better if it takes place before puberty pops up with girls and guys both looking to impress the other sex, which might muddle performance issues – a discussion that brings me to the topic of single sex education and its (continued) benefits for some young women?
As a woman raising sons alone, I’ve fallen short in teaching money management as a life skill. Partly, that’s due to my own deficiencies, and partly to a roller-coaster ride when it comes to household income. Money is an area where my elder son seems comfortable (relatively), and my younger – not so much. So what should I have taught them – and where did I fall down exactly? What is it that I don’t master myself, that makes this particular domain one of the tougher ones to teach – to boys or girls?
While I’ve done a good job of encouraging my kids to believe in themselves, I also get incredibly annoyed with my younger son when he undervalues his output, creating extraordinary pieces of art or more commercial ones, which he then sells for a few dollars. I’ve been through a simplified discussion with him several times – one in which I explain that price must cover the cost of materials, an acceptable rate for his labor, and then profit – however small for now. I remind him to consider his “market” (if he’s dealing with another teenager, they are likely to have limited funds; dealing with an adult, there is a bias against paying young people, despite the quality of the result).
When I reflect on my upbringing, there were no such discussions at any time. Yet my dad was in sales. He even lectured on salesmanship at a local business school. He certainly knew how to negotiate, how to market, how to price. But money – like religion and politics – were topical taboos.
Times, They Are a-Changing?
Despite my education and decades of being an employee, a manager, a team member, an independent consultant, a freelancer – often holding more than one job at once – when it comes to negotiating (and sticking to) what I know I’m worth, I also know I’ve folded. And I don’t just mean due to recessionary pressures.
I’ve folded because I wanted the work and focused on that rather than remuneration for the work, which deserved equal focus. But I’m learning; life has required me to learn to negotiate – for everything – including reduced prices for goods and services, extended timeframes to pay for things, and increasingly, to stick to my guns on fair market pricing for my own services – even in these tough economic times.
But money matters remain a sore point. And I believe, a women’s issue and therefore, an issue for our children – all our children. That human capital referenced in the Psychology Today article? Don’t we need all of it to address some of the ills this country is facing? Do we really care what gender it comes from?
So what about you? Do you consider yourself financially informed and fiscally responsible? Do you believe that money is less important to women, or that we are lulled into believing that it isn’t crucial to our survival?
- Do you share in money decisions in your household?
- Do you keep your money separate from your spouse?
- Do you teach your kids any basics about money?
- Do you teach your kids to negotiate – and all the ways that it is useful?
- How do we fight the deeply ingrained notion that as women, money isn’t as important as it is for a man?
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