Today is the International Women’s Day and although we are not very big in celebrating it in the UK – we have shifted our celebrating to the much more politically neutral and commercially expedient Mother’s Day – I want to mark it. After all I am from Bulgaria where people really believe that ‘men are the head of the family but women are the neck’ and celebrating women and their strength is important. Every 8th of March Bulgarian women get flowers from husbands, lovers and children.
International Women’s Day started as a socialist event to promote equal rights for women, including the right to vote. A century later most women on the planet vote, most women have access to labour markets but we still earn only 10% of the world’s income and own less than 1% of the world’s property. This is despite the fact that women a becoming more and more prosperous in the Western world; this is not ‘the world’ right? Is there anything specific about women and money?
This made me think about key differences between the way in which men and women relate to money. I believe that apart from the layers of cultural conditioning the different ways in which men and women relate to women boil down to the following:
1. Women are inherently more conservative than men
It is a truism that because of the evolutionary function of women, to give birth to and socialise the next generation, we are the carriers of continuity and stability. Even biologically, variation comes from the male. For our relationships with money, this inherent conservatism means that:
- Women are more likely to save rather than invest; and
- Women are more likely, in times of crisis, to reduce their spending than look to increase their income
2. Women value attachment, men value performance
Psychologists have long been fascinated with the different ways in which women and men operate at emotional level and the ways in which this affects the relationships between them. They generally agree that the core fear of most men is that they will be rejected because of failure to perform; women fear most emotional and physical abandonment. This is why:
- Women are more likely to spend on others;
- Women are more likely to lend to friends and family;
- Women limit their earning by reacting emotionally to performance measurement systems rather than thinking ‘well, I’ll know how I perform’.
3. Women access the world through emotion, men through reason
We see this in our everyday life and interactions. It is usually more likely that a man will go for a technocratic solution to a problem without account of the human costs involved. Analysis of Myers Briggs personality type tests also suggests that whilst 70% of the women are feelers, over 60% of men are thinkers (this has nothing to do with intelligence but is about how people resolve situations and take decisions). The differences are large enough to be significant. What does this means for our relationship with money?
- Women are likely to get emotional about money and changes are ‘upsetting’ or ‘uplifting’; it takes time to get to this being a problem, a puzzle that needs solving;
- Women are likely to get emotionally attached to different aspects of finance: loyal to their bank, buying and/or keeping stock etc.;
- Women are likely to stay in a job because of emotional attachment;
- Women are likely to choose their career through emotion.
4. Women thrive in networks, men flourish in hierarchies
This is a bit of a composite category including some of the differences discussed above. This also includes the female preference for cooperation versus men’s preference for competition. This mainly affects the kind of occupations, and respectively the earning power, of women. It also is an outlet to the ‘goodness of fit’ between gender pre-dispositions and the way in which the economy at large is structured.
5. Women want to be wealthy, men want to be rich
We discussed the intricacies of being rich and being wealthy in a previous post. In a nutshell how ‘rich’ one is, is measured by material possessions – in fact recently the Financial Samurai published a post trying to establish the level of income at which one can be considered ‘rich’. Being wealthy, on the other hand, is a combination between material possessions and positive mentality.
These differences have to be taken with a pinch of salt: they are not absolute and there are probably women who thrive in hierarchies take risks and are thinkers rather than feelers. I know I am one (my Myers Briggs type is ENTJ – the type of Margaret Thatcher, Napoleon and other interesting people; thank goodness it is not very widely spread). What I was thinking is prevalence of tendencies that go beyond the empirical differences between the economic, financial and consumer behaviour of women and men.
What am I missing? Please add any differences that you can think of or have read about.
Oh, and belated Chestita Baba Marta!