Women have been continuously fighting their way to equal education, equal employment opportunities and equal pay in work and are making their mark in every industry. With time, better education and safe employment opportunities, more and more women are taking up the baton as the breadwinners of their family and are becoming economically independent. However, women still greatly lag behind in achieving financial freedom and security and the majority of them depend on men for financial decisions regarding their hard-earned money. This further deepens the economic divide and broadens the gender disparity existing in society.
Financial freedom refers to having enough financial resources which allow individuals to live life according to one’s desires in future without having to be employed or dependent on others. Financial security permits an individual to sustain life even during financial emergencies and adversities. Earning today does not promise financial security in the future. Financial freedom has to be attained during early years of work life for hassle free retirement. This can be achieved by careful money management and wise financial decisions with respect to making investment and generating passive income.
There is hardly any country which reflects financial gender equality. In the context of India, a recent Survey showed that only 33% women take independent investment decisions compared to 64% Men. The survey was conducted among those subjects who are working or were employed in the last two years. Most of the women fail to take charge of their own money and are dependent upon their parents or husbands for managing their finances. Moreover, due to factors like less risk appetite and limited investment knowledge, women prefer traditional methods of savings and investment with low returns such as FDs, Gold Ornaments, Provident Funds etc over volatile instruments such as stocks and Mutual funds. In spite of women being more savings oriented, by traditional methods, their wealth lies idle in bank accounts and tends to lose value over time owing to inflation. According to a recent nationwide survey of investors, it was found that out of 7-8 million investors in the Stock Market, 85% are Men. Despite more and more women being educated and employed, the representation of women in the equities market is considerably low which points towards lack of financial literacy among women.
Studies have shown that women have shorter span of working career owing to family needs, have greater life expectancy than men and are also paid less in comparison to the man for the same work profile. These factors arise the need for women to develop healthy investment habits for a secured future.
Encouraging women to invest will not only ensure financial independence of women and reduce gender divide but also increase the flow of money to the financial market which was lying idle in their bank accounts. More capital investment will ensure increased production of goods and services which will boost the economic growth of the Country. Therefore, it is important to take steps towards raising awareness about investment among women who are either employed, own a business or are housewives.
Under investment by women deepens the gender disparity and compels women to be dependent on male counterparts for finances even when they have worked their majority of life. Financial literacy can help to bridge the gender gap and make women independent in its truest sense.
Pre-defined gender roles have kept women away from learning about investment and taking charge of their own finances. It is essential to raise awareness about finance management and investment which can be done at both, organizational and individual level. Financial Awareness raising camps by local government at regional level will be a welcome step in this regard. Banks could extend additional help in making female customers aware about the options of investment present to them. These are policy changes which have to be implemented on a macro level. For example, the World bank supported Indonesia in imparting financial literacy training to 4.3 million migrant workers, majority of which were women, under its new financial inclusion strategy.
At a micro level, we all can take part in this awareness drive. Employers of both the private and public sector can regularly organize financial planning and finance management training camps for their female employees. Teaching personal finance and investment strategy shall be a mandatory part of induction training for the new employees. This will ensure that the employees make the best use of their salary from the early years.
National Centre for Financial Education (NCFE) has been working for designing programs such as Financial Education Program For Adults (FEPA), Financial Education Training Programme (FETP) to create awareness among financially excluded sections of the society so that they can avail the benefit of various financial products and services available.
We are thoroughly prepared in our School and University to earn money but nowhere it is taught to us as to what to do with the money we earn. Our formal education sector in India drastically lacks in teaching finance to students. Schools and colleges should include personal finance as a mandatory subject for all the students to introduce them with the concepts of financial planning, management and investment.
NCFE has devised a National Financial Literacy Assessment Test (N-FLAT) for school students to assess them on their financial knowledge. NCFE along with CBSE has also designed a Money Smart School Program (MSSP), which the schools can voluntarily introduce in their curriculum. It is highly needed that the Schools and Universities run such financial literacy programmes which will not only help students to understand finance but also provide equal access of financial knowledge to men and women in early years of their life.
With the onset of the new digital era, trading and investing in stocks have become super easy. One can easily invest from anywhere in the world, at any time on just one click on his/her mobile phone. This has made investing in stock a hassle-free process and has also opened doors to millions of new investors including women. Online trading platforms can play an important role in bringing in more women investors in the stock market by introducing women friendly schemes on their platform. For example, any kind of sale or discount offers have always been popular among women, therefore, on the occasion of International Women’s Day, several trading platforms ran a scheme of Zero brokerage on all the trades done by women. Such offers motivate women to learn and research more about equity investing and start their investment journey as soon as possible. Such Trading Platforms can also help offices in organizing training camps to help employees understand the basics of equity trading and stock market. These steps will not only help to bring women on equal footing with men when it comes to stock market investment but inclusion of women in finance markets will increase their customer base.
There is a dire need for more online platforms and communities which lend support to women in their investment journey. Such initiatives are safe spaces for women to independently explore the field of finance, share their concerns related to money, actively learn about investment, understand their own financial objectives and develop the most suited investment strategy for themselves. For example, Female invest is one such commercial e-learning platform which is working towards educating and empowering women in achieving financial gender equality. There are also some financial planning platforms which work exclusively for women and along with raising awareness about finance management, these platforms provide personalized, research-based advice regarding investment opportunities to women in accordance with their needs and objectives. Such platforms shorten the time-consuming process which goes behind research and analysis and provide extra aid to working women who are struggling to find time between long working hours and tedious house chores.
External aids discussed above can only show the path, but it is women themselves who have to take the first step towards their financial independence. It is important for them to overcome the fear or hesitation of dealing with their own money and understand that investment or stock market is not a rocket science. In this internet era, finance related content is easily and freely available and accessible online to both the genders equally. Women should utilize their time to consume more such content and educate themselves with the help of online courses, video series, articles and webinars on financial literacy. Women should also regularly discuss finance related issues and investment with their peers, friends and family members. This will help them to build a supporting environment around them which will help them to learn and grow gradually in the world of finance.
In recent years, during Covid 19 pandemic, there has been a sharp increase in women participation in the equities market in India. Pay cuts and layoffs during lockdown led to budget constraints for many middle-class families and encouraged women to learn about equities investment to grow their money. This has proved to be a positive step towards changing investment habits of women.
Further, various studies globally have shown that when women invest, they are better in making returns in comparison to men. A report by one of the online investment platforms has depicted that women investors have earned 10% more returns on their investment in the past four years in comparison to their male counterparts. This happens because women are more disciplined and constant with their investment, focus on research and prefer tax saving options after due diligence.
Women possess some traits which are naturally suited to the skill of investing. Their non-impulsive nature and eagerness to learn with proper risk assessment help them to adopt a more careful approach in investment and earn better returns. Therefore, mindful investment and long-term financial security will empower women to lead a financially independent life and bridge the gender gap prevailing in society.