I was recently asked the question, "What can parents, teachers and leaders of young people do to get more girls interested in business and investing?"
It’s a simple enough question, but quite complex to begin to answer.
I began by thinking about the female CEO’s and investment managers I’m familiar with, thinking they might provide good inspiration.
Lisa Su of Advanced Micro Devices, Jane Fraser at Citigroup, and Mary Barra at General Motors come to mind, and I do think they provide great inspiration for girls and young women.
While those women provide great examples, I’m also aware that only 41 of the Fortune 500 companies have a female CEO, which doesn’t statistically come close to matching the workforce.
To me, it seems there are issues much deeper than a “lack of interest” by our daughters.
That being said, “lack of interest” is certainly one of many factors at play, but it shouldn’t be a reason to dismiss the issue. Rather, it should be a reason we need to be EVEN MORE INTENTIONAL with how we approach girls when talking about business and investing.
In trying to learn more, I recently spoke to Maya Corbic, the founder of DINARII Financial Education Academy about the topic.
She said she notices that it takes a lot more effort to get her daughter interested in talking about stocks and investing, partially because her son is older, but also just by nature. She noted that as a parent, it’s easy to fall into the trap of only talking to the kid that’s interested in it.
Instead, she said it is important to make an extra effort to try to find a way to make it seem both interesting and important to our daughters.
Maya suggested stressing the IMPORTANCE of being financially literate as a way to get girls interested. Look for ways to make personal finance lessons appeal to their sense of empowerment and pride.
“You want to be a strong, independent woman don’t you? Well, you better get your money right!”
As the father of a STRONG-WILLED teenage daughter myself, I know a little “Girl Power” motivation can work wonders.
As they get older, and you begin talking about relationships and dating, personal finance should be part of the conversation.
Too many women feel trapped in abusive relationships because they don’t have control of the money.
Financial problems are one of the leading causes of divorce.
None of us want this for our children, but maybe you can prevent it by raising a daughter that refuses to ever lose control of her finances.
The Power of Confidence
I’ve been in the investment profession for over 20 years, and started studying markets as a teenager. Intuitively and anecdotally, with apologies for generalizing, I noticed that boys and men have a tendency to be confident in their abilities, even when they have no basis for such confidence.
I always refer to the classic image of a husband and wife that are driving around lost. The husband says “I’ve got this,” while the wife is begging him to pull over and ask for directions.
Same goes with investing, I always said. Women will ask for directions, and it serves them well.
I’ve never had any statistical proof to back up my claims that on average, men have a sense of false confidence when it comes to investing. I simply observed it enough to believe it to be true.
Ahana Samat, an up-and-coming Gen Z financial education blogger, recently dove into the topic of females vs. males when it comes to investing.
Her article, Money Makes The World Go Round. How do we make it inclusive?, really opened my eyes, confirmed my suspicions, and introduced me to two important articles linked below.
"In my research, I discovered “Boys Will Be Boys: Gender, Overconfidence, and Common Stock Investment” by Brad M. Barber and Terrance Odean through a Forbes article “Why Women are Better at Investing.” The paper concludes that while men are more aggressive traders, women gain more returns from investments."
The data suggest that women should have more confidence in themselves as investors.
We need to make sure our daughters realize as much. Anything we can do to boost their confidence that investing isn’t just a “boy thing”, is a step in the right direction.
The Real World
I recently saw this tweet from Kristen Anderson, Founder and CEO of Catch.co, a company that provides employee benefits to independent workers.
I’m not too macho to say that it brought me to tears for what it represented. It’s also just a beautiful picture of a woman crushing life on all levels!
I LOVE that we are in a place in society where Kristen feels empowered to share this image for our daughters and sons to see.
I’m also heart-broken that it needed to be said – that it hasn’t been discussed and solved generations ago.
What can we do to get our daughters interested in business and investing?
Show them images like this. Normalize being a mother and businesswoman.
For the future to look different than the past, we will need more companies to adapt their corporate cultures to embrace change. They will need to find ways to support the mothers in their ranks, among other things.
If images like Kristen’s are normalized to our daughters AND sons as they grow up, they are more likely to demand a corporate culture that supports that vision.
Liz Simmie is the co-founder of Honeytree Investment Management, a global asset management firm focused on “responsible growth”.
She was the first person I asked for help, as she is highly in tune with the topic of gender and racial bias in the business and investment world. She is also quick to point out “corporate hypocrisy” when a company’s actions don’t match its self-promotional press releases.
When discussing the low number of women in the finance and investment world, she said part of the problem is how the business is portrayed in media.
She said “If you think the business is yelling into a phone and screaming Buy! Buy! Buy! like Jim Cramer – you’re a certain type of person, and not as likely to be a girl. But that’s not the business, and girls don’t know that if we don’t tell them”.
She also expressed that many of the young women that DO end up in the field are chased out by toxic cultures at finance and investment firms.
She said “Toxic culture can mean a lot of things… from work expectations that don’t allow for family balance, to testosterone-fueled ‘bro cultures’ where decisions are made on golf courses instead of in boardrooms.”
The same way it’s important for us to “normalize” the image of Kristen Anderson negotiating deals while 9 months pregnant, it’s also important that we teach children to not accept toxic cultures as normal.
That’s certainly easier said than done, and I’m not exactly sure how to go about it, but I know one thing: If you have financial flexibility, you can be pickier about your corporate culture. Put another way… Save your money so you can leave a crummy situation if you find yourself in one.
It starts by talking.
Going back to where we started, how do we get more girls interested in business and investing?
Talk to them. And keep talking to them, even if you don’t think they’re listening, ESPECIALLY as they become teenagers and young adults.
Teach them to save a dime or quarter for every dollar they make. If they get that ONE lesson, the rest of the personal finance lessons usually take care of themselves.
Talk about the women you want your kids to look up to. Tell their stories.
Talk about the companies they know and use, and ask them why they think those companies are successful.
Teach them to stand up for themselves, to not tolerate sexism or misogyny from anyone.
Talk to them about how they see the world? What are their goals and dreams?
Show them how finances play a critical role in whether or not they achieve those goals and dreams.
“A dream is just a dream without a dollar and gasoline” is what I was told growing up.
We need to make sure we equip our kids, especially our daughters, with the skills and confidence to chase down those dreams without fear.