Money has power. Capital flows reflect our values, whether we admit it or not. Our priorities for money create our society. Many of us recognize this at the macro level, but we don’t think of the role we play as individuals, nor do we think our financial lives have any impact on the larger dynamics at play. But they do. Collectively, women have a tremendous opportunity to shift our societal norms. Consider the #MeToo movement. We can also shift our thinking about money. And in that shift, we have the potential to change the values that underpin our economy and our society.
For centuries both money and power have been in the hands of men. Men earn more money than women; men have more net worth. Last year almost 98% of venture capital in the United States went to men, meaning that female entrepreneurs received only 2.2% of investments.1 It is not surprising that money supports the things men value. That is why many of the things women care about — our communities, women’s health care, products that meet our needs — often get short shrift.
The systems have been stacked against us. They have been made to disempower women and their money, and one result is that we lack confidence in our ability to invest and grow our wealth. Only 9% of women believe that they are more capable than men when it comes to investing, though research shows that when women do invest, they outperform men2. Managing and investing our money seems so overwhelming that it is often the least favored item on our “To Do” list. The majority of us hand that responsibility to the men in our lives, without a second thought. Although women influence 83% consumer spending and make the money management decisions in our homes3, only 13% of us are responsible for long-term investment decisions.4 When we hand over the control of our money, we are perpetuating the system. We are giving up our stewardship, our power, and our potential for change.
As most of us aren’t involved with our money, we don’t often think about impact it has in the world. The choices you make — or don’t — to spend, save, and invest your money have an impact. Does it align with who you are? Is it in service of the things you care about and the things you want to foster in the world? Or is it in service of the very things that you complain about and worry over?
When we don’t take an interest in our money, we don’t have any idea what it supports.
A growing group of women imagine a different path. They believe that if women were empowered, confident investors who knew about the opportunities to invest their money purposefully, more money would be invested in local communities, other women, socially conscious businesses, and the planet.
Do you know the impact of your investments today? Is your money in alignment with your values? If your answer is “I don’t know” or “No”, then it’s time to take action.
The Good News
Today, women have discretionary control over 50% of the money in the United States, whether they act on it or not. That percentage is expected to go up to 65% by 2030.5 In addition to the increase in women’s wealth, the death of the Baby Boom Generation will lead to one of the greatest transfers of wealth in U.S. history, with $36 trillion expected to be transitioned to the next generation of men and women in the coming decades.6 That is an amazing opportunity for conscious female investors.
The number of female financial experts is also increasing. Many of these leaders understand the need for a different relationship between women and our money. Sites like Ellevest, personal finance bloggers, and financial advisors are working hard to help women build their financial acumen. These pioneers encourage women to learn about investing and support women in building wealth. They are helping women bridge the confidence gap, overcome long-held taboos about talking about money, and reclaim their financial agency — and we applaud them.
There is now an opportunity to take the conversation farther to support women in aligning their money and their values. Currently, too many female-focused advisors are recommending traditional investment strategies and financial products that are designed to optimize financial return regardless of social cost. This strategy does not align with many women’s values. It does not serve our communities and our planet. We need better options.
Morgan Stanley reports that 84% of women and 86% of millennials want more from their money.7 We are demanding BOTH a social and a financial return. We want to direct our dollars toward a future of prosperity, inclusivity, and sustainability. We want to see our children, our communities, and our planet flourish. We want our lives to matter, and we want the ways that we show up to be in support of our values. We want to walk our talk.
Thankfully, there is an answer. Over the past 20 years, a socially responsible investment approach has been evolving. Innovators have used their money to experiment, build, and test new financial instruments, proving that it is possible achieve both a financial and a social return. Though the sector was primarily developed by high net wealth individuals, institutional investors, and foundations, the rest of us can join the movement. At the end of 2017, more than 25% of total assets under professional management in the United States were invested in sustainable, responsible, and impact investing (SRI) assets.8 This type of investing is becoming mainstream across many asset classes and available to all investors (accredited and unaccredited).
Call to Action
Conversations about women, money, and values need to be one conversation. As women take their place at the financial table, they need to build a new table crafted for them: one that provides financial education and supports the alignment of money and values. Demand for this financial alignment has already started and will grow in the months and years to come. This is a movement. It is a monumental shift in thinking about the possibility of money. The time is now, and women are poised to lead.
Join us and become part of the movement.
This article first appeared in Medium.
6. Havens and Schervish. A Golden Age of Philanthropy Still Beckons. 2014.
7. Morgan Stanley Institute for Sustainable Investing. Sustainable Signals: New Data from the Individual Investor. 2017.
8. US SIF Foundation. Report on Sustainable, Responsible and Impact Investing Trends. October 2018. https://www.ussif.org/trends
Janine Firpo is a values-aligned investor, social innovator, and advocate of women supporting women. Amy Gudgeon is a financial activist and the Founder of Studio Watershed, a social impact consulting firm focused on strategy, scale and financial sustainability.