By Caroline Banhidy
True gender equality is a subject that made me embark on a journey to help women achieve financial independence. For over five years I have touched upon this theme in many ways; sometimes just scratching its surface lightly, at other times with more seriousness and purpose, and on other occasions with downright passion. It is only recently that I have been able to put it all together, though I am aware that there is much more to learn and understand. I hope that the answers I find on this quest will help bring about true equality for women as well as increase our ability to create wealth without emotional anxiety.
I am not a feminist, nor am I an activist. What I am is sick and tired of women being poor, being victims, of being the ones who make the sacrifices and take the hits, the ones picking up the slack. I am tired of women saying I can’t. I do not want any more excuses: no more blame, no more denials, no more justifications.
It is common knowledge that women are still not represented equally in management positions, that we earn less and usually end up in roles of lower status, and that we retire in poverty. The tasks of raising children and caring for a family, discrimination, the lack of flexible work options all factor into this situation, but so too are women’s inability to negotiate, our reticence in being assertive, and a general lack of entitlement felt by women.
Women are inclined to automatically opt for being nice and likable. Indeed, we are socially programmed to be accommodating and to consider our needs after those of the greater good, whether it’s family, community or work. When women dare break the conventionally accepted gender norms for being nice, we are judged harshly.
Women actually make better leaders and managers. Women focus externally when making decisions, taking into account the environment, the team and what is best for the whole. On the other hand, men focus internally and are driven by ego and power. The decisions they make are based more on what is good for them. Neither approach is wrong; they simply lead to different conclusions.
I think we can change this through awareness as well as actively recognizing the problem, discussing it and asking frankly for support from women who already occupy senior positions. It pains me to say this, but women tend to be their own worst enemies. We are not supportive of each other when it comes to material issues such as moving up the career ladder. It’s all very well to cuddle up to the chumminess around the water cooler where we can all feel equal, but then things get nasty if someone aims for more.
Women can be resentful (even cruel) when one of us wants to move on ahead. That woman is often left to her own devices. When a woman promotes herself, plays the game of politics and asserts her right to seek power and influence, her integrity is often challenged, whereas a man who demonstrates this kind of ambition is respected for it. You don’t see many women taking this path because it is a lonely one and there is a great amount of social pressure to conform to what is acceptably feminine. In contrast, men easily manage to leverage their networks and garner support; they are quick to encourage success in other men. They applaud the accumulation of wealth as a measure of that success. Women don’t.
Women need to change. We need to face our fears bravely and take the necessary steps to challenge our perceptions of what is appropriate. Women need to start celebrating their own success and that of other women.
Working for less pay is no longer an option. Stand for something.
Eighty percent of women die single; seventy-five percent of those die poor. This cycle of poverty will be broken only when women begin to realize that we are entitled to more. We not only have the skills, we have the power to deliver. We just need to rev up our boldness, embrace that power and give it a red hot go.
About the Author: Caroline is CEO of Smart Women’s Money and is passionate about helping women step-up to take responsibility for their themselves through financial independence. She assists women give meaning to their money, so they can create long term wealth.
Smart Women’s Money provides insight and commentary on issues related to women, money and leadership. Particular emphasis is placed on helping women establish a healthy relationship with their money to create and sustain wealth. We offer a platform to share experiences and stories, programs to change un-resourceful habits and limiting beliefs and courses to educate you about investment options and wealth creation strategies.