Breaking Down Financial Barriers for Women: an Expert Guide to Money

There’s never been a more pressing time to talk about money. With the cost of living crisis soaring, it’s imperative that we have open, honest conversations about money as women. In this expert guide, we’ll be looking at the greatest financial barriers facing women today and what, practically, needs to happen for women’s financial progression

With the help of some of the UK’s leading financial experts – many of which you will hear from at – I’m going to deep-dive into money, the gender pay gap and financial barriers facing women today.

What are the main financial barriers facing women today?

is Head of Operations at , a financial education platform set up to break down the barriers to financial education through expert guidance. Phoebe points to the Gender Pay Gap as an ongoing problem which women face - and a huge financial barrier in terms of expected career progression. The 2022 Gov Gender Pay Gap report stated that “in monetary terms, the mean hourly difference in ordinary pay is £1.44 compared to £1.48 in 2021 and the median hourly difference is £2.41 compared to £2.68 in 2021”. Although over time it’s been declining slowly, there is still clearly a problem here.

Ellis believes overlapping duties is another issue women face. Typically, women are the ones expected to give up work for family commitments and who may have to give up their career in order to support the ongoing needs of their family. In terms of breaking this down, perhaps a change in societal attitudes towards women and responsibilities is what is needed here.

Ellis says another financial barrier women face is closer to retirement, when we start to look at our pensions. Named as the ‘gender pension gap’ typically women’s pension pot sizes differ largely to that of men’s, almost twice the difference in size. This issue compounds itself due to low pay, maternity leave, career gaps for child birth and part time work at times, meaning women’s pension pots end up having less time to accumulate.

Wealth Activator for Women, Money Mindset Coach and Business Growth Strategist, Rebecca Barr says "as hard as it may be to hear in 2023, the reality is, it is undeniably harder for women to make money. Neuroscience confirms that women are more risk-adverse than their male counterparts, leading to less women creating smart investment portfolios and making bold financial moves. Add to this, layers of societal conditioning and expectations of women’s potential, encouraging them to stay small, and play it safe, in order to be liked, and it's easy to see why we could be unintentionally stopping ourselves from ever achieving true financial freedom." She believes every woman must recognise and tackle their deep-rooted beliefs around money, which cause them to self-sabotage.

How can we overcome these barriers?

Cathy Brennan, founder of financial coaching business Resourceful Planner Limited, believes that women’s money confidence is a huge barrier and we must lift the taboo on money. She says "money conversations remain taboo at home, in school, at work and in relationships and can result in women being unprepared when it comes to managing their finances, asking for the salary they deserve and believing their self-worth is equal to their net worth." She talks about the importance of knowledge; but how can we build knowledge?

Laura Thursfield, a Chartered Financial Planner at Mazars LLP, also impresses the importance of knowledge. She says “women face significant hurdles when it comes to money. Traditional stereotypes and perceived biases in women’s attitude to and the management of money has eroded their confidence and proved a barrier to women building their knowledge of financial products and investment.” Thursfield stresses the need for improved financial education from a young age to build this confidence.

What tools do we need to secure a safe financial future for women?

Priscilla Low is Head of Finance at Yonder, a UK-based rewards credit card company. She explains how this confidence-gap occurred: arguing there’s a gender imbalance when it comes to finance, particularly when it comes to credit. Men have traditionally had better access to financial resources and education while these opportunities were denied to women for a long time. This has resulted in a culture of dependence on male partners for financial situations and this dependence can have an adverse impact on women’s lives. Many young women have been scared off of credit, thanks to predatory lending practices from legacy credit providers. This means there’s a whole generation of women missing out on the benefits from responsible use of credit; avoiding all credit usage can have a detrimental effect on these women in the future when it comes to securing mortgages or other credit products.

In order to secure a safe financial future for women, we need to have more open discussions when it comes to money and credit, and introduce financial education at an early age. This will enable women to embrace financial literacy, building a better understanding of their finances. Better education will improve financial health which will in turn reduce the stress and worry that can often occur over money. A better financial education will help women gain confidence which will influence how they save, invest and spend, helping their money go further.

She presses the need for financial institutions to step up for women. By engaging more with their customers, financial institutions would be able to make suggestions based on their specific spending and payment habits - such as recommending better products or access to cheaper and more holistic debt advice. Not only will this help alleviate financial stress, but it will make finances more engaging and help women feel more empowered to take better ownership of their finances.

What's needed to support women juggling work and family responsibilities?

Lydia Howland is Head of Service Design at Nous.co; she wants to help households navigate the cost of living crisis. She argues that while the cost-of-living crisis is affecting everyone, it seems that the burden of coping in these stricken financial times is falling on women. They are taking the lead in making sacrifices, balancing the books, and trying to earn extra cash.

Nous’ research shows that women are more likely to reduce spending on clothes, reduce spending on eating out, cut back on trips with children and more likely to reduce or stop saving altogether. They also found that 61% of men said they were still able to save each month, compared to just 45% of women. One of the best defences against rising costs is to ask for more money from your employer. Because, unless you’ve already had a pay rise this year, then - in real terms - you are earning at least 10% less than you did last year for the same work.

Of course, this is true for everyone who hasn’t received a pay rise this year, but let’s not forget that the current gender pay gap is not far behind current inflation levels at almost 9%, so women are particularly at risk from the compounding effect of a serious double-whammy.

On family, Phoebe Ellis talks about the importance of support networks: "it’s having the option to feel like if something were to happen at work, to a family member or something as simple as a train delay, that you would have the support network meaning someone would be there to help you out."

It is also hugely important to have this kind of support from your employer. Many employers now support working families and women with benefits like increased paid leave, flexible working arrangements, extended maternity and paternity leave, nursery allowances, corporate day care etc. all of which hugely help women maintain their work life balance and ensure they are able to have options and support at both work and at home should they need it.

And what about the Gender Pay Gap?

Cara Lambert, a Wealth Planner at Tees, believes that support needs to be provided within companies when it comes to unconscious gender bias. To support women with their career goals, businesses should show them that the opportunity for promotion remains available to them regardless of the decisions they make around having a family. To create transparency and accountability, all businesses should be publishing their statistics with regards to the gender pay gap so that this is publicly available. This will allow women to choose which businesses they want to work within.

More awareness amongst men for the challenges that women have to face is also important, particularly in households where there are more traditional values. Nursery costs are extortionate and for some women, this means that it isn’t feasible for women to return to work and cover the costs of nursery. Looking at other countries in Europe, childcare is heavily subsidised to reduce the costs to families or even provided in the workplace.

Where possible, businesses need to provide more flexible working hours and locations in order to allow parents to look after their families, whilst also being able to work. Companies should provide more generous parental and maternity leave policies, raise awareness amongst men of the challenges women face, make childcare more affordable, provide flexible working options, and educate both individuals and businesses on financial and other support available.

So there you have it. Confidence, education and company accountability is what we need to break through the cost of living crisis, the gender pay gap and other financial barriers facing women in 2023.

If you want to find out more about how to break down financial barriers, join us on 10 March for our .

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