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Talking About Money Is Still Taboo... And I’m Over It

Talking About Money Is Still Taboo... And I’m Over It

If I'd had three glasses of wine and we were talking late into the night, I might say that — gee, if I didn't know better — I could almost argue that our societal norms had been formed in a way that keep us women from having full power.

(If I'd had four glasses of wine, I might even invoke the word “patriarchy” and note how the guys — as much as we love so many of them — have set the rules of society…which keeps us women from having full power. But then I would also have really a bad hangover the next day.)

It's not just that we (men and women) have been conditioned to picture a male when the word "leader " is used...or that we have been conditioned to feel negative emotions when women are seen to be looking for power or attention. (Hi, Hillary.)

It goes even deeper, and can be even more subtle, than that.

We can probably all agree that money is a form of power.

And we can probably all agree that a key to full equality for women is financial equality.

But how are we supposed to get to financial equality if society tells us we aren't supposed to talk about money?

That it's not ladylike...that it's crass...that it's tacky...(or that it’s whatever word your grandmother used to say and freeze your mother in her tracks).

That it's ok to talk about sex, but it’s not ok to talk about money. Heck, it's ok to have sex with someone, but it’s not ok to talk about money with that same someone. (Imagine asking, on the third date: “So, Jeff, how much money do you make?” There may be no fourth date.) And, anecdotally, (way) more people have been physically intimate before they get married than have been financially intimate.

How are we supposed to get to financial equality if we accept the messages we receive that money topics are for men?

Just as science has been for men and tech has been for men? When the investing industry’s algorithms have been built for men (with their shorter lives and higher earnings)? When we receive the messages that, as women, we need to first “explore our relationship with money" as some sort of prerequisite to getting in financial control. (Ugh, seriously? Is it just me or is that infantilizing? Do men ever have to “explore their relationship with money”?)

The ripple effects here matter.

If we are not talking about money, how are we supposed to know what raise to ask for? What investment firm to use? What questions to ask our investment firm? (Ok, here's what you should look for in an investment firm.) How much of our salaries to invest? (Here’s the answer to that one too.)

As Penny Pritzker — the former U.S. Secretary of Commerce who chairs PSP Capital and is a new Ellevest backer — told me when I asked her what advice she had for women looking to get in financial control: “Do your homework. Don't be afraid to ask questions...This is not something to be afraid of.”

We women have broken through other taboos; in doing so, we have changed society. Many of our mothers and grandmothers marched in order to build a better world for us; some of us have marched with the same goal, for our daughters. Up next: breaking the money taboo.

This article originally appeared in Ellevest's newsletter, What The Elle.

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