Let’s disrupt money.
Money is power — live-the-life-I-want power, get-your-hand-off-my-leg power, start-my-dream-business power. And we women have been on the outside looking in.
It’s not our fault. Our society and institutions have long put us at a disadvantage with regards to money.
It can feel benign: “Mom and Dad? How much money do you make?” “Honey, that’s not a polite question.”
From there, some of the media can infantilize us when it writes about money for women: “Find out your money type!” “How to skip that latte and retire like a boss!” Our teachers punish us for being girls taking math (we get lower grades for the same math answers as boys); our institutions punish us financially for having babies; and our bosses punish us monetarily for working-while-woman, much more for working-while-woman-of-color, and again for working-while-mothers.
The topic of money has become so taboo that we are more likely to talk about sex with our girlfriends than we are to talk about money. Hell, we are more likely to have sex on a third date than we are to talk about money. That most physically intimate of acts and yet money is more shameful.
How are we supposed to close our gender money gaps if we are operating in the dark about money??
The result: We haven’t.
Our society and institutions have long put us at a disadvantage with regards to money, leaving us at less than full equality: It will be 38 years until the wage gap closes for white women, 106 years for black women, and 230 years for Latina women. Women are 80% more likely than men to be impoverished during retirement. Only 6% of Fortune 500 companies have female CEOs. Companies led by teams of women receive less than 2.5% of venture capital funding, while those led by women of color get just 0.2%.
Enough. Nothing is going to change until we change something.
Let’s take our existing collective financial power — as more than half of the workforce, we direct trillions of dollars in consumer spending— and use it to change the money game for all women.
We will do this by disrupting societal expectations that talking about money is “unladylike” and “unattractive.”
We will talk about money with friends, partners, colleagues, family. We will talk to our daughters and nieces about it. We will talk about it at the dinner table. We will normalize these discussions and thus, collectively, give ourselves the information we need to close our gender money gaps.
We will negotiate money on every raise, every promotion, every new job.
We will not tolerate gender pay gaps — or pay gaps based on ethnicity, race or orientation — in our companies. We will charge our corporate diversity groups to advocate for us on closing money gaps, to press for leadership teams that reflect the composition of our country today, and to change any corporate policy that is better suited for 1967… and thus saps our earnings power ... all by 2025. We will ask our questions and make our cases in company town halls and gatherings.
We will spend our money mindfully, allocating a portion of our purchases to women-owned businesses and businesses owned by people of color.
We will withhold our spending from companies that objectify us (Hi, Hooters) or do not reflect us in their employee base, their management team, or board of directors.
We will take the subversive step of investing on behalf of our future selves.
We will disrupt the old boys’ way of investing: One in which women are still excluded from the most highly paid parts of the industry; one that is expensive; one that is built around “winning”; one that invests our money in companies regardless of their values; one that has taken on too much risk, thus imperiling our economy. One that has thus felt inaccessible to us, and as a result, has cost us ... big time.
As more women invest, we will demonstrate through a show of force that we believe in each other enough to invest in each other — whether we can invest $1 or millions.
We will do this by choosing investments that advance women and help improve our world. We should seek to commit 25% of our investment portfolios to “impact investments” by 2025. And in doing so, we will support women-run businesses and diverse businesses — because what’s good for the world can be good for our pocket books — as the research has been telling us.
We will take every opportunity to advocate for public policies that seek to level the money playing field for women — including the Paycheck Fairness Act and mandated paid family leave — as well as policies that help improve the environment.
What binds us is our belief that we can drive positive economic and social change by advancing women.
The progress of “feminism as an individual sport” has stalled. But by coming together as we are doing in other areas of our lives — using the power of the purse, taking a fearless and active stance, and disrupting the patriarchal grip on money — we and our male allies can drive meaningful change.
If millions of us disrupt our relationship with money, if millions of us demand change in our companies, if millions of us invest in other women, if millions of us demand women-friendly policies from government, we can change the game.
Please join us. You can learn more here.
This article was originally published in Ellevest's newsletter, What The Elle.