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Financial Literacy Has a Gender Gap

The gender pay gap has – rightfully – gotten a lot of attention in the last year. In case you’re not familiar with this issue, here’s a quick overview. Globally, women make 63% of what men do. In the US, the gap is 81%. That number is even lower when you look deeper into the pay gap minorities face: black women earn 61% what white men do, Native American women earn 58%, and Latina women earn 53%. Sources do not agree on when parity will occur, although in December 2018, the World Economic Forum said it could take 202 years globally for women and men to earn equal pay.

In the September 3, 2019, edition of the Wall Street Journal, Lauren Silva Laughlin brought attention to another gap between women and men in the article Financial Literacy Has a Gender Gap. She introduces the reader to a heap of daunting facts and statistics:

  • Only 23% of women take charge of long-term financial-planning decisions.

  • Most married women defer to their spouse: 56% aged 20-34 and 54% over 51.

  • Women are receiving the majority of college and graduate degrees and are therefore carrying more student debt.

  • Men receive financial help from their parents longer than women after age 30: 62% of men and 49% of women.

  • More female seniors are living in poverty than males: 17% compared to 12%.

  • Twice as many women as men in the US have NO MONEY in the stock market.

As the gender pay gap has been brought to light, some countries have enacted laws to shrink the gap. Many have made it illegal to pay a man more than a woman for the same work. Some, like the UK, require companies to report their pay gaps annually (report, not shrink). Some companies, like Salesforce, have taken it upon themselves to audit and narrow the pay gap.

Narrowing the financial literacy gap will take a similar, conscious effort to narrow. And this gap doesn’t just relate to personal finance. Susan Colantuono opened many of our eyes in her TED talk, “The Career Advice Your Probably Didn’t Get.” She pointed out that men know more about their company’s strategy and financials because their bosses and mentors simply spoke to the men about them. Mentors to women were much more likely to speak to them about confidence.

If you are responsible for training others, implement financial programs and ensure that women take advantage. Educate the mentors in your organization about the inclination to talk to men about the financials. If you are a woman, read books, listen to podcasts, and get advice. If we make a concerted effort, the financial literacy gap doesn’t have to take 202 years to dissipate.

Note: this blog also posted at

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