Women and Wealth: The Changing Face of Women in the Economy

Published on June 11, 2021

Worldwide, a disproportionate number of women face economic hardship as a result of negative prevailing attitudes towards females in the workplace. Discrimination against women leads to them occupying lower-paid jobs instead of being in top management positions. As a result, they are less able to acquire wealth, land, and capital. This also greatly restricts their ability to shape and transform the economic and political landscape. To worsen matters, women are often the primary caregivers for elderly adults, children, and those with disabilities. This often unpaid work relegates them to the home where they have even less opportunity to improve their economic position.

Women are underrepresented and excluded

Despite women making up half of the worldwide population, they are grossly underrepresented in the workforce. It is reckoned that if as many women as men had well-paid jobs, the global economy would increase by $160tn overnight.

However, in many countries, women are excluded from participating in the economy for a number of regulatory, and cultural reasons. One of the main issues is the prevailing influence of patriarchal norms. This pervasive mindset elevates the man as the head of the home; the main breadwinner and the king of his castle. In many parts of the world, women are seen as only being good for housekeeping and child-rearing.

Leah Steele, holistic wealth strategist, and thought leader feels strongly that women need to recognize their innate right to be wealthy. “You came here with wealth and abundance codes imprinted in your DNA. They’re already available to you. This isn’t something that you need to go in search of or something that someone else needs to give you. You already have access. You just have to make a decision to open up to remember them.”

Even in the ‘developed’ world, gender discrimination remains. The US-made pay discrimination an offense back in 1963 but, decades later, employers still discriminate against women by offering them lower salaries, passing them over for promotion, and threatening to let them go if they fall pregnant.

Women can create vast wealth

Despite the ingrained misconceptions, many studies show comprehensively that women have the ability to not only lead at the highest, corporate levels but to excel, delivering above-average returns in even the largest multinationals. A study from Latin America shows that businesses run by women outstrip businesses run by men—with 20% higher revenues—despite the fact that females receive less than half of the initial investment. Moreover, women are gaining wealth at a faster rate than any other time in history. Estimates suggest that women currently own 32% of the world’s wealth and are adding $5 trillion annually to the figure. Steele says, You have to put the work in to get the reward. You have to show up and take inspired action. You have to do that over and over again. It isn’t easy; if it were, everyone would be doing it!

Signs of change

Leah steele
Photo credit: Leah Steele, with permission

So, perhaps it’s high time that women began to get the visibility that they deserve. In the US, Kamala Harris has become the nation’s first woman Vice President. The Secretary of the treasury role— normally occupied by men—has been filled by Janet Yellen. In her previous role, as chair of the central banking Federal Reserve System, she was famously vocal on issues relating to women and the economy:

“Evidence suggests that many women remain unable to achieve their goals. If these obstacles persist, we will squander the potential of many of our citizens and incur a substantial loss to the productive capacity of our economy at a time when the aging of the population and weak productivity growth are already weighing on economic growth.”

In many private companies, women are also coming to the fore. Jane Fraser, CEO of the renowned City Group, is the first woman to head up the institution. Her contemporary, Stacy Cunningham, is chief at the New York Stock Exchange—the ultimate symbol of US financial might.

What are the next steps?

Whilst women continue to face many real economic challenges worldwide, perhaps the biggest challenge is in changing their own thinking. In traditional relationships, women often take a laid-back approach to money, allowing their male partners to take all the financial decisions. However, it’s worth bearing a vital piece of information in mind: females generally live longer than males and also divorce rates are on the up. statistically speaking, around 80% of women will have to manage their own finances at some point in life. 

Steele asks, “Is what you are doing is serving you? You can choose to go down a spiral of fear or you can empower yourself; reclaim your power from the ‘fear factory’.” Women should be encouraged to make sound financial decisions that benefit them. When it comes to educational and work choices, they should not be constrained by what they think others want them to do. In short, women should have the confidence to step out on their own and become the economic leaders of tomorrow.

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