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International Women’s Day: where are we with women’s financial wellbeing?

International Women’s Day: where are we with women’s financial wellbeing? alt
Choose to challenge

Is this year’s International Women’s Day a cause for celebration? At Cushon, we’re not so sure. Over the past year, while we’ve seen some of the most exemplary handling of the Covid crisis from female leaders like New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern and Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan, [1] we’ve also seen women lose a disproportionate number of jobs [2], we’ve seen the progress towards gender equality stagger back more than we’d ever expected [3], and we’ve seen women take on far more than the lion’s share of caring responsibilities when schools shut for much of the past twelve months.

It’s an unsettling picture. We want to help redress the balance, and while we can’t claim to have all the answers, nor solve these issues overnight, we figure that starting with what we know and talking a little about financial wellbeing, is a good place to start.

What can employers do?

Employers should, perhaps, consider how both men and women invest. A much higher percentage of men hold investments (one in five women compared to one in three men [4] but when women do invest, they save a similar amount as their male colleagues, if not more.  

There’s a clear need to encourage women to invest, and with the gender pay gap closing at a glacial pace – never mind the decision to halt institutional gender pay reporting – alongside the fact that women are entering their retirement with less capital than men,[5] there is potentially a huge abyss between the sexes’ finances.

To help bridge this gap, employers should help their female employees look after their financial wellbeing, understand their opportunities for saving and investing, and be equipped to make more informed decisions about their finances. In fact, a survey conducted by Cushon showed that over 88% [6] of senior HR and benefits professionals believe it is their responsibility to provide support on all aspects of financial wellbeing, from savings, investment to retirement.

There are a number of initiatives that employers can introduce to improve their employees’ financial wellbeing, no matter their gender, age, earnings or priorities. For instance, you might help employees to review their financial wellbeing and encourage healthy savings habits via the workplace, based on a framework of education, tools and choice.

Much pivots on the facet of education. Our own research [7] has shown that employees are badly informed about how to become financially secure. Of those surveyed, 23.97% of women stated they weren’t sure how to be financially stable and secure, compared to 10.58% of men. All said, it is clear that many employees need to have a better understanding of saving and investing. Employers should offer their workforce access to independent financial advisers, in-house training sessions as well as online education tools.

This is key to ensuring that all employees are able to make informed decisions about their finances and what is best for them. If your firm has a women's network, why not make contact with them, to ensure their members are kept well informed of any new or related initiatives and to support uptake?

A duty of care

Gender balance will always be a controversial topic as long as there are more men in positions of power than women and there are more CEOs called Peter in FTSE 350 companies than there are female leaders. Such facts point to the inevitable outcome that the majority of women won’t have as much disposable cash to invest as their counterparts. 

Put bluntly, employers have a duty of care to make sure female employees have a better understanding of saving and investing. This is critical to enable them to make more informed decisions about their finances and to ensure that they don’t miss out.

How can Cushon help?

We’re at hand with accessible tools and extensive information from experts about the options available to both employers and employees. Do get in touch; we’d love to discuss how we can help – and try to lessen that financial fairness gap.  

[1] https://www.forbes.com/sites/avivahwittenbergcox/2020/04/13/what-do-countries-with-the-best-coronavirus-reponses-have-in-common-women-leaders/?sh=744e36623dec

[2] https://www.peoplemanagement.co.uk/experts/legal/how-has-covid-19-affected-working-women#gref

[3] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-55016842

[4] YouGov research 2018

[5] https://www.pensionsage.com/pa/Married-women-up-to-186120-worse-off-than-men-in-retirement.php

[6] Realigning the workplace savings offering to meet the needs of millennials – Cushon Research 2019 [7] https://www.cushon.co.uk/blog/42-of-people-dont-think-they-are-saving-enough-to-be-financially-secure