Women are different from men in many ways, ranging from how they love to how they perceive the world. Turns out that women and men also have very different attitudes towards money.
These are not just views and opinions, but deep-seated fears and beliefs which affect not only a woman’s earning abilities, but also whether or not she gets to enjoy her life. Some of these attitudes could be the reason why there is a disparity between the
sexes to begin with. Here’s a look into some attitudes women have about money which could be holding them back.
MONEY IS A LAKE
Wealth is meant to flow like a river. However, women the world over view wealth as a lake which can dry up. This fear is demonstrated in findings of a 2013 study by North Western Mutual, which showed that even when on the same financial level, men
felt significantly more financially secure than women. As a result, women were more afraid of losing money than the men.
A woman’s nervousness about losing money may lead her to hesitate from taking risks. It is why many women will choose to invest in small business ventures while men will not hesitate to invest all they have.
Dr Mumbi Machera, a sociologist at the University of Nairobi, attributes this attitude to the gender roles of our forefathers. Men, she says, earned the money, while women waited for handouts.
“Gender socialisation is also to blame. Women are raised hearing that they need to take care of families and others around them. When making an investment, she has so much more at stake. As a result, she will choose to save her money rather than invest it
where she could lose it,” Dr Machera explains.
The good news is that it is possible to cure this worry about money. All it takes is visualisation. Think of the worst possible scenario if you lost your money. You will realise that the reality isn’t nearly as bad as it seems.
There is actually an advantage to it. Unlike men, fear of loss leads women to ask more questions and do more research before investing. Take advantage of this and use it to guide you into taking calculated risks.
MONEY IS EVIL
They say that money is the root of all evil. Men see money as a measure of manhood, thus something that should be pursued. For women though, it represents power and control. In a society where women are socialised to play second fiddle, money can thus seem as something they shouldn’t go after. This belief leads women to subconsciously pass on opportunities to acquire wealth, and guides their investment decisions.
According to Steve Siebold, in his book How Rich People Think, the solution to this is to separate logic from emotion. Start seeing money for what it is rather than what it isn’t.
Helen Wanjiru, a successful entrepreneur and the founder of Tenders Kenya, faced this challenge. In her experience, one way to change this attitude is to spend some time around successful people.
“When I worked as a personal assistant to one of Kenya’s leading female entrepreneurs, I started looking at the positive value of money. I saw the things that financial freedom can do for you. Seeing the reality cleared up the negative notions in my mind,” she says.
When it came down to it, she acknowledged the fact that it took just as much, if not more energy, to run a small company as it did to run a multi-million-shilling one. When it came to choosing, she chose the option of running a company worth a lot.
“It all stems from power and control,” Mary Wahome, a sociologist and the lead researcher at the Schizophrenia Foundation of Kenya, says about the attitudes women have towards money.
Men have a historical advantage, in that the society previously treated them as superior beings. Those historical patterns repeat themselves, as men still seem to be taking the lead in regard to gunning for top jobs and making big investments. The culprit
appears to be the messages of inadequacy that women are fed from birth.
“Because of the messages that women grow up hearing, even when they really do attain financial freedom, they are plagued by imposter syndrome,” Mary says. The imposter syndrome is a psychological phenomenon characterised by feelings of self-doubt,
especially amongst high-achieving women.
When a woman is overwhelmed by feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt it affects her financial security, in that it takes away her abilities to bargain for a higher salary… or to position herself in the limelight. More women than men are afflicted by the
imposter syndrome. Even when women today regularly outshine men at the workplace, these feelings of inadequacy persist.
Psychologist Dr Valerie Young in her book The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women, writes that the only way to defeat this syndrome is banishing this thought process and owning your success. This means separating your perception from reality.
When you go to a salary negotiation, learn to ask for what you want rather than want you think you deserve, she writes.
THE GOOD GIRL SYNDROME
You can’t talk about risk-taking and investments without talking about testosterone. Biologically, men are built to be thrill-seekers, an attribute that is reflected in their spending and investment habits. Men tend to feel more confident towards money because
they think of it as something to be won. Women, not so much.
Author Lois Frankel labels this phenomenon The Nice Girl Syndrome in her book Nice Girls Don’t Get Rich. Because they want to be liked, women are polite, quiet and fair instead of aggressively pursuing their financial goals.
These tendencies lead women to not negotiate their salaries for fear that they will get fired or be seen in negative light. This is the same reason a woman will downplay her achievements and pass on otherwise good opportunities for fear that her relationships
with friends will change or that she will stop seeming like a good marriage prospect to men.
“This fear keeps her in her comfort zone. You need to recognise that it exists before you can start having a good relationship with money,” says Nduta Kinuthia, an entrepreneur.
Nduta’s first business venture was a garbage collection company. It was small and made some profit, but not nearly as much as she would have wanted. When she got a job at a regional bank and got to meet the CEO, this outlook changed. “I was so
inspired. I wanted to run a company that was worth billions,” she says. So she stopped focusing on what was appropriate and instead looked at what she wanted.
Nduta quit her job and set up her venture, EL Ltd, which manufactures Elsa Kim, a high-end range of nail care products. From the look of things, she is on her way to achieving what she wanted. “I could say that I now have a great relationship with money.
Focusing on what I wanted made me confident in my wealth-building ability,” she says.
MONEY IS TABOO
True, money is an emotionally-charged topic. There are women who will just not discuss money. They squirm when the subject is brought up and choose not to talk about it unless they are closing a business deal.
This stems from the things that most of us heard about money while growing up. We heard that money is acquired from corruption and stealing, so owning it appeared shameful.
“The problem with the fear of having money conversations is that when a woman approaches the subject of money passively, she is bound to lose money. She will not negotiate for better pay. Even when it comes to buying things, she will not negotiate so
she ends up losing money,” observes Josephine Wambui, a financial consultant with Pinnacle Projects, a Nairobi-based financial consulting firm.
The only way one can start seeing money in a different light, according to Josephine, is to start talking about it. “Become financially literate. Knowledge gives you power over your financial standing,” she counsels.
She reckons that getting a financial coach, especially one who is a woman, would help a great deal in attaining financial literacy. A female coach, she says, will relate to your goals and dilemmas.
When it comes to salary matters, the good news is that salary negotiation is a skill that can be learnt. Once it’s acquired, you can use it in other areas of your life as well.
EARN EXTRA MONEY:
Your junk is somebody else’s treasure. Make money by selling all the things that you do not need in your house. Old newspapers and magazines, books, clothes, cutlery, crockery, bags and other household items are popular.
Simply lay out whatever you wish to sell in the streets during the weekend. This could give you quite a wad of cash.