Do Cultural Beliefs Affect Women Financial Empowerment?
In my last post, we looked at whether women have made progress in their roles around finances. The answer is a resounding Yes! - especially when we take a look back at the 70s and beyond. Yet, while we’ve come a long way, we’re naturally still dealing with cultural and familial stories that impact our psyches and belief systems. Each of us has our personal money story and beliefs that we got from our families, friends, culture, and our own response to those influences.
The Cinderella Complex: Women’s Fear of Being Independent
While a large percentage of men (74%) and women (82%) say they believe that both partners participating in long-term financial decisions is essential to true gender equality - in practice women very often still face a lot of internal reticence and resistance.
We live in a patriarchal society. For thousands of years, in a natural division of labor, men have been the primary breadwinners and women have taken care of children, hearth and home, or were supported by men in other capacities. Two thought-provoking books by Colette Dowling - The Cinderella Complex and The Myth of the Money Tree - explore the underbelly of women’s psyche. These books dive into our hidden fear of independence and supporting ourselves, which can hold us back from owning our own worth financially. This attitude is ingrained in our psyches through generations. Although we are consciously working to change these traditional roles, often these underlying fears or assumptions create inertia, resistance, or keep us from fully owning our worth on all levels.
This can show up in financial struggles including underearning, overspending, or resistance to managing our money or planning for our future with savings and investments. Many women think we’re not good at math and that men are somehow inherently good at finances and hence more qualified to handle the money. I certainly grew up believing that, and just as in many other families, while my Dad provided for us, neither of my parents ever discussed money. It was taboo. So while I knew I was taken care of no one discussed earning or managing money.
Dowling’s books, written in 1981 and 1998, describe how many women have what she calls the “Cinderella Complex”, meaning that in the back of our minds, we believe that someone will take care of us, provide for us, and make the tough long-term financial decisions for us. Even very successful women like Barbara Huson are still talking about this (you might enjoy her book, Prince Charming Isn’t Coming). It’s a deep-seated form of magical thinking.
Surprisingly, in the UBS surveys, 58% of Millennial women admitted they simply wanted to be taken care of in a relationship. They also often commented that they thought their spouses were more knowledgeable about finances and investments, and said they were just too busy with other tasks to focus on financial matters or simply had no idea where to start. Interestingly, quite a few Millennial women said they didn’t consider equal financial participation as part of equality in a relationship.
Financial Self-Care: We Can Do This!
Eight out of ten women end up solely responsible for their finances due to life events including divorce and death. And generally, women tend to live about ten years longer than men or could become a caregiver for their ill spouse. Gone is the generation of women who were lost after their husband died because they didn't know how to balance a checkbook (I've known some of these ladies – don't laugh!). But plenty of women wished they'd paid more attention to their money when they were younger.
The truth is that engaging with finances empowers us and is a profound way that we take care of ourselves in the long run. Engaging with our finances is both a creative process and an essential part of our self-care – just as vital as the food on our table and the clothes on our back. Money is what allows us to purchase necessities to care for ourselves and our loved ones. Money is also the currency of our life dreams, visions and how we can take care of ourselves in our elder years. Creating a money map for yourself is a commitment to yourself, giving you confidence, clarity, and self-worth. In the end, it is an act of self-love that extends to our family and loved ones, contributing to our wellness and giving us the freedom to enjoy the important things in life.
“Financial confidence is where self-love meets self-reliance.”
- Ksenia Yudina . Financial Analyst. Founder of UNest
If you enjoyed this blog post, you may love the eJournal I created, 7 Self Care Secrets to Boost Your Financial Happiness. This resource leads you through a 7-day self care journey where you consider how money plays a role in taking better care of yourself.
From my heart to yours, Suzanne Sky - Life Resilience & Financial Wellness Coach
I'm a life coach specializing in financial wellness and resilience. I offer a heart-centered approach along with practical skills to help transform financial worry, anxiety, and stress into clarity, creativity, and a positive relationship with money. I offer a free 20-minute Connection Session to discuss the possibility of us working together. I'd love to meet you!