At a Glance

Many of us were raised with the idea that talking about money is inappropriate. The problem is, that idea is keeping women stuck.

“Taboos around women and money are systematic in their effectiveness in keeping us out of the workforce,” says Hanna J. Morrell, Holistic Financial Coach. “The traditional roles of men and women dictate that men earn the money, manage the money, and women perform the unpaid labor of a household and family.”

“I did the financial analysis and women leave as much as seven figures on the table over a lifetime of earning by not discussing salary and wealth more transparently. I myself was a victim of this taboo,” shares Lauren Hasson, founder of DevelopHer, an award-winning platform that helps women in tech get ahead, stand out, and earn more.

The cost of women not talking about money

“Like many women, I thought if I did good work, it would be recognized and rewarded. I was wrong, very wrong. But I didn’t realize it until I learned that a male peer with fewer qualifications than me was hired at 50%, yes FIFTY percent, more than me when I was at his level,” adds Hasson.

This was shocking to her and opened her eyes. Instead of getting angry, she learned how to negotiate and tripled her salary in only two years, adding a whole six figures to her yearly income! “Now, I’m earning a top West Coast tech salary working remotely from my home in Texas and I’ve helped thousands of women in tech negotiate $25,000 to $80,000 more in a single negotiation.”

“I think having money conversations is the only way we can dismantle the stigma around money. But the conversations must have two things; an absolute lack of judgment and advice-giving, and a connection,” says Morrell.

Feeling nervous about being that open with your friends? Just take the first step and you may be pleasantly surprised.

“Comfortable, connected conversations around money are contagious. Taking the brave first steps towards having a conversation about money with someone is huge. Money is an isolating topic, and isolation is not healthy. Open, honest, vulnerable money conversations, especially among women, unpicks that isolation,” adds Morrell.

Money taboos women should break

If you are not sure where to start, here are four money taboos women need to talk about with their friends.

Talk about pay with men

The key taboo that Hasson broke, which led her to significantly increase her income, was talking with men about their pay.

“I didn’t talk with other women, I talked with men because they were more likely to be paid at market value and the women were more likely to be underpaid,” she says. “Because I learned what other men were making and had transparent conversations with them about money, I transformed my financial life. To this day, I have strong and close male allies who I privately share compensation information with.”

Now, when she teaches women how to negotiate their salaries, she tells them to ground themselves in data and know exactly how much employers are paying other qualified candidates. If you don’t talk about pay with men, you could be leaving significant money on the table.

Talk about not talking about money

“The biggest money taboo is that we don’t talk about money,” according to Morrell. “Money is tied so tightly to our self-worth, shame, and judgment that even bringing up the topic of finances can be anxiety-inducing.”

And since most of us have not been given tools to constructively talk about our finances, we don’t, which further reinforces the stigma. Morrell often uses the following opening question to get the conversation flowing: Why do you think women don’t talk about their finances with each other? “By making this third-person, people have the opportunity to dip their toes into talking about money without directly talking about their own concerns with this taboo.”

Try it with your friends and see where the discussion goes.

Dismantle the idea that everyone has it together

“The messaging we get from our communities, marketing, and media is that everyone else has their lives put together,” says Morrell. But this can lead to feelings of isolation and foster financial disempowerment. Chances are, most of your friends also have credit card debt, student loans, or have used debt consolidation loans. They may be trying to keep up with the Joneses and feeling stressed about it just like you.

Breaking the stigma pays off by normalizing common financial struggles instead of perpetuating unrealistic expectations that leave you feeling pressured and ashamed–feelings that are not conducive to a healthy relationship with money.

Discuss money and happiness

Perhaps you do have it together financially. But maybe deep-down, you’re not happy. This is a common taboo to discuss, says Morrell:

“In the absence of good, adaptive financial tools and strategies, we often default to just pushing to make more and more money. I see this in high-achieving women in particular. They’ve done ‘everything right:’ higher ed degrees, working like crazy, rising to the tops of their fields, financial security, house, family, car… everything, and they aren’t happy.”

“The taboo here is that if we achieve all of these things it will result in happiness. Sadly, that isn’t how happiness works. Blend this with the two previous taboos and you have a perfect storm of unhappiness, insecurity, isolation, and self-judgment. No wonder we don’t talk about our money.”