At a Glance
Myths about women and money aren’t harmless misconceptions–they’re downright keeping women stuck, so it’s important to debunk them.
“Myths about women and money are just euphemisms for stereotypes and we already know stereotypes are harmful for multiple reasons. I believe these myths continue to support deep-seated, narrowly defined gender roles,” says Heidi Unrau, the in-house money expert at Hardbacon, a personal finance platform. “When these gender stereotypes are internalized, it not only influences our own behavior and decision-making process, but also changes how we are treated by others.”
Below she shares five myths about women and money we need to bust once and for all.
Women don’t take financial decisions at home
First, there’s the myth that men are the financial decision-makers of the household. “I internalized a narrative that influenced how I handled financial decisions for the majority of my adult life. For example, I studied economics in school and have worked in banking for almost 10 years,” shares Unrau. “Yet, in the home, I often deferred major financial decisions to my spouse despite the fact I have more education and experience in this area. I lacked the confidence to trust my gut and guide us.”
You read that right: This myth is so pervasive that it affected a finance professional–and it had nothing to do with the dynamic of her relationship, which was actually very egalitarian and not focused on traditional gender roles.
“My husband trusts my judgment, but for too long I didn’t trust myself. I left several major financial decisions to him, which ultimately hurt us in the end because I didn’t have the resolve to speak up. That wasn’t fair to either of us,” adds Unrau.
“I’m not like that anymore. But it took many years and a few financial blunders for me to finally internalize a new narrative; I am educated, I am experienced, and I know my stuff–if I don’t, I certainly know where to look.”
Women are overspenders
According to her, another common myth is that women are overspenders who are unable to exercise restraint (the Real Housewives franchise definitely didn’t help this stereotype.) “That’s categorically untrue. That myth only serves to reinforce a gender stereotype that gives men permission to control, and in many cases, exclude women from household finances. That kind of financial exclusion prevents us from being financially independent, which puts us in a vulnerable, sometimes dangerous situation.”
Women don’t invest
And how about the idea that women should stick to budgeting and saving? “The problem is we’re not frivolous spenders and there’s tons of data to back that up. But the stereotype leads to a disproportionate focus on saving instead of investing,” says Unrau.
“Saving isn’t enough for women to achieve financial independence. It actually isn’t enough for anyone. But it’s especially important for women to invest because we still make disproportionately less money than our male counterparts. It’s the most powerful way we can accumulate wealth, but we aren’t getting the right advice because [of these] harmful stereotypes.”
Women are risk-averse
On that note, a common misconception about women investors is that they’re less savvy because they’re risk-averse.
“I don’t think that’s entirely true. I think we are less likely to invest in things we don’t understand, regardless of risk level. Once we understand, we can properly assess the risk and if it aligns with our goals,” she adds.
“But accessing that information is difficult in a space dominated by men. The condescension is palpable, which makes it harder to access the information we know we need. Open discourse can be further complicated by the dreaded ‘mansplaining,’ which is a thing and happens all the time.”
Here is a reframe: Women are perhaps not so risk-averse, but more so kept out of crucial conversations. As Unrau puts it, “When we shut women out of open discussion, we shut them out of opportunities.”
Women aren’t as good at math as men
Finally, another harmful myth is that women are not as good at math as men. “And what is money but math that dictates your whole life?” says Unrau.
This myth is not a cute, innocent assumption about little boys and little girls. It starts from childhood, but trickles into how parents teach girls about finance, the subjects girls gravitate towards in school, and the career paths they pursue as women.
“I personally feel like this stereotype is particularly dangerous because it changes the entire trajectory of our lives, denies us opportunities, and makes us incredibly vulnerable both financially and in our relationships.”