Veronica Dagher on Keeping and Sharing Wealthy Women's Secrets

Veronica Dagher is on the frontlines of personal finance and wealth management. The Wall Street Journal writer generally interviews men, despite women controlling most of the purchasing power in this country. Dagher is trying to tap into that underrepresented market with the “Secrets of Wealthy Women” podcast, which she hosts, to help female listeners follow in the paths of successful women. Dagher sat down with She Spends to discuss the pitfalls of covering a male-dominated industry, along with topics such as pay equity and condescending men. This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and the “Secrets of Wealthy Women” podcast, which recently launched at the Wall Street Journal.

I’m a Wall Street Journal reporter. I cover wealth management and personal finance for the Journal. I write stories, I do videos and I do this podcast called “Secrets of Wealthy Women.” We just launched it and we’re super excited about it. It’s a podcast essentially by women for women. We’ve had financial leaders like Sallie Krawcheck and Carla Harris on the show. We also featured Sheryl Sandberg; we recently had Barbara Corcoran, Bethenny Frankel, who’s also a reality TV star but she’s also quite the business woman.

That podcast came out of the idea [that] there’s a trillion dollar wealth transfer happening and women stand to control the majority of that for various reasons: Women tend to live longer and are getting more prominent roles in society. They’re also in control of the household finances, more often. There’s this huge opportunity here. We need to address this. Women are hungry for this content. They want to hear more, they want to know more, and they want to hear from other women. There’s this whole mansplaining thing -- we’re not doing that. I’m not opposed to having guys on the podcast, but if they do, I want to make sure they’re not going to sit there and mansplain to us.

I think women are responding to this because they want to hear, in their language and related to their goals. I think women look at their finances differently. They often, and this is a generalization, often look at it through their perspective in terms of how the money can help them achieve their goals and move their families or themselves forward, if they’re single. It’s not so much just for the dollar and cents. You don’t want to speak down to women because we know a lot more than people give us credit for. But we also want to hear what other women are doing to be successful, so that’s a big part of it. We’re really excited about the podcast and hope to continue booking great guests and blowing it out. We’re getting a lot of traction on social media, and it’s been really fun to hear different people respond on Twitter.

You cover wealth management, a sector that is primarily run by men. Have your male sources spoken down to you? Is that something you’ve experienced on the job?

In terms of chauvinism or people speaking down to me, I’ve had both men and women do that to me. It’s across the board. The majority of the people in finance are men, I would say; the majority of financial advisers are men -- I don’t know what the stats are -- but I would say, of the people who come to see me, maybe 90% to 95% are guys. The profession skews very male, but I also sometimes wonder if the guys are more prone to promoting themselves versus the women. A lot of men have publicists. I wonder how many of the women are actively doing that. Maybe they’re too busy, maybe they’re too shy. I would love to know. I would love to see more women coming into our offices and saying, I would love a meeting. I would love to talk to you. I would love to be featured on your show or featured in an article. I don’t see women being as aggressive in that area as I see the guys. I would love to see the women be more aggressive and proactive in promoting themselves.

When [the men] come to see us, they know it’s not going to land well if they’re doing any sort of chauvinism, so luckily I haven't had that happen yet. This was years ago, someone came in -- I had been covering wealth management and personal finance for about three years at that point -- and he was just trying to explain something very basic to me. Essentially asking, “Do you know what a 401(k) is?” I’m a personal finance reporter. I’m a wealth management reporter. I’ve been at this for a little bit. I’ve written about 401(k)s; I’ve written about target date funds. And he was trying to dumb it down for me -- I kind of got that impression. I just found that a little offensive. That said, maybe I should give him the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he was just trying to be nice and maybe his press people told him to keep things simple. I don’t know.

Do you find as a female journalist that men in power, whether that’s in your newsroom or with sources, look down on you? What would you recommend for women who are in that position as well?

I wouldn't say so much look down on me, but I think the issue of equal pay is very real, not just in newsrooms but in any industry. I hear my friends working in finance saying the same things. Part of the onus to fix that is on women, is to maybe get a little loud about it. One of the things we’ve done at the Wall Street Journal -- I’ve been an ancillary member but there’s some women who have really taken the lead on this -- is forming a women’s group and they’ve brought some issues like equal pay to the table and they’ve been vocal advocates for it. Fortunately at our company, they seem to be taking action. They have taken action on some level. Hopefully we’ll see more on that.

Since Dow Jones [the Wall Street Journal’s parent company] put out its report on the pay equity rates among employees, have you seen any changes to your pay?

I think women definitely in the newsroom are talking about it more -- and men too. I’ve heard some guys in the newsroom say, “Hey, we want things to be fair,” which is really inspiring to me; that guys in the newsroom would also be supportive.

One thing I just got an email about [in November], our editor in chief or head of HR just started a women’s leadership program that’s more formal. They’re taking a few women across the company and are trying to give them the skills and the tools to become the next generation of leaders within the company.

So it’s a pipeline program?

It’s a pipeline program, which we never had before. I have to say, I think it’s a direct result of the women’s group advocating. It had to be. There’s also management realizing we need more women. Women are a large part of your reporting force; you want to make them a big part of your editing force as well. I’m really excited about this program. I hope women apply to this program and raise their hand and are confident enough to say, “Maybe I should try out for this.” Worst you can hear is “No.”

You mentioned that there are men in your newsroom who want their female coworkers to succeed. What would you recommend for men to be part of the larger cultural change in the wake of sexual harassment scandals unraveling in the workplace?

I know that there were some reports, and we've probably reported on some of this, about how there was fear after some of these sexual harassment scandals that some good guys were going to pull back from mentoring and sponsoring women because they were afraid that, potentially, things could get misconstrued. My reaction was, “Oh no, don’t do that. This is when we need you the most.” I would say to men, if you are one of those positive forces for change, continue to mentor women. Continue to sponsor women. Don’t be afraid, because if you are a good guy, that’s going to come out. I would hate to see those sort of things stop because of what’s happening.

Is there one thing you learned on your beat that completely changed your view of personal finance?

Always have that emergency savings fund. That’s something I’m just absolutely set on. They say to have at least three to six of expenses. I have more than that because I tend to like to save. I would say to women especially if they don't have a backup plan or they don't have someone sharing the rent, I would say saving that money is more important than ever. You don't know if you’re going to lose your job; you don't know if you're going to get sick. You have no idea. Having that extra money saved will help you sleep better at night.

Do you have any advice for women interested in wealth management that I haven’t asked about?

You don't have to start with this big investment plan. You can start small. There are so many great budgeting apps. You could start saving a little bit of your paycheck every month, if you need to get started saving more. You could boost your 401(k) contribution just 1%. Just take one small step, because you would be surprised by how each of these steps really adds up in the long run.

- Amanda Eisenberg / She Spends Issue #33

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Racked's Alanna Okun on Covering Money, Her Upcoming Book and Her Spending Habits

Sitting down to talk with Racked senior editor Alanna Okun is fun. She’s bubbly and kind, and she instantly puts you at ease. 

It’s not hard to imagine, then, Okun talking with readers of the shopping news website about a notoriously difficult subject — money — given her disposition. 

Okun, along with several Racked writers, launched a new feature earlier this year called “How Do You Shop?” The series is in the vein of several money diaries popping up on sites like Refinery29Man Repeller and, of course, She Spends, and points to a desire on the part of readers to know how their peers spend their money. 

“We call it shopping for real life,” Okun says. 

The premise is this: a Racked reader shares her average salary along with typical shopping habits. The pieces tend to reveal far more than how a person buys their clothes (though that is certainly interesting). They serve as a means to communicate personal finance values, money advice and even family stories surrounding spending. 

“Most people talk about money in the same way,” Okun says on the phone. “They fear scarcity and want protection. People can find a lot of joy and fear in managing it. I think Racked looks to tell stories from this perspective.”

A spending profile on a single mom paying for child care, for instance, revealed not only that the mother has a hard time finding clothes to fit her athletic body (she’s also a weightlifter), but also that her family struggled with bankruptcy while she was growing up. This shaped her spending for years. 

“Family stories become stories about why we shop,” Okun says. “Money exists as this taboo on a spectrum for a lot of people.”

Writing these spending diaries hasn’t just been for the benefit of readers, she says.

“My financial landscape has changed radically since starting the series,” Okun says. “It’s helped me to stare money in the face a bit more.”

She notes that since interviewing a reader who uses five separate bank accounts to keep track of spending, she started using a similar system of her own, separating her long-term and short-term savings, as well as her fixed expenses and fluid expenses. As a result of this system, Okun said she’s been able to save $200 more per month. 

Money isn’t just on Okun’s mind because she’s working on this series. She also recently wrote a book, The Curse of The Boyfriend Sweater, which will be available for purchase in March. 

“Money has been on my mind when it comes to my book,” Okun says. “In order to have time and space to write books, you have to have money.”

- Alicia McElhaney / She Spends Issue #31

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Lily Herman on Electing More Women

Nasty women are fed up and heading to the polls. Lily Herman, a freelance writer and editor, is taking them one step further: getting them elected. Herman’s organization, Getting Her Elected, has more than 1,000 volunteers helping 75 progressive, female candidates run for office. Herman spoke to She Spends about her mission to elect progressive, female candidates and how you can help, regardless of where you live. This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Tell us about Getting Her Elected. Why did you create it?

I started this initiative, which we internally call Getting Her Elected, back in January 2017. The idea sprouted from a couple of different things. There was a lot of talk coming out at the time that these organizations -- Emily’s List, She Should Run, Run For Something -- were getting beyond record numbers of women saying they wanted to run for office. Emily’s List at one point had said its record year was 960 women reaching out to them; now, they’re dealing with about 20,000 women. In all the organizations we’re seeing the same thing. A lot of them were not really supposed to be helping so many women with all these things all the time. A lot of organizations serve as a great empowerment tool, a great tool for the beginning of campaigns, but they’re not really meant to help with every single part of that pipeline. There's a real pipeline issue there. On top of that, running campaigns is really expensive, so it limits the number of people who have access and can run. For instance, one of the earliest candidates we started working with last winter said she was looking at getting some PR help -- which is getting her name out there, help with press release writing, basic things for a campaign -- and a PR firm wanted to charge her $15,000 a month, and that was on the cheaper end. That’s just for one part of the campaign, let alone everything else that comes in. That's why you don't get a lot of first-time candidates.

Obviously there's a lot that can be said about women and the sociology of women and why women feel like: “They’re not ready to run.” “It’s not the right time.” “They’re not qualified to do it.” After that, I had a basic idea: What if, to cut out part of that issue in the pipeline, we just had professionals who have these random skill sets: writing, editing, graphic design, fundraising, political knowledge. What if they offered their skills pro bono to these candidates? Hopefully then women can spend more of their time fundraising and being out in the field and meeting with constituents and less time trying to write their own press releases or do their own PR or try to pinch pennies to find people to do it for them. That initiative has grown to 1,000 volunteers and we are actively helping about 75 women candidates, all progressive, who are based all around the U.S. in most states, and they’re running at all levels of government: everything from local school board all the way to House of Representatives. I think we have a Senate candidate or two who are talking to us.

You have a lot of experience managing workers remotely. How do you organize volunteers?

I’ve done a lot of organizing and community building through various means over the last five to seven years. In that regard, it’s pretty easy for me to set up a couple of Google spreadsheets and send out a couple of tweets. I wanted something really simple, really lean and really results driven. What’s so great about the Resistance post-election, you have so many people who want to get involved in these things.

The flip side of that is that you’re trying to find the right organization, a lot of things sound alike, and people get bogged down in the details as opposed to the broader mission and idea. For instance, our initiative doesn’t have a website. It’s really bare bones and it’s completely word of mouth and through social media, but what that actually does, and it’s a very intentional decision, is candidates trust us a lot more because typically a friend has referred them or they saw my status and they had to look me up to see who I am. That means we’re getting a lot of trust coming in, and volunteers also trust us a lot more. On my end, I’m recruiting a lot higher-quality volunteers. Instead of someone having to submit some Google form with their information and they don’t know who’s getting their information, now they actually have to email me to get on this email list. That means you actually have to have contact with someone, which actually makes a huge difference. It was easy, it was in my wheelhouse, and my whole idea is to help as many women as possible. It also seems to have hit a nerve.

I know a lot of my friends who are young professionals want to find cool volunteer causes and want to put their skills to the test and use their skills for good, but are not sure how to do that. It’s been really cool seeing a lot of people who were looking for that thing to do. There are a lot of different parameters and hours, a lot of them are in random places in the U.S. This is pretty much where even if your skill is you can enter data and make a few phone calls, it’s something where if you have more than 30 seconds of time, you can do.

What does that process look like?

Volunteers will email me, typically just a short email saying hi and what their skills are. I input them into a database and then from there, roughly one to two times a week -- sometimes more if we’re close to a primary season cycle or a general election cycle -- we’ll email out a list of opportunities. They’re sorted by different skill set types. People can take a look at what those candidate needs. From there, candidates will email me separately with just a couple of materials. If you wanted to work on a graphic design position, they would email me a portfolio and some examples. From there, there’s always deadlines for when you need to email me to volunteer with these candidates or for these specific tasks that they want done. We email all that information off to the candidates. They have a certain amount of time to get back to us, just to make sure we’re not leaving a lot of volunteers in limbo. The candidates get to decide who they want introductions to; that’s what I facilitate.

Once a candidate and a volunteer are introduced to each other, I lead the process and check in periodically with everyone. It’s up to the candidates to make sure they are utilizing the volunteer the way they said they would, and it’s up to the volunteer to obviously get that work done. We have a lot of volunteers who work on multiple campaigns at any given time. A lot of them “apply” to work for a bunch of campaigns at any given time just because some are really selective with who they are introduced to. It’s a lot of work just making sure everyone is set up and ready to go.

Can volunteers be hired from this volunteer effort? Have you reached that point?

No, we haven’t been around long enough to get to that point. A lot of these are first-time candidates without much money. We’ve definitely had volunteers who have signed on to do more work with candidates. It’s always good when a volunteer finishes a task and a candidate reaches out to me and says, “Hey would it be weird if I asked them if they were available to do more for us?” It’s always awesome when they sign on and find a candidate they want to support.

A lot of women don’t think they’re legitimate enough. Do you feel like you’re pushing up against the same thing by purposely not having a “legitimate” footprint?

When I first started doing this, I had a bunch of people email me and ask, “What qualifies you to do this?”

You can just easily counter with, “Have you seen who our president is?

They would immediately go, “Fair enough.”

Honestly, a lot of people just as questions. We’ve had numerous volunteers offer to help me build a website. I know how to do it. At this point, I do have a higher profile on social media than I did or that other people do, so I think that helps add an air of legitimacy that I don't have to worry about. Also because this isn't my full-time job, it’s just a volunteer thing I do; my income and my self-worth isn't based on this one thing. I think the people who are more successful are those who take a little bit of that pressure off when you don't need to have that. I kind of avoided that because I didn’t know what this was going to turn into. Even if it fizzled out after two months and we only helped three women, that would be awesome. At this point it’s cool and interesting and kind of weird. I think you can look at imposter syndrome as, “Oh no, are we doing this right?” But I think it’s kind of fun to be this weird, funky, offbeat and almost sort-of rogue initiative that people hear about through social media or hear rumblings of.

We, as women, tend to define ourselves by what we do and that's what our self-worth stems from. Do you think, because you’ve been working on this, you have shifted your self-worth and how you can help other women find theirs?

Getting Her Elected is a product of me getting to that point. I’ve always been someone who has always had trouble labeling themselves. I do believe that at the end of the day, labels are there for a reason, but also we need to question them and question why we have them. The thing about this is that I’ve never thought of myself who does one thing or has one label. I always say I’m a freelance writer and editor, and then I tack on 12 things to that. People who know me say, “Lily does stuff on the internet.” That's the only thing that unifies what I do. It’s actually been helpful just to have that mentality at this point. I hope it rubs off on some people. I think once you get over the “Can people define it well?” a lot of stuff works itself out. In this day and age the personal brand and all of that, which again you can make fun of, but there is a lot of legitimacy to the idea of branding yourself. How do you brand yourself if you don’t have a very specific title? How do you define yourself? Hopefully, too, people can see that I’m in that much more values-driven space than moreso what my job title is.

It’s a millennial mindset, but it’s also what other generations think of millennials. With your volunteers and with the people who are running, do you find that the older generations see millennials as valuable for branding help?

What's been really cool and speaks to the vision and the vibe we’re giving off, we do have people from all over, from every demographic you can imagine. A lot of times diversity is, if you have to think about it, you’re not doing a good enough job. Knowing that all those people think that this is a cool thing is awesome and empowering. We do have a mix, especially in terms of volunteers and candidates, who are younger and older. It’s definitely been cool for older women to see how the internet can be empowering and not just social media. They’re able to use the internet to find an opportunity is pretty interesting, which for people my age is pretty standard. In terms of candidates, it’s really run the gamut in terms of what candidates learn from each other. It’s fascinating to see what asks are or where people are at. Overall, it’s been a really cool meshing of people from other backgrounds and identities that’s creating a new way of doing things.

We saw the Tea Party rise to prominence during Barack Obama’s first term, signaling the discontent of many Americans. The election of President Trump mimics that populist movement. Do you see any trends following the 2016 election?  

First of all, there are a lot more women running, which hasn’t happened before in a lot of cases. I think there’s a certain fearlessness now that didn't exist. Even if you think about who was running with the Tea Party, a lot of it was white men, so these are people who are already fearless; men, especially white men, are very privileged. They never had anything to fear anyway except maybe losing the race whereas with women -- what I've seen from candidates -- they’re at a point where they care but they don't care. They go into these things head on and ready to take anyone on. They are also a lot more savvy about what the campaign tactics are. One women felt like the incumbent interrupted her during a debate and she was able to call him out, and everyone in the audience kind of understood he was interrupting her and what that means from a gender standpoint. I’ve talked to women who felt like they were mentioned in articles and were totally erased by male incumbents and male candidates or opponents, and that’s been interesting watching these women who are fearless not only in terms of running but also in calling things out. They’re taking on not just the race itself that they're running for but also societal expectations and societal norms.

At the end of the day, the success rate for first-time candidates is 10%. A lot of these women are not going to win the first time around. The important thing, though, is that through their campaigns and through their speaking up, they’re making it so much easier for women who come after them. Or if they run again, they’re making it so much easier for themselves the second time around. That's the bigger takeaway: It’s not just that people are angry and so disillusioned by the political system, but they also don't have any qualms in calling out what they see, and in plain English though.

Do you find that the populous is willing to have these conversations? A lot of Americans are unaware of politics skewing in favor of white, cis men.

If you're unaware, then you don't even think to call things out. I think calling people out or explaining things as they are happening is a good first step. Even if a person is well-intentioned, being able to sit there and say, “Hey what you did there is not good. Let’s unpack that for a second.” It doesn’t necessarily always have to be an angry, rousing discussion. I think that’s kind of the first step is having people talk about this. No one in power or no one with power ever willingly wants to be told that they shouldn’t have some power. There’s a great quote and I’m paraphrasing here, but essentially if you live with the ultimate amount of privilege, then equality feels like oppression to you. That’s why we have guys who freak out when they’re told they’re being sexist because to them, they got to do whatever they wanted for ever. Somehow, not saying that sexist remark that wasn’t funny or interesting is so terrible to them. I think speaking up and speaking out is just the first step; I don’t think it’s the only step and nor should it be. I think that’s where the challenge lies. Who’s speaking up, and making sure it’s not the same couple of people. The more people who do, the easier it gets for everyone.

Have you seen a correlation between the onslaught of sexual harassment and assault claims in the recent weeks and the number of women running for office?

A lot of women have been thinking about their runs for a very long time. When you’re running for office you need to file all this paperwork and it’s hard to do it on a whim or on the fly. I’m not surprised that a lot of women are running. I get a lot of press releases of candidacy announcements right about now, not because it’s prime time to do that right now before primaries but also this specific time, everybody is angry. Right around the time that Al Franken’s announcement went out about how this woman accused him of groping her and kissing her without her consent, I got six press releases about women running for office. I’m hesitant to say it’s all because of that specific thing, but everyone then gets angry directly after that and more people want to get involved. As soon as that happened I was really pissed about that, so I tweeted out an earlier version of the thread about my initiative and got a ton of volunteers. People are just thinking about it, so it’s an opportunity to say, “Hey, if this thing is really pissing you off and it’s really bothering you, here’s something you can do about it that’s easy enough to do and doesn’t require you to get up and go somewhere or do something not on your own time.” That’s what I’ve been seeing more of, actually, from the volunteer side rather than the candidate side.

Where do you see this going?

I have absolutely no idea (laughs). I am by default someone who never has a one-year plan, three-year plan, five-year plan, 10-year plan. We’ll just see how it goes. If it fizzles at some point, that’s fine. If it turns into a bigger thing, that’s fine. It’ll probably never be something full-time for me because I never do any one thing full time. I really try not to put on too many limits. With something like this, the goals are based around getting more volunteers and helping more women. Even if we help a few women get elected, that’s pretty darn cool in my book.

Email Lily Herman at lily@lilyherman.com with your name and skill set if you would like to volunteer with Getting Her Elected.

-Amanda Eisenberg, She Spends Issue 31

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Savvy Ladies Founder Stacy Francis on Financial Abuse

For Stacy Francis, founder of the nonprofit Savvy Ladies, a crusade against financial abuse is personal.

Her grandmother was the inspiration for the nonprofit, which is focused on helping women learn about money and finances for free, Francis says. Her grandmother’s abused her emotionally, physically and financially.

“I finally had the courage to ask her why she stayed, and the answer she gave me was one that completely changed my life,” Francis says. “It was about money.”

Financial abuse can include anything from being left in the dark about finances or having one’s finances used, forcibly, to cover costs for the abuser, says Francis.

Financial abuse is sometimes difficult to spot. In a romantic relationship, it can mean that one partner may only give the other a small allowance, or may not allow their partner to access the money at all. The abusive partner may even take their partner’s paycheck or other assets. They may also use their partner’s name to rack up debt they don’t intend to pay.

“No one talks about financial abuse,” Francis says. “When you say abuse, it’s such a word that has strong connotations and meaning. It can take many different forms.”

And yet, it happens quite often. One in four women will be a victim of domestic violence in her lifetime, according to the Purple Purse Foundation, and nearly every domestic violence case includes financial abuse.
Savvy Ladies worked with a New York mother of two who was given a stipend of $500 per week by her husband, despite the fact that there were millions of dollars in her husband’s bank accounts, Francis says. The woman was not allowed to touch that money, no matter how difficult the situation got.

“Living in New York City, that’s just not enough,” Francis says.

Another Savvy Ladies client had one credit card that sent a text to her husband every time she used it.

“This is a really important topic because when you use the word abuse, most women turn the page and just assume that their situation is not dire enough to be called that,” Francis says.

So what can someone experiencing financial abuse do? Francis suggests starting with a therapist.

“Often the woman is not going to go into that office knowing for sure what she needs to do and whether or not she is being abused,” says Francis. “She doesn’t realize that all couples don’t work in that way. We don’t talk about money as women. It’s hard for her to gauge whether it’s normal.”

Those who suspect that they’re a victim of financial abuse can also reach out to a financial adviser through Savvy Ladies’ helpline.

“The piece of it that I am most proud of is the helpline,” Francis says. “It matches women up with certified financial planners for free. We’ve seen over and over how desperately women need that.”

You don’t have to be an abuse victim to use the helpline, though. It’s set up to provide women of all backgrounds assistance with their finances, completely free.

If you’re not looking for financial advice, but you want to get involved with the group, consider donating money or offering your skills as an accountant or CFP to the group.

Note: If you’re experiencing abuse of any kind, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233.

- Alicia McElhaney / She Spends Issue #28

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Surprise: Women Respond Better to High-Pressure Situations, Study Finds

Good news for women this week is coming out of the Harvard Business Review. Perhaps unsurprising to many of our readers, the site shared research this week that shows that women respond better to competitive pressure than men do. 

The study, which analyzed 8,200 games from Grand Slam tennis matches, showed that male players’ performance suffered in high-stakes games. Comparatively, female players’ performance stayed the same in higher-stakes matches.

“Women choked less than men in situations that mattered,” according to the study’s author, Alex Krumer, of the University of St. Gallen. 

To be sure, tennis matches only account for a small portion of performance in the world at large. But measuring tennis matches makes it easy to measure competition and the stakes of a situation, Krumer said in an interview with the HBR

“If you look at the literature on cortisol, the stress hormone, you’ll find that levels of it increase more rapidly in men than in women — in scenarios from golf rounds to public speaking — and that those spikes can hurt performance,” Krumer noted. 

Translation: Men and women may actually have different chemicals that affect the ways we react to high-pressure situations.

This affects our lives outside of tennis, from the boardroom to our relationships. 

“Think about other roles in which you’d want people who stay calm under pressure — CEO positions at large companies, for example,” Krumer told HBR. “You don’t generally see average Joes or Janes filling them. You see a different type of elite, experienced performer. And still, only about 4% of Fortune 500 chief executives are women.”

- Alicia McElhaney / She Spends Issue #28

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Harnessing Our Power in Today's Economy

When I read Danielle Kayembe’s piece, “The Silent Rise of the Female Driven Economy,” this past week, I couldn’t help but feel inspired. 

In the essay, Kayembe, founder of social consulting firm GreyFire Impact writes about how there is a huge, untapped market that is flush with cash in the economy; businesses just have to tap into it. 

An important piece of this economic puzzle is just how much money women spend. “Women control 85% of consumer spending globally,” according to the article. 

And yet, nothing is made for us. From doors and bathrooms to  airbags and  health trackers, women are often left out of product testing. This leaves us with products like the iPad that can’t help but remind us of maxipads, or worse, items that are unsafe for us to use based on average size. 

There are few female-founded companies that directly target women, but the companies that do both are able to succeed, and quickly, Kayembe notes.

“Thinx reached tens of millions in revenue in two years,” she writes. “Honest Company was valued at $1 billion in under five years.”

Soon, Kayembe predicts, this will translate into executive boards and female investors. That sounds incredible to us, and we hope she’s right.

As Kayembe puts it: “The darlings of the business world shifted from middle-aged men in Brooks Brothers suits, to college dropouts in hoodies  —  it’s about to shift again.”

We can’t wait.

- Alicia McElhaney / She Spends Issue #27

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One of the Most Powerful Women in the U.S. Economy is About to Lose Her Job

One of the most powerful women in finance could be booted from her job very soon, at least if President Donald Trump has his way. 

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, who has been in her role since 2013, is reportedly not among Trump’s top picks for the position. Her term expires in 2018, though she could conceivably serve another term.

Yellen shaped much of the economic policy in the United States during her tenure as Fed Chair. As a part of her role, Yellen sets interest rates and raises them slowly. Following the 2008 recession, it was important to keep rates low to promote growth in jobs. However, for consumers that means that savings accounts barely grow. 

Yellen began her career in the early ‘70s as an assistant professor in the department of economics at Harvard University. She worked her way up through academia and eventually made the leap to governmental roles, serving as vice chair starting in 2010. 

Yellen was among the initial names floated for the term starting in 2018. Others include former Goldman Sachs executive Gary Cohn, who has since been taken out of the running, according to Bloomberg. Governor of the Fed Jay Powell, Stanford University economist John Taylor and former governor of the Fed Kevin Warsh remain in the mix, according to The Street

- Alicia McElhaney / She Spends Issue #26

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Carmilla Tan On Finding Your Mentor (And Eventually Becoming One)

Finding mentorship and receiving peer guidance can be difficult for women. Unlike men, women tend not to ask for these mentoring experiences and rely on different forms of networking. She Spends sat down with Carmilla Tan, FSA, MAAA, senior vice president of analytics at Brighton Health Plan Solutions, the health plan management division of Brighton Health Group, to discuss how women should network and find mentors. She particularly found success with creating two women-oriented support groups. Tan has three mentors and three mentees. She shared her tips with us on finding both.

 

When we spoke last, you mentioned that Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg served as a huge inspiration. How did the book make you want to take action?

I was very inspired by the book, and I thought, I can’t be the only one who stresses out about work life, about succeeding and going to the next level while also caring about carpooling for my kids. For school, in some places, they’ll schedule the PTA meeting in the middle of the day. If you’re a working mom, there’s just no way to get there. I thought I can’t be the only one with this angst. My train station is Dobbs Ferry [in Westchester County, N.Y.] and I would take the Metro North into the city. I would notice that there would be a whole bunch of women who looked exactly like me, trying to catch the train. When it was time for me to put a Lean In group together… I actually sort of scoped out the women who were taking the 5:59 train with me. There’s this implicit thing, at 5:59 in the morning, you don’t talk to one another. I found a way to find these women somewhere in the community and said, “This is so random, but would you be interested in going to this Lean In meeting?” Sure enough, there were at least 12 of us who get together regularly every three months. The key to a successful Lean In meeting is actually wine. Aside from the Lean In book, I felt I couldn’t be alone going through work life, and I did something about it. I formed another group also. In the workforce, not everyone has kids, not everyone has a partner, but there are women who are obviously trying to rise above where they are.

 

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"That’s a whole bunch of powerful women that just walked out the door."

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Is the Lean In group a place to vent or a place to receive actionable tips?

No, it’s actionable. Our group, we call it our “safe space.” There are rules. The industry is small, so you’re not supposed to share anything outside the walls of the boardroom we’re in. Whether it’s, “I want to make partner the next round” or “How do I make managing director?” or “I’ve been in this place for a long time. It’s time for me to look for a job. Does anyone have good leads?” Part of it is just the feedback of, “I tried out for this job and this is what they said.” The other women will say you learned something, but next time you should consider these three other things: Why were you not considered? What are the skills and how do I prove to you I have those skills? Is it references? Is it being more published?

 

Do you find that the women in your Lean In group are all among the same age or same place in their careers?

I think we’re mostly the same age and in the same field. What I’ve noticed from the Lean In group I have back in Dobbs Ferry, there were some who were from the same company, there were some who are lawyers. After a while, it’s good to have a group who’s in the same field you are. You don’t even need a Lean In group, exactly. It can be any organization or any gathering of women. My group in my town, we early on said we did not want a Lean In group with teachers or nurses, because we could not identify with that lifestyle. We also said doctors; we don’t have anything in common with them. We were looking for a certain kind of professional background that dealt a lot with men.

 

Have you been seeing that your male coworkers are supportive of these groups or aware of them at all?

Well the best thing with my second group is we had our first meeting in the boardroom. There were some guys working late. When we were done, someone in that group of men said, “That’s a whole bunch of powerful women that just walked out the door.” 

 

Why aren’t women asking for mentorship?

It goes back to not being shy. Especially women, we have a tendency not to ask for help because of pride and to be stronger than guys. Guys have their networks too. We’re probably just not aware. It could be tennis or golf or whatever. I found that if I could do this again, I would have asked earlier.

 

How do you find a mentor and ask them to take on that role? How many mentors do you need?

You need several. One is not enough. You actually need at least three or four in different fields, so when the time comes and you need some help or advice, you’ll have different perspectives to bounce around with. You should be very direct in asking for a mentor or someone you would like to call on. Just be very direct. Have some sort of relationship so it can’t be cold calling. Say, “I would appreciate some guidance as I navigate through my career. I would like you to consider being my mentor. This means that every three months I will check in with you if you will be gracious enough to free up 30 minutes in your calendar or I can take you out to dinner or coffee, and I’d like to bounce off some ideas for what I’m thinking about for my career.” What’s two hours in a year? Mentors are very important, because aside from giving you advice, they can open doors for you, whether that’s connections or access to certain events. Sometimes you don’t even know what you’re asking for but at least they’ll keep you in mind when some opportunity comes up. Don’t be shy and be very upfront about the request. You’re not apologizing. It’s an honor to be asked to be a mentor. Mention what the time commitment is. Before you leave the last meeting, you actually want to say, “Thank you for this time. Can we look at calendars now and let's set up the next one three months from now.” If you can do it, face to face, even better.

 

Can you speak to the importance of women mentoring women and why it’s important?

Years ago, when I worked for a consulting firm, there was a woman who pulled me aside when I got pregnant and said, “Regardless of what these nice guys tell you, never bring your baby in because people will not be able to get that mental image out of their minds of you being able to stay late and getting that cushy assignment.” I know the world has changed since then, but I really appreciated that advice. When you think about some of the pitfalls that women navigate from, why reinvent the wheel?

 

What else should women know?

You should also consider being a mentor yourself. You may be in the phase in your life where you think, “What do I have to offer? I need a mentor.” Aside from receiving mentorship, you also need to give mentorship advice. Whatever stage in life you are, there is someone who needs help and can benefit from advice. I would also suggest being a mentor to someone else: high school kids, the summer intern. Don’t feel you need to be 100% qualified to take that role on. Women think they need to be 100% qualified to take the job, and guys think they only need to be 68% or some low number like that to be qualified to take on a role. Same thing with mentorship.

- Amanda Eisenberg / She Spends Issue #25

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Rock the Street is Encouraging High School Girls to Invest

Feeling excited about last week’s feature on Girls Who Invest? We have another awesome group for you to get excited about. 

Rock The Street is a nonprofit that teaches high school-aged girls about personal finance, investing and careers in finance. 

The group was founded in 2013 by Maura Cunningham, who previously worked on Wall Street and in financial institutions for 25 years. 

In a phone interview with She Spends, Cunningham says she founded the group to educate young girls on careers in finance. 

“There’s a major disconnect in how the industry recruits girls,” Cunningham says. “Rather than telling them how they can affect change, we just tell them how much money they make.”

Girls need more of an incentive - like changing the world - when they pick a career, she says

The program is offered in high schools in several cities, including Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas, Fort Worth, Memphis, Nashville and New York. 

“All of our instructors are female financial professionals,” Cunningham says. “They can walk the talk. They are comfortable with numbers and have satisfying careers.”

While none of the program’s participants have entered the workforce yet, Cunningham says the group has already made major headway. About 84% of its participants increased financial literacy, and 72% of the girls indicate that they are very or extremely likely to at least minor in business, finance or economics.

While most She Spends readers won’t benefit directly from the program (unless we have some high schoolers up in here, in which case, get it girl!), there are ways to support Rock The Street. Readers can volunteer for the program in any of its currently operating chapters or help Rock The Street launch in new cities, Cunningham says.

Additionally, if you have some extra cash on hand, consider making a donation to the group. 

“The No. 1 reason that girls state that they’re not going into STEM is because they don’t see women in those professions and they don’t see their girlfriends choosing those jobs,” Cunningham says. “We have to show them that they exist.”

- Alicia McElhaney / She Spends Issue #24

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We Love Girls Who Invest

We’re so excited to share an amazing group with you today. We spoke to Kathleen Powers Dunlap, CEO of Girls Who Invest, about bringing more women into the asset management industry.

Girls Who Invest educates more young women how to close the gap between men and women working in asset management through internships and mentorship. 

So what exactly does an asset manager do? They invest money on behalf of institutions like pensions or endowments, and very few women work in the industry, especially at high levels, Dunlap says. 

“The asset management industry has failed to keep pace with other industries,” she says. “They’re missing out on all the intelligence and creativity that women can bring to the table.”

There are so many barriers to entry for young people, especially women in the asset management industry. That also includes knowledge about asset management. 

“Financial awareness and literacy are not taught in schools,” says Dunlap. “There’s a huge lack of awareness.”

Not to mention, the industry suffers a negative perception, especially among the liberal arts majors Girls Who Invest targets. 

“There’s still a very negative perception of our industry,” says Dunlap. “When young people think of our industry, they think of Bernie Madoff. We really need to try to change those negative impressions.”

Asset management, according to Dunlap, is an opaque career choice. It doesn’t have a clear path of schooling in the way becoming a doctor or lawyer does. Enter Girls Who Invest, which provides an internship program, mentorship and an online certification for women who are interested in careers in asset management. 

So what’s in it for women? 

“The thing I find really appealing is that the asset management business is a meritocracy,” says Dunlap. “It’s all about performance.”

That’s true: An asset manager is often judged on whether she can increase investment returns, even by a few basis points (one hundredth of 1%).

Want to up your game? 

Consider applying for either the Girls Who Invest summer program or the online education seminar. 

If you’re not in college, you can support the group by sharing on social media to help Girls Who Invest expand its reach. 

- Alicia McElhaney / She Spends Issue #23

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Women Are Dominating The Health App Space

Have you ever been to a doctor who dismissed your health concerns?  For years, women’s needs haven’t been adequately met by traditional health providers and are even treated less aggressively in their initial treatment than men; Joe Fassler wrote in The Atlantic about how his wife nearly died from ovarian torsion because her pain was not taken seriously at the emergency room.

Now, women are beginning to solve this problem with a new crop of health apps. Three female-founded apps in particular have caught our attention: Maven, Clue and askTia. 

Maven, founded by former venture capital investor Katherine Ryder, is a digital health clinic that offers quick checkups. The app gives users access to nutritionists, mental health professionals, prenatal and postpartum providers, along with pediatrics and general health checkups, for fees often lower than your copay. You can schedule video appointments and send messages to doctors through the app. 

In June, the app raised $11 million in series A funding from venture capitalists, which means it’s on track to grow. 

Meanwhile, askTia, founded by Carolyn Witte, a former Google employee, and Felicity Yost, a former product manager at Owler, is an on-demand health consultant that can point you in the direction of appropriate birth control methods for your needs. 

The app is in beta right now, which means the product is fairly stable but still being tested rigorously, but it’s available for download in the App Store. You can chat with its bot to learn about different sexual health needs women have and new types of birth control. 

Also operating in the sexual health space, Clue is a period tracker for the data driven. Founded by lifelong entrepreneur Ida Tin the app allows you to track daily symptoms and predicts your cycle based on how you feel. You can even add a partner to the app so they can predict your menstrual cycle as well. 

By July, the app had roughly eight million active users. 

What are your favorite health apps founded by women? Share with us on Twitter or Instagram!

- Alicia McElhaney / She Spends Issue #22

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Male Analysts Have More Advantages Than Women, Yet Perform Similarly

Although male and female analysts on Wall Street succeed at about the same rate, men are apparently reaping more benefits from their connections than women are, a new report shows. 

The report, Does Gender Matter on Wall Street?, found that while connections in the industry improve both men’s and women’s job prospects, the effect connections had on men’s prospects was two or three times larger than the impact they had on women’s jobs in the industry. 

This can impact anything from an analyst’s ability to predict stock market outcomes to their ranking on major trade publications’ yearly reports. Many analysts’ jobs hinge on those reports, so it matters that they succeed at making these connections. 

Despite women making up only 12% of the analyst workforce, the same percentage of men and women were elected to be “star analysts.” 

Interestingly, “female analysts appear to have stronger educational backgrounds than male analysts.” But, the report noted, they are given a slightly lower workload than men. 

While women and men are succeeding at the same rate, men appear to be using their connections at a greater rate than women.

This, unfortunately makes sense. Have you ever tried to connect with a man in the office who just wanted to discuss the latest sports game? Or worse, have you actually been interested in that conversation, only to be brushed off because “women don’t know sports.” 

As the report notes: “If men benefit more from connections on both fronts, their advantages can persist and even widen as their careers progress.”

- Alicia McElhaney / She Spends Issue #21

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We're Obsessed with Jemele Hill

We have a new heroine this week, and she’s crazy cool. 

Jemele Hill, co-host of SportsCenter on ESPN, called President Donald Trump a white supremacist this week on Twitter. Honestly, the comment was appropriate given Trump’s statements on everything from former President Barack Obama’s birthplace to his deafening silence on Charlottesville, Virginia. 

What made Hill stand out was that the White House called her comments a “fireable offense” the next day. In other words, the president’s spokeswoman, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, was calling for a critic of Trump to be fired from her job. So much for free speech. Despite being attacked by the White House, Hill has not deleted her tweets. Instead, she took to Twitter once again, issuing a statement. 

"My comments on Twitter expressed my personal beliefs," Hill tweeted. "My regret is that my comments and the public way I made them painted ESPN in an unfair light. My respect for the company and my colleagues remains unconditional."

Hill’s actions have brought up a few key issues. The first, obviously, is that the White House should not be dictating who is employable based on whether or not the criticize the president. 

But at a deeper layer, we have a woman - a black woman, no less - taking on this job that many see as a role that is traditionally filled by men (and yes, we know that thinking is problematic). We have to wonder if the criticism not only comes from true outrage, but also because people are uncomfortable with a black woman speaking up. 

ESPN tried to keep Hill off the air on Wednesday night, but her co-host, Michael Smith, refused to do the show without her; ThinkProgress’ Lindsay Gibbs reported that ESPN made efforts to replace the black hosts with two other black ESPN hosts -- and they didn’t bite either.

- Alicia McElhaney / She Spends Issue #20

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Laura Deming Is Our New Venture Capitalist Heroine

Venture capitalist Laura Deming is doing really cool things.  

The 23-year-old announced in late August that she closed her second round of investments in her venture capital fund, Longevity Capital, after raising $22 million from investors. 

Venture capital funds like Longevity focus on providing money to early stage companies that are often still researching their products. Longevity put the first fundraising campaign - worth $4 million - they completed to work at five biotechnology companies. 

Deming completed her first fundraiser when she was just 17 years old. She had spent a few years working in a biotechnology lab at the University of California, San Francisco, before starting her studies at MIT. Soon, though, she dropped out and became a Peter Thiel fellow (only one of two women in its inaugural class). Then, she founded Longevity. 

Deming runs the fund as a sole partner, meaning she is in charge of the investment decisions.

This second fund Deming raised will be deployed to biotech companies that focus on researching the process of aging, as well as those working to extend life expectancy. 

Deming told TechCrunch that she expects to put the latest capital raise to work at eight to 10 companies. 

- Alicia McElhaney / She Spends Issue #19

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How Adding More Women to the Workforce Can Grow the Economy

Beyond many of the obvious reasons to hire more women (we're better at managing risk, we're more productive and we offer diverse ideas, to name a few), a new study from Catalyst shows that increasing the number of women at work can grow economies. In some cases, it can double a country's gross domestic product (GDP, or the total value of goods and services produced in a country in one year). 

What's almost more startling is a separate number included in the report. According to Catalyst, women conduct 75% of all unpaid work, which includes child care, elder care and other domestic responsibilities. Holy shit! We're worth a hell of a lot of money. In fact, if unpaid work were counted in GDP, estimates show it could add about $10 trillion to annual output.

There are a few things we can do to create economies that are more fair to women, according to Catalyst. First, we need to enact better parental leave policies, including paid time off for ALL new parents. Second, we need to uphold (or in many cases, enact) laws that close the wage gap. Finally, we need to encourage men to uphold these values. 

- Alicia McElhaney / She Spends Issue #18

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Board Seat Gap Narrows Just a Little Bit (And We're Super Pumped!)

Great news! The board seat gap got a little narrower this week. 

Mary Barra, the CEO of General Motors Co., was elected to Walt Disney Co.’s board of directors, the company announced Thursday. 

Barra will join three other women already sitting on the board, including Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, former P&G executive Susan Arnold, and CEO of WE Family Offices Maria Elena Lagomasino. 

“Beyond being an incredibly respected leader of a major U.S. company, Mary is recognized as an agent of change with a relentless focus on quality, safety and, most importantly, consumers,” said Disney CEO Robert Iger in a statement. 

“Her ability to adapt to a changing technological and consumer-focused landscape makes her uniquely suited for the Disney Board,” he added. 

Barra has worked as GM’s CEO since 2014 and was the first female CEO at the company. She began working at GM in 1980 and rose through the ranks.

Barra sits on the Stanford University Board of Trustees and the Stanford GSB Advisory Council, as well as the Board of Directors of the Detroit Economic Club and the Department of Transportation’s Advisory Committee on Automation in Transportation.

Barra announced earlier this year that GM will partner with Girls Who Code to encourage young women to pursue careers in the STEM industries. 

The automaker donated $250,000 to the program. 

- Alicia McElhaney / She Spends Issue #17

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The Power Of Your Purse: Lingerie Edition

I have a bone to pick with L Brands. The parent company of your favorite mall stores including Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works has a major problem when it comes to gender diversity on the corporate level.

There are two women on its 10-person board of directors. One of them, Abigail Wexner, is the wife of CEO Les Wexner. What’s more, there are no women in the company’s C-suite; in other words, that company trying to get you to buy bras based on the sexiness of its models is run mostly by men. 

It looks like investors have a bone to pick now too, though. The company announced this week that it is lowering guidance for the rest of the year. The company will make less money than expected this year because same store sales have fallen, according to the latest earnings report.. 

As a result of the news, L Brands shares fell more than 7% on Thursday before bouncing back slightly. 

The company is reportedly struggling because it decided to stop selling bathing suits and apparel at Victoria’s Secret. Its swimwear business had been worth about $500 million, according to CNBC

I think this is a place where we could be exercising the power of our purses just a little bit more. We can shop for undies at female-founded boutiques like Thistle and Spire or Nubian Skin. We can buy yummy-smelling fragrance from Pinrose and P.F. Candle Co., both of which are founded by women. 

It sometimes takes a little work to find places like these to replace our favorite mall stores that have poor practices when it comes to hiring women. But it’s a necessity in today’s world. Money in the United States is power. If we keep putting ours toward companies we believe in, we can eventually make change. 

- Alicia McElhaney / She Spends Issue #16

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What The Google Manifesto Means For Women In Tech

On Aug. 5, news broke that a Google engineer had sent around a 10-page memo to fellow employees that detailed reasons he was skeptical of gender biases in the tech industry, specifically at Google. He claimed that women are biologically less pre-disposed to tech industry jobs.  

Beyond it being wildly unprofessional to send a memo on one's personal beliefs on gender diversity in the workplace, it's clear that Google, one of the largest tech companies in the world, has a major problem.

Sigh, another tech company, another gender diversity scandal. When will it end? It's important to highlight the fact that this screed comes out of an industry that was pioneered by women. Women were some of the first people to work as coders, back when the job was seen as something more secretarial than one with clout. Women like Grace Hopper, Ada Lovelace, Jean Jennings Bartik and Kathy Kleiman revolutionized the industry.

- Alicia McElhaney / She Spends Issue #15

Stitch Fix Files Confidential IPO

This week’s business news included a huge item from women-owned and operated Stitch Fix, an online fashion retailer that offers personal styling advice. 

The company, founded by former Grubhub Director Katrina Lake back in 2010, has filed confidentially for an initial public offering. Translation: You can soon own stock in Stitch Fix.

The company filed a confidential document with the Securities & Exchange Commission last Friday, according to Recode. Reuters previously valued the company between $3 and $4 billion.

Lake, the company’s founder, had previously been sexually harassed by a former partner at venture capital firm Lightspeed Venture Partners. She removed the harasser from her board of directors but was forced to sign a non-disclosure agreement at the time because she was in the middle of fundraising. 

Her story is just one of many in the venture capital world, where sexual harassment runs rampant. While the equities market remains a boys club, stricter regulation gives us hope that Lake and her company will be able to succeed without being harassed by men all day. 

In addition to acting as a nice redemption story, the news that Stitch Fix is filing for a public offering signifies that retail isn’t dead - it’s just a changing industry. 

As malls are closing and traditional retailers such as Sears and J.C. Penney flounder, online retailers like Stitch Fix have managed to carve out a portion of the market by offering services such as personal styling.

- Alicia McElhaney / She Spends Issue #14

The Retirement Crisis Women Are Facing

I saw a pretty terrifying statistic this week that reminded me of why She Spends exists. Just 17% of older women polled were able to pass a retirement planning literacy test, according to The American College of Financial Services.

The test includes 38 questions about planning for retirement, such as how much you should have saved up, how your retirement investments work and when you can use them. If you’re interested, you can take the quiz here

While the men who took the quiz didn’t fare well either (just 35% of men polled passed the quiz), it’s clear that there’s yet another gender gap we have to bridge. 

“The results of this study reveal that women continue to require more financial education and
increased planning,” Jocelyn Wright, State Farm chair in women and financial services said in a statement. “Throughout their lifetime women will face challenges that include longer
life expectancy, lower income, increased need for long-term care and they are more likely to
experience widowhood.”

So not only are our financial literacy levels lower than those of men, but we also have all these extra challenges that go along with being a woman to surmount as we save for retirement. Also of note: people with more money did better on the quiz than poorer individuals. And because women make less than men, we’re more likely to exist in lower income brackets.

Other interesting findings? Women who were the primary financial planners in their households did better on the quiz, and those who shared the decisions with their spouse actually scored worse than average (just 12% passed!). 

It’s clear that we need some work when it comes to financial knowledge. Keep following She Spends(and have a look back at our piece on retirement savings). Pass the newsletter along to a friend. The importance of this knowledge cannot be understated. 

- Alicia McElhaney / She Spends Issue #13