Musings Opinion

The M Word: Why Don’t Women Talk About Money

Words: Shahed Ezaydi

Money is such an integral part of all our lives and yet it seems as women we don’t actually discuss this with each other. We just don’t like talking about money, specifically our income and salaries, and as a consequence we become awkward and squeamish when even a hint of money is brought up in conversation. So, what’s really stopping us?

Women dislike talking about money so much that they would rather voice their sexual dissatisfaction with their partner than talk about money, according to a recent study carried out by Fidelity International. However, from my own research, conducted via Instagram poll, I came across some rather interesting opinions and thoughts – a snapshot if you will. 

I first asked my female Instagram followers two questions: 

  1. Do you talk about money with other women?
  2. Do any of these conversations stretch to salaries or long-term savings?

Interestingly, 73% of respondents said that they did talk to other women about money and with 

the second question, 76% of respondents said that these conversations did include talking about their income/salaries and savings. So, the majority of those I asked do talk and discuss money and finances, which is great. There are still a proportion of women who don’t discuss money though.

I then asked my male Instagram followers the same questions – 88% of men said they did talk to other men about money, and 73% said that these conversations stretched to talking about salaries and savings. So, more men talk about money with each other but around the same proportion of men talk specifically about salaries and savings as women. Another result I didn’t really expect.

I asked a few of the women who answered no to these questions about why they don’t talk about money:

Lizzie – “I don’t really know why – I guess money never really comes up in conversation.”

Lauren – “I just don’t talk to anyone about money other than my partner.”

Beth – “Money is not something that I talk about with the women in my life very much, and when it is, it tends to be quite shallow finance stuff. It’s just that it hardly ever comes up in conversation. I would love to be able to talk to other women about it because it’s not something that I or my friends have much knowledge about it’s hard to have conversations about it.”

So, it seems it isn’t a topic that women are actively avoiding but something that isn’t even coming up in conversations in the first place. This is something I personally agree with as I too don’t find money comes up in conversations with my female friends.

We are told that is not appropriate etiquette to talk about money – it’s simply not ladylike. But let’s unpack what this really means.  Putting aside the problematic phrase that is ‘ladylike’, why would talking about my salary to a friend or partner make me less so? The answer lies in the deep rooted stereotypical norms and values that surround women. These stereotypes include the fact we have typically not been that involved with money or employment until for the same amount of time as men. 

But this has trickled into life for us today and we’re still dealing with the consequences of it in how we view and approach money and our finances. From the women I spoke to, ‘it doesn’t come up in conversation’ cropped up a lot as a reason, and this might be due to the fact we’re just not used to talking about something that is stereotypically rooted in a man’s world.

However, our lack of discussion around money can actually serve as a detriment to us. Because we aren’t used to talking about it, we may then lack the confidence or skills to talk about it in a professional sense, i.e. when asking for a promotion or negotiating a salary. An aspect that most certainly has some impact on the gender pay gap. If women don’t feel able or comfortable asking for more money at work, where as men do, then we of course men will end up being paid more for the same job, because they asked. Forbes called this the ‘High Cost of Silence’. But, this could also be another tool used by the patriarchal structures in society to keep women in subordinate positions and dependant on men financially – structures that doesn’t allow us to progress and advance in jobs and career which can then afford us our independence.

Yet, even when women do demand what they rightly deserve, they are met with backlash and labelled ‘just another angry woman’. This is what happened with Carrie Gracie, China editor for BBC News, when she called out the BBC for pay discrimination on gender and resigned from her job over it. And more recently with Samira Ahmed, who has also filed a lawsuit against the BBC on pay discrimination, claiming she is only paid a sixth of what her male equivalent Jeremy Vine is paid. Suzanne Moore discusses this in her recent Guardian article and states that, “this casual indifference to financial equality is so deeply ingrained that in 2019, women demanding equal pay in very well-paid jobs are still seen as bolshy.”

The tide does seem to be changing for us though. The fact women are coming out publicly and demanding more for themselves is in itself a radical act. Yes, women like Carrie Gracie and Samira Ahmed are in positions of authority and to some extent greater privilege, but they are paving the way and starting up conversations for other women. There really is strength in numbers and so the more women who instigate  these discussions and talk about money, then the more likely we are to be able to achieve financial and gender equality in the long term. So, let’s talking. 

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