How gender stereotyping is locking women out of wealth

Written by Abbie Jones-Walters on 3rd May 2019

It is still a sad reality that many women have grown up in a world where sexism, gender stereotyping and misogyny are par for the course. Education isn’t equal, emotional labour isn’t equal, opportunities aren’t equal, the way women are spoken to often isn’t equal, and societal expectations and perceptions sure aren’t equal.

According to a recent government audit, fewer than half of UK companies reporting their salary figures have taken any action towards narrowing their gender pay gap. In fact, last year 78 per cent of firms reported a gap in favour of male employees, and hundreds reported an increase in the gap.

The gender pay gap expresses the difference between the salaries of average working men and women, rather than a direct comparison of a man and a woman in the same job. Unequal pay for the same role has been illegal since 1970, however the statistics suggest we still have a long way to go.

But it isn’t just the way we’re paid that reflects gender inequality in personal finances. According to a linguistic study into gender representation conducted by digital challenger Starling Bank, the entire financial architecture of society is stacked against women.

Starling’s study of more than 300 money-related articles revealed a staggering and pervasive gender bias, revealing a stunning polarity between the way in which the mainstream media spoke about money to men compared to women.

Earners vs. spenders

To be more specific, Starling’s researchers found that a stunning 90 per cent of articles about money aimed at women focus on spending less; 71 per cent offer up ‘bargain hunting tips’; and 65 per cent define women as reckless spenders. In short, women were being categorised as spendthrifts with little self control beyond hunting out the best sale.

In contrast, almost three quarters of the financial articles the app-based bank analysed that were aimed at men focused on encouraging them to invest and offering tips on how to build a portfolio.

Perhaps the most shocking part of all, though, was that one of the key suggestions for how women might overcome their financial woes (which are, naturally, entirely self-inflicted via an incurable addiction to overpriced designer clothes hand-stitched by the infant fingers of slave labourers), is to become financially reliant on a parent or partner.

And so, boiling down the message at the core of this linguistic gender bias, it’s clear that women are encouraged to follow a fairy tale storyline and marry a rich prince, remain dependent on their parents, or squirrel away the odd fiver here and there in a pink ceramic piggy bank for a rainy day.

Meanwhile, men are forging a path through the world of finances, becoming big earners, big investors and accruing big wealth. Men get finance, women get favours.

Fact vs. fiction

Despite this evident gender bias in the media, though, when Starling analysed the spending habits of their customers they found no discernible difference in the way that men and women choose to spend or budget. None-at-all.

Women are still trailing behind men in the financial sphere, however, and the distrust of women’s financial acumen imprinted on us through the media has no doubt played a role. The sexism that permeates the world of money exists everywhere you look, including the financial sector itself, where the pay gap is second widest only to the construction industry.

When it comes to investing, consistent and decisive evidence has also shown that women are, in-fact, better at it than men – women are generally more cautious and think through decisions that they then stick to over the long term. But there’s a confidence gap: 52 per cent of women have never owned an investment product, compared with just 37 per cent of men.

As an added sting in this gender biased tail, all of us (including female investors) have so little faith in women that we are far less likely to take a chance on a female-owned business than we are a male led start-up, meaning women entrepreneurs struggle far harder for funding and have fewer opportunities to show the boys up.

Meanwhile, men are under immense and undue pressure to rake in the big bucks and be savvy investors. They’re expected to navigate the world of money with little guidance and a misplaced assumption that, simply because they are men, they’ll do all the heavy lifting with family finances.

Money – as we all know – makes the world go round. Choosing how to save and invest it is essential to ensuring the stability of our financial futures, while (as regular Good With Money readers will know) being the single most powerful way we can all enact social change and help to protect the environment.

Moreover, the last time we checked the global population wasn’t solely – or even largely – made up of men, so money shouldn’t be either. Come on world, lets #MakeMoneyEqual.

You can read more about Starling’s #MakeMoneyEqual campaign here.


This article is sponsored by Starling Bank, a digital app-based bank revolutionising the banking industry. As well as current accounts for individuals and small business owners, Starling offers in-app access to insurers, pension providers, investment platforms, mortgage brokers and more. Starling believes everyone should be able to enjoy a healthy financial life and should feel in control of their money. That’s why its app is loaded with smart money management tools such as instant payment notifications, spending insights and real-time balance updates.

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