In March, we celebrate Women’s History Month, a tradition that began in 1987 to celebrate women’s contributions to history, culture and society.
As we recognize Women’s History Month in 2021, however, we are reminded that the year that has passed since last year’s celebration has been a difficult one for many women. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on women. In fact, it’s so profound that some have described it as a “female recession.”
According to the Labor Department, women are down 5.4 million jobs since February 2020, while men are down 4.4 million. In December alone, women lost 196,000 jobs – while men actually gained 16,000 jobs.
Our own research shows that the indicators go even deeper than that. A survey we did in partnership with Age Wave showed that while 56 percent of men are confident about their retirement, only 41 percent of women say the same.
Obviously, as financial advisors, we want to help. And there are ways we can help women who have been negatively impacted by the events of the pandemic to get their finances back on track. First, it’s important to understand where they’re coming from.
For example, research from Age Wave shows that while most women are confident in financial tasks such as paying bills and budgeting, only about half say they’re confident in managing investments. Part of a financial professional’s job, then, is to find ways to encourage those who aren’t as confident to take their first steps in investing.
It’s also important to recognize that younger generations are, generally speaking, quite financially savvy. A 2020 study from Boston Consulting Group found that 70% of millennial women take the lead in all financial decisions, compared to just 40% of female baby boomers.
With this information in mind, we as financial advisors need to create experiences that meet women where they are. We need to adjust our approach based on whether they’re financially savvy, very new to finance and investing, or somewhere in between.
Different life situations may impact their needs as well. Whether they are choosing to live independently, becoming a business owner, caring for family members or furthering their education later in life, each client will have her own set of goals that we need to identify and help them build toward.
Most importantly, we must take a human-centered approach to serve our clients in a comprehensive way, applying equal parts knowledge and empathy to help them weigh complex tradeoffs as we co-create a strategy that will help them achieve what’s most important to them.
The past year has been tough for many women, but we have an opportunity to help them still reach their goals. I look forward to the progress we’ll all make between now and next year’s Women’s History Month.