Equality | The financial wellbeing of women at work

The financial wellbeing of women at work

You might not have heard of Clara Zetkin but she was the first person who first championed the idea of International Women’s Day.

In 1909 Zetkin, a socialist and an advocate for women’s rights campaigned for a day to honour working women around the world. At that time, and for many years after, it was normal to believe that a woman’s place was supposed to be at home.

Over the past 50 years, we’ve seen a complete shift in the number of women in employment. There is, of course, greater equality in terms of the number of men and women in work, but the gender pay gap is still prevalent. Figures published last year by the Office for National Statistics revealed that nearly eight out of 10 UK employers are still paying women less than men.

To coincide with this year’s International Women’s Day, we uncover the relationship between women and their financial wellbeing.

Women’s financial & mental wellbeing

Our research in The Employer’s Guide to Financial Wellbeing highlighted that 41% of women are worried about money, compared to 32% per cent of men. Money is, by far, the primary concern for women, with no real differences when it comes to how either gender consider other areas of life such as relationships (18% women, 20% men) health (23% women, 24% men) and career (26% women and 26% men). 

Women who are worrying about money, are over 5 times more likely to suffer from anxiety and nearly 7 times more likely to suffer from depression. This is in complete contrast to men, who are 1.3 times more likely to say they’re suffering from anxiety and/or depression due to financial concerns. 

Women and men have similar saving habits

Although there are no real differences in the approach to savings habits between men and women, 34% of women run out of the money each month, compared to just 22% of men. This means that women are far more exposed to the use of loans, credit cards, or overdrafts to get them through to payday for four out of every 12 months. 

Young women are often  more vulnerable

There is also a generational divide between women. 48% of 16 to 34-year-old women say they’re suffering from anxiety or have panic attacks about money, compared to only 17% for 45 to 64-year-olds. It is also 16 to 34-year-olds that are most likely to run out of money each month (44%), compared to 16% for over 55s.

Talking about money

The findings also confirmed that only 8% of women feel they can talk openly at work about money issues and know they will get help. This will inevitably have huge implications for employers, in relation to productivity, retention, presenteeism and relationships between employees. 45% of women say they have troubled relationships with work colleagues and 47% say that money concerns can have a negative effect on their quality of work. 

It’s not always about pay

It is, of course, possible that some of the issues surrounding women’s low financial wellbeing correlate to the gender pay gap, but it is also a common myth that financial wellbeing is just about pay. It is true that those in the lowest income bracket have the highest level of financial concerns. It is also true that as income increase, money concerns decrease. But even at their lowest point, almost one-third of those earning between £40-60k still have worries around their finances. What is even more shocking is that those who earn over £100k per annum have the same level of financial worries (46%) as those that earn less than £10k. 

Maternity leave is a major factor 

In 1993, following the introduction of a European directive, statutory maternity leave and pay was available to all working women in the UK. But our research has confirmed that motherhood is one of the most obvious financial challenges for women. 73% of women have taken on additional debt while on maternity leave. For many women who return to work either full-time or part-time, it can become impossible to either get out of debt or start saving at the same level as before they went on maternity leave. 

A widespread offering of childcare vouchers could be very beneficial. It is also likely that as well as experiencing the well-recognised stresses of working parents, many women are experiencing high levels of financial worries and this should be factored into an inclusive return to work policy for mothers. 

Employers need to create a culture of openness

It is clear that many women are suffering in silence. There is a real role for employers to play an active role in enabling their employees to be financially healthy.  77% of UK employees feel they can trust their employer when it comes to sharing personal information. However, at the moment nearly 25% of women say that they “don’t feel that my employer cares about my personal financial situation, so there is no point discussing it with them.”

It’s in the interest of all employers to create a genuine culture of openness among all employees. There are both financial and mental health benefits of a working environment where employees feel that they can talk to their boss or HR department about monetary matters - this could be anything from a pay rise, to struggling with debt or dealing with a crisis. 

Interested in breaking down the money taboo in your organisation?

Join our webinar - Let’s talk about money: How to enable culture change - on 26 March. 

Register for the Webinar

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