It’s been a rough few weeks for women. Stories of rape in Parliament House. Allegations that one of our most senior politicians is a rapist. Our Prime Minister proving himself to be cowardly in his response and lacking in empathy for women’s lived experiences. Then there are our sisters in the UK, angry about another senseless murder of a woman just trying to live her life, followed by a brutal response from police when they tried to protest it.
As one of the signs at the Women’s March 4 Justice said today, ‘If you’re not outraged, you’re just not paying attention’.
OK, so what does that have to do with money? Well, a lot.
Because women’s economic empowerment is part and parcel of achieving gender equality. We earn less than men, we retire with less than men, and we are twice as likely to experience financial abuse as men. When we get divorced, women’s incomes take a bigger hit than men’s.
Oh, and you will not be surprised to hear that COVID-19 has had an outsize impact on women, according to Grattan Institute research released last week. We lost more jobs, shouldered more unpaid work, and received less government assistance.
But hey, I’m not just here to get your riled up. In fact, I don’t think I need to. There is a collective sense of anger, a good dose of exasperation and even a bit of despair circulating in the air. We can sign petitions, write to MPs, march on the streets and all the other important avenues that activism provides.
But we need to protect ourselves too. I don’t mean ‘rape whistle and pepper spray’ protection – although, it appears that would be handy too.
The protection I am talking about is against the slings and arrows that life throws at us. Things like job loss, divorce, illness, bad marriages, and toxic workplaces. Having savings and assets in these situations is absolutely crucial, as they provide a safety net or an escape hatch.
Which is why I get annoyed about the way we are socialised, as women, to think of money as this magical tool for SPENDING. We are bombarded with messages about all the things we need to BUY in order to succeed at womanhood: from bras to botox, handbags to haircolour. Capitalism wants us to spend our money on these things, and the patriarchy wants us to waste our time worrying about them.
Now, I am all for a measured dose of retail therapy. But only after we’ve done the important things: saving for our future, adding to our super, stashing away money in our emergency fund, investing in growth assets etc.
The other side of protection is having financial independence from a partner. If you’re in a relationship where you don’t have separate access to your own money, you’re at risk. Every woman (and man) needs access to their own funds, because you never know when you might need it. Moreover, if a relationship becomes emotionally or physically abusive, economic abuse will become a part of it in around 9 in 10 cases.
So Fierce Girls, as we mark a day of national action for women, I wanted to leave you with this thought: don’t just get mad, get rich too.
And please enjoy this great sign from the Sydney #Justice4Women march today.