IWD: Why Balance For Better?

For more than a century, an annual women’s day has been marked by feminists and politicians who want to celebrate the achievements of females. Now it’s a truly global phenomenon, and by no means limited to public figures and intellectuals: girls, boys, women and men from all corners of the world are coming together to help drive change in gender equality, and recognize the often hidden acts of heroism, large and small, that our mothers and sisters have accomplished.

This year’s theme is all about balance: you may already have seen the hashtag “#balanceforbetter doing the rounds. The purpose is to remind us of all the ways gender causes an imbalance in public and private life, and what we can do to address it.

Here at Vestpod, our main focus is of course on the world of finance. It’s an area where balance is sorely needed because after all, we wouldn’t need to exist if it weren’t! Despite the strides being made by money-savvy misses (and misters), there is still an extreme lack of parity between men and women across the board in financial services. And it’s not just the managerial board we’re talking about...

According to newly published research by the IMF on who uses banks, less than half all depositors and borrowers are women. In some countries, for example in the Middle East, that number is significantly lower. Yet it’s often women rather than men who have to do the daily financial housekeeping of their family, for example shopping for food, clothes and medicine.

Numerous studies show that when women – especially in developing countries – are given access to banking tools like business loans and even simple current accounts, it’s great for business and also the general wellbeing of their families, with more money going into education for their children, for example.

Why are women good for business? In a nutshell, it’s because they tend not to take mad risks, and often have better networking and interpersonal skills, which help make rational, joined-up decisions. On a wider corporate level, companies with good female representation at leadership level appear to thrive, not least because those women who have managed to jump through the patriarchal hoops put in their way to reach the top are likely to be even more brilliant and experienced than the men in that position, who haven’t had to overcome so much to get there. Also, it just makes sense that a company which advocates for equality is sensible, progressive and not run by numbskulls, right?

The idea that gender balance is desirable in business is finally being recognised by the stock market, with an emerging set of Exchange Traded Funds geared towards investing only in companies with a female-friendly governance and general outlook. Banks such as UBS are offering investment platforms like this, with investments in companies like Gap and L’Oreal who fit a strict set of feminist criteria, and by all accounts they are thriving. There is also the Girl Fund launched by Helena Morrissey last year.

So, whether you are a borrower, an investor or a finance professional - and whatever your gender - we are sure you’ll agree with us that more balance is the way to drive healthy social change and good financial growth. It’s a no-brainer, right?

Well, what better time to spread the word than International Women’s Day. Just like our forebears in previous times of change, it’s all about raising consciousness, standing up to be counted, and using your voice in any way you can to highlight what needs to be done.

As we often say here at Vestpod, the best way is often to start small: have a conversation with your kids or friends about saving money. Show them how to pay the bills. Go online and learn the basics of investing so you don’t feel struck dumb the next time you’re talking to a pensions advisor.

It’s time to redress the balance! Join us on March 15th for our Vestpod Series special IWD!