March is Women’s History Month in the United States. And articles, they do abound, featuring everything from hidden figures and women’s suffrage, to history-making women in the arts and aviation. It’s certainly amazing to highlight where we’ve been and how far we’ve come. At the same time, the spotlight seems to be begging an aim at current gender gaps that need attention. One gap might be in the over-glamorized, and evidently under-utilized, area of finance and investment. Is the issue being blown out of proportion? Are we contributing to the problem? Browse the facts below and decide for yourself...
1. The gap in venture capital.
Fortune Magazine published an article just months ago by Valentina Zarya that directly tackled the gaping difference between the funding that is being directed toward female versus male founders and co-founders. Citing reports all the way through 2016, Zarya points out that “in 2016, 5,839 male-founded companies got [Venture Capital (VC)] funding, compared to just 359 female-founded companies,” and that also in 2016, “women got just 2.19% of venture capital funding.”
And it’s not just VC, Facebook groups and Reddit are a-buzz with gender gaps being found all over the world of finance, from Wall Street to cryptocurrency. Just last month, the New York Times published an article by Nellie Bowlespainting the grim picture of the great divide existing in the emerging world of cryptocurrency. The great irony here is that the unveiling and immediately ensuing embrace of the cryptocurrency technology, harkening the gold rush, promised a new way… a way of transparency and equality, things that Nellie says are panning out to be shockingly absent.
2. The gap in cryptocurrency.
In cryptocurrency, the gap may be even more bold. Nellie Bowles reported the “gender imbalance” as alive and well at January’s North American Bitcoin Conference in Miami:
“…organized by a prominent investor, Moe Levin, Mr. Levin originally slated 86 men and one woman as speakers. After complaints, he replaced two of the men with women to achieve what he thought should be enough: 84 men onstage and three women. ‘It just coincidentally happened that there were more men than women speakers,’ Mr. Levin said. ‘It’s not intentional not to include them. It’s just we don’t have time to include them.’”
3. The gap on Wall Street.
Levin’s statement might seem surprising or even heavily biased, but a recent Reuters article by Chris Taylor confronts these types assumptions within our cultural norms head-on, speaking to popular opinion about Wall Street. “When it comes to industries, Wall Street is about as male-dominated as they come. So many people just assume that men are better investors,” Chris Taylor states.
Taylor sets the record straight with an interesting finding: “According to new data from financial services giant Fidelity Investments, women are actually superior investors. In sifting through more than 8 million investment accounts, Fidelity discovered that women not only save more than men, 0.4 percent, their investments earn more annually, also 0.4 percent.” Many women might find these new statistics surprising. At the very least, hopefully some will find it empowering.
With the gender gap so blatantly apparent in venture capital funding, the cryptocurrency space, and in investing on Wall Street, two questions are begged:
Why are such a large number of women ABSENT in Finance & Investment?
- AND -
What can we do to change it?
So what are the barriers to entry? Why are most women not involved in savvy investing, increasing their financial empowerment, and ultimately affecting direct influence over the companies and tech innovations that stand to be our greatest catalysts for a better future? The professionals definitely have something to say about this:
1. Women believe they can’t get in the club.
In a quote from Jennifer Fonstad to Fortune Magazine, she assesses:
“Currently, about 7% of partners at top VC firms are women, according to an analysis by TechCrunch. One female VC partner, Aspect Ventures’ Jennifer Fonstad, says that much of the problem comes down to a lack of access: Women entrepreneurs simply aren’t part of the (predominantly male) network of VCs. That venture capital is a boys’ club ‘hasn’t changed and I don’t think that will change,’ she says.”
2. Women believe they are unqualified.
Despite major sources like Fidelity Investments releasing statistics supporting the strong capability of women in the finance and investment space, many women simply have not developed their confidence in this area. Arianna Simpson, who is an early cryptocurrency investor, told the New York Times, “Women always question if they’re qualified.”
3. Women do want to be a part.
In an attention-getting declaration about women in cryptocurrency, the New York Times reports the following statement:
“Brit Morin, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, recently held a blockchain gathering for women that sold out in an hour. She moved the meeting to a bigger venue, where all 500 seats sold out again. So she set up a livestream for the event; that evening, 16,000 viewers joined to watch. ‘We have an opportunity to rebuild the financial systems,’ Ms. Morin said. ‘Women want to be part of that.’”
There may be a million reasons women are not as involved in the finance and investment space as they could be. Certainly the causes are different for each person, and our societal history inarguably has a role to play. But if we know the gap exists, if we are aware the only thing keeping us in this holding pattern is inaction… then WHAT CAN WE DO?
Calling all women!
The only way to affect true, lasting change in bringing balance to the gender funding gap is for women to step up in their own empowerment and intentionally INVEST in their future, and in the community around them. (See disclaimer below*)
- Connect with other women.
REACH OUT. Groups to connect, support, and inspire women in business are popping up all over the place. One of my personal favorites is EvolveHer, a women’s community and space in Chicago. Founder Alicia Driskoll has taken the reigns and developed a thriving community of women in business who support each other, share insights, and move forward together in their various businesses and industries. I can tell you first hand how motivating it is to work in proximity to this kind of exponentially empowering energy! Groups like this are foundational to expanding your sphere of influence as well as elevating your mindset when challenges come your way. This community aims to “inspire creativity and foster collaboration amongst women,” which is exactly what they are doing! Check out EvolveHer for how you can be involved.
ASK FOR HELP. Carolyn Leonard of Dymynd Angels is working on a revolutionary change for women in finance, and she knows that it starts with correcting misconceptions that keep women from taking their seat at the table. Carolyn and her team work with women to discover their Financial Personality in order to elevate their financial wellbeing. Dymynd states, “We help women explore their approach to finance, cultivate positive financial relationships and build trust.” I was fortunate to attend a Dymynd Angels workshop last month, and heard directly from Monika Black, PhD and co-founder of the Dymynd Angels initiative. Monika works directly with women individually and in groups to grow their financial portfolios and “Emotional Financial Security (EFS), to make better life, career, and leadership decisions from a healthy position of wealth, regardless of net worth”.
Get connected with this group or one like it to discover your blocks to your own financial success, and move them. Visit Dymynd for more info.
SHOW UP. And when you do, use your voice. There is no better way to get a place at the table than to take yours, and be present. Believe you can affect positive change, that you have something to contribute, and then do it.
Start with your local Chamber organization in your local community. Seek out groups that welcome women in tech, finance, and investments. Groups like Ms Tech allow women who have any interest in tech to get immediately active. Others, including this rockstar group for women interested in cryptocurrencies headed up by Vicki Rox, have Facebook groups that will welcome you in the fold. Stay connected. You make a difference.
- Start small.
If you are just starting out or unsure where to begin, there are a few apps that might be perfect in helping you get on your way - one dollar at a time.
With Acorns, you can connect your checking account, and it will round up your transactions and INVEST the change. This app is perfect for getting your investments started without breaking the bank… nearly unnoticeably. With a quick setup on your phone, you can start your first investment account.
Stash allows you to invest with one-time or regularly scheduled deposits into your portfolio. The app includes investment education and allows for investments starting with as little as just $5. If you want to get momentum going in your financial abundance, consider setting up a regular deposit of $25, $50, or $100 per month and watch your investments go!
Aspiration covers banking, investing, retirement, and giving. Having just launched their beta relatively recently, they are not adding checking accounts yet. But get in line, because having been featured on Fox Business, New York Times, and Money Magazine, they are certainly going to be one to follow. You can start one of their investment accounts with an opening deposit of $100, and a minimum investment to that account of at least $1 thereafter.
- Expand your horizons.
If you are already on your way with saving and investing, and if you have a good handle on your monthly budget, consider investing in real estate. The Internet and bookstores are full of good reads on the benefits of buying to renting. One great book in this area is Building Wealth One House at a Time by John W. Schuab.
Your long term investment plan can be greatly enhanced by including the potential equity that being a homeowner can provide.
There are amazing programs available now for first time home buyers. Here’s a few in Illinois.
If you are already a homeowner, you may be unnecessarily throwing away money each month on interest you don’t have to pay. Use this mortgage calculator to see what you qualify for!
- Invest in yourself first.
The surest way to turn your scarcity cycle to a fountain of abundance is to invest in yourself first. Most often this means gifting yourself things like...
Start by blocking out some YOU time in your week. It can be used for anything you like, so long as it’s for you. Start with an hour, a half hour, 20 minutes…whatever feels good and doable for you to begin. Many times this will look like alone time, a bath, a walk in nature, meditation, yoga, or exercise. Gifting yourself time is a great way to establish trust with yourself that you are capable of taking care of you, and therefore all the other things on your plate.
Treat yourself to something…it could be ice cream, a TV show, or a glass of wine. But whatever it is, make sure it is an indulgence. Gift yourself the freedom of guilt-free enjoyment of some of your favorite things.
This one really boils down to self-care, but, when all is said and done, it requires a healthy self-love. This means holding a positive and loving image of yourself, based on a positive self-worth, positive body image, and compassion for all the ways you are still becoming. This is usually the toughest part of the journey for women, but it is SO rewarding, it’s too good not to try. You can start by telling yourself something positive about yourself in the morning, as you’re getting ready for work.
Buy yourself something you really want. It might be a fancy bracelet you have been admiring but didn’t feel like springing for. Or it might be one of those investment accounts we discussed above. But whatever it is, feel the abundance of the exchange… the money you are giving, happily, gratefully, fully… in exchange for the thing that feels wonderfully satisfying to you. Pick one thing, and go for it!
Taking even just one of these small actions on a regular basis to show yourself care and abundance can un-stuck a stubborn cycle and put you on the road to expansion.
Calling all men!
The solution isn’t dependent upon the action of women alone. Men are powerful catalysts for change in this arena and their support, voices, and action are needed now more than ever.
Dymynd Angels launched a program this year where men can symbolically and practically contribute to the solution by funding women-led initiatives at the exact percentage of the gender funding gap. For more info on this project, visit The Got-Her-Back Campaign.
or call 773-966-2738
About the author:
Tammy Scarlett is a PNW native, currently residing in Chicago. A graduate student at Harvard University, she has spent the past six years in women’s empowerment and coaching work, preceded by ten years in the mortgage industry as broker of an all-women firm in Washington State. Tammy is now leading empowerment and community driven initiatives in the Chicago area, including a new cutting edge peer consulting group for real estate agents. Check out her work at tammyscarlett.com or contact her for your home loans needs here.
*Quick disclaimer: I am not a financial advisor and the recommendations in this article are from my personal experience only. Please consult a financial advisor for professional investment advice. I am, however, a licensed Loan Originator, and am happy to advise on home loan scenarios from first time homebuying or investment properties to all kinds of refinances. And feel free to be in touch if you’d like help with a home loan or if you want to collaborate on making our world a more abundant place!