Why young women need to learn about money

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Growing up, women are taught how to flirt with men and make ourselves appear softer, smaller, and nonthreatening. We are generally not taught about work and money. Experts have posited that this could be one reason why working women are less likely to negotiate their salary well, get promotions, and obtain other work benefits. This in turn all contributes to the gender pay gap and women’s overall diminished economic power compared to men.

I used to understand this problem hypothetically, but now, as a college student, it’s becoming a real part of my own life. I spend a significant portion of my time thinking about the career paths I could potentially pursue. I recognize that it’s a relatively new position to be in as a woman: Women did not enter the workforce in anywhere near equal numbers to men until the last century, and the ability to “choose” a job beyond those relegated to us by our gender is only decades old. Women now face the pressure to pursue careers that are seen as financially stable — a decision that starts in college with our choice of major. I personally have started to take economics and math classes to add to my marketable job skills.

Beyond immediate career choices, though, there’s also the matter of financial planning. This past September, I realized I didn’t know anything about what a Roth IRA is or how to do my taxes. I looked around for resources and found Refinery29’s “Money Diaries.” This series asks young, professional women to reveal a sliver of their financial lives by tracking their spending habits for a week. These women disclose what they pay for rent, their own personal saving goals, and their salaries. But as valuable as this concrete financial information is, I’m often most intrigued by the way these women talk about their professional and financial lives more generally. Contributors often express discontent about their current jobs and talk about applying for new jobs. For example, a recent Money diarist discussed how the company she currently works for is “the definition of a boy’s club.” Refinery29 has even expanded the series to include a series about the evolution of one woman’s salary over 10 years.

I am utterly hooked on the series: I visit Refinery29 every day to engage in this financial voyeurism. Reading the “Money Diaries” has helped me realize that despite going to a women-centered college, I still live in an environment where women are taught not to talk about their personal finances or money in general. This silence, however, has undoubtedly only held women back. Exposing ourselves to the costs of living in different areas of the world and the salary range and work commitments of a variety of careers can help (especially young) women make the best financial and professional decisions for their lives and futures.

In a society in which women still face a stigma when it comes to wanting to make money and/or have a high-powered career, being exposed to women talking about their financial lives is crucial. Exposure to this kind of financial transparency has personally taught me new ways I can save money and prompted me to start conversations with my friends about finding a balance between how we can have financial independence and professional fulfillment. Hopefully, these conversations will result in support groups that will make it all the more possible for young women to make the best financial decisions they possibly can.

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Julie Graves
WMC FbombEditorial Board Member
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