We see more and more women joining the workforce but very few of them are becoming financial decision-makers at home and fewer are thinking of achieving financial independence. In a discussion on the occasion of International Women’s Day in March 2023, we had a panel of experts who discussed issues related to women and finance and what can be the way forward. The experts who were part of the discussion were Kiran Telang, a Sebi-registered investment advisor and a certified financial planner; Shweta Jain, a certified financial planner and financial advisor; and K.S. Rao, head of investor education and distribution development at Aditya Birla Sun Life Mutual Fund. The session was moderated by Nidhi Sinha, editor, Outlook Money. Here are some edited excerpts:
What Stops Women?
One of the key questions discussed was why women do not take the initiative of managing finances despite being capable of doing it. There are many reasons why women are not doing so. “The first could be how the society perceives and stereotypes women, which makes them inhibited, sub-consciously or consciously. Society has a view generally that women should not be involved in money decisions. In fact, in a lot of Indian families th discussion on money is taboo,” says Telang.
She adds that the sad part is that even in case of working women, the decisions on money earned by the women are taken by the men in the family.
“As a result, women also develop this fear that maybe they really don’t understand money matters and are not capable of handling it,” she adds.
“I think we don’t need to go far. If we look at various ads, we see men driving decisions like buying insurance,” says Jain.
The second factor is that women already have a lot on their plate—from the household to their professional career—and may not want to take up another responsibility, which is often viewed as an additional burden, says Telang.
Need For Change
Women need to take up the mantle of being financially free as life situations can put them in a quandary.
“Women may face predicaments when the men of the family are not around such as a divorce situation or widowhood, or simply when they may be travelling and not available. In these and many more situations, money management can fall upon women,” says Telang.
Jain says that the society is evolving, and that makes it expedient for women to take up financial matters in their hands.
“Earlier, being single itself used to be looked down upon but that has changed. Today, women are remaining single by choice, they are choosing to be single parents, walking out of unhappy marriages and so on. That apart, whether you are working or are a home-maker, you need to have the freedom and flexibility to make key decisions on how to spend and invest your money. It could be making decisions about where your child will study or deciding to take a backpacking trip across Europe,” says Jain.
The society also needs to drive this change in attitude. Jain gave the example of Amitabh Bachchan coming out with a statement a few years ago, where he announced that his inheritance would be divided equally between his children. “The society is moving towards that, so even if nothing goes wrong, you may end up with an inheritance, which you would be required to handle on your own,” says Jain.
Aditya Birla Sun Life Mutual Fund has launched the ‘For Her’ initiative to exclusively educated and empower women in association with a Canada-base Women’s Collective. “In India, women constitute up to 48 per cent of the population but some data points says that 80 per cent of women are not financially literate. Today, we know that about 18 per cent of India’s GDP is contributed by women, and if we take homemakers into account, that figure would be much higher,” says Rao.
Talking about the campaign, he said that the AMC had launched the campaign recognizing the need to educate women in finances and engage them meaningfully. The AMC organizes webinars, podcasts, live events, and carries out community engagement in various forms to push this.
“Our intention is that every woman should take financial decisions and script their own success stories,” said Rao, adding that they can also join the financial workforce as several people, including women, would be more comfortable with women distributors and advisors.
To watch the complete interview, visit: www.outlookmoney.com