Make Finance Feminine & Change the World

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Make Finance Feminine & Change the World

By Johnalee Johnston | Sep 9, 2019

Finance needs a profound transformation, says Dr. Mara Catherine Harvey, senior manager at UBS Switzerland AG and head of Global UHNW wealth management business across Germany, Austria and Italy. And, in doing so, we may very well remove another major socioeconomic issue from future history books.

More than 600 million girls will enter the workforce in the next decade—and immediately fall into a gap that will take the rest of their lives to climb out of whether independently or with a partner. The fissure is a financial one, and the reason why Dr. Harvey has pivoted in her professional role—after 20 years in traditional finance—to focus more on minding the gap of economic gender equality for generations to come.

“Have you ever stepped on the London Underground and heard the ‘mind the gap!’ announcement?” asks Harvey. “I feel like our education systems worldwide need to make the same announcement to girls of all ages, to prepare them for the realities they will face upon entering the workforce.” The reality is a 10 percent pay gap women vs. men on average that can lead to a 40 percent wealth and pension gap in a lifetime. These stats spring from first-ever research spearheaded by Harvey that quantified the impact of a gender pay gap on wealth creation over a lifetime, “the semantics of which are extremely biased and masculine-oriented,” Harvey says. Currently, 80 percent of purchasing decisions are made by women but only 30 percent of global wealth is held by women. Research on money perceptions among genders on an organizational level has shown that gender equality is widely promoted yet financial considerations involving males generally take on a positive tone, while those with females tend to be defensive, leading to what Harvey calls "organizational schizophrenia." “We’re not going to be brilliant at the outside world if we’re not doing it on the inside.”

Currently, 80 percent of purchasing decisions are made by women but only 30 percent of global wealth is held by women.

The masculinity of money translates as a subset of social values that create ripples of inequality and financial loss. After studying lifetime earnings of men and women in 141 countries, for example, the World Bank Group put a $160 trillion annual price tag on global gender inequality. If women had the same lifetime earnings as men, global wealth would increase by $23,620 per person, on average, according to the report. Quite simply, society cannot afford the gap. The solution? Make finance feminine.

Oh…the Places You’ll Go

Like many women, Harvey grew up oblivious to economic gender inequality and professional glass ceilings until she stepped into the workforce. “Children grow up with a distinct notion of fairness. I thought that a good education was all I needed,” she explains. When the scale is tipped toward heralding the success of one gender over another, however, that sense of fairness and confidence becomes skewed within a paradigm of social norms and acceptable injustices. Harvey points to millennials and how they are disengaged overall with money management due to having grown up with a decade of negative messaging. “We’re tackling the subject 20 years late,” she says. “Confidence is shaped at the age of five; adult money habits are set at the age of seven. If want to fix this we must look to the next generation—start with children.”

To this regard, Harvey has written four illustrated children’s stories with the goal of instilling a sense of financial confidence and economic gender equality.

She Means Business

Along with the mission to make finance feminine, Harvey has authored “Women and Risk,” one in a series of six books on economies of the future, and funneled more than 100 million Swiss francs of investment and philanthropic capital into the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 5. This will help to achieve gender equality for all women and girls and change the narrative on women and finance. “Because money is not just a transmission of value; it’s a transmission of values.”

Look for Dr. Mara Harvey’s She Means Business keynote at this year’s IMEX America.



Johnalee Johnston
Johnalee Johnston

Johnalee Johnston is a wildly creative and curious disruptor of the status quo and the former digital editor for MPI.