As part of women’s month in March, Financial Health Network, with support from BlackRock’s Emergency Savings Initiative (ESI), held a members-only Short-Term Savings Working Group webinar entitled “Empowering More Women to Build Savings.”
The panel included Laura Finn, Senior Consultant for Financial Finesse, a financial wellness company, and Tanya Van Court, CEO of Goalsetter, a family and group saving app. Jess McKay, data associate with FHN, moderated the hour-long session. The webinar included an overview of findings from ESI’s analysis of women and savings that showed that nearly half of women (47%) in the U.S. don’t have easy access to $400 cash for emergency — and that women report more stress and carry more credit card debt compared to men. The panelists discussed some of the factors that are part of these statistics:
Key webinar takeaways:
Women have barriers to saving that may not be so obvious
Finn walked through some of the barriers to savings that her research has shown including:
- Time constraints: Mothers, especially single mothers, often have less time to engage. Tip: Consider bringing resources to “hot spots” instead of those in need having to seek them out proactively.
- Family/other-person focused: Women often put others, especially children, before themselves. Tip: Help women consider the generational benefits of putting herself “first.”
- Guilt or shame: Having no money/being bad with money is an identity for some, not a current state. Some may also feel undeserving. Tip: Point out the impact of this mentality on behavior and outcomes. Consider addressing this in group education.
“We need to give people the flexibility to do what’s right for them,” Van Court said. She added that messaging around windfall moments — bonuses, tax refunds, stimulus payments, etc — can be effective in helping women make lump sum savings.
Design and market products with women in mind
Panelists discussed the challenges in designing products for women that reflect some of the implicit barriers to engagement mentioned above. For example, ESI analysis has shown that women tend to carry more credit card debt compared to men, underscoring a tension between urgency and need for funds and accessibility.
“It could be tweaking existing products but more work needs to be done to understand why they aren’t working now,” Finn said.
Panelists also talked about how to market products to women without pandering to them. Finn suggested that companies first ask their female audience about their needs and priorities and use that data when doing gender-specific messaging. She also said it’s important for product marketers and companies to accept that not everyone will appreciate a targeted approach.
Lastly, Van Court pointed to a systemic issue in designing products that better serve women — which is the lack of female-led financial service companies. “Let’s see more women leading and running financial technology companies,” she said. “If we want companies that meet the needs of women, we need to have more women running these companies. Otherwise we’ll get the same old solutions.”
Creating systems of support for women’s lives (financial and otherwise)
Thinking beyond products, panelists also discussed ways to center women’s financial health — and develop a culture of support around women’s needs that in turn can address some of the barriers noted in the first takeaway.
Considering that time scarcity is often a central issue for mothers — and single mothers in particular — in managing their finances, the webinar discussion touched on ways employers or institutions can be more supportive of flexible scheduling.
“What are those things in our own ecosystem where women are disadvantaged?” said Van Court. “We can deconstruct and reconstruct knowing what we know now. We can create a society that is conducive to the realities of women’s schedules.”
Another issue which underscores a broader systemic issue around women’s health, panelists said, is how maternity is handled with both language and leave from work. Finn pointed to New Zealand’s pioneering new policy to give women paid leave for miscarriages; Van Court mentioned how language is archaic in the United States with maternity leave often labeled as “disability leave.” While not directly a saving-related topic, a secondary effect of improved maternity and parental benefits could help a broader mindset shift that does enable more positive financial outcomes.
Lastly, the panelists talked about ways organizations can more broadly support women — such as helping them tackle student loans (ESI analysis showed that more women have more student loan debt than men) which in turn can help free up energy to focus on career growth and thus earning power.
BlackRock’s Emergency Savings Initiative
BlackRock announced a $50 million commitment to help millions of people living on low to moderate incomes gain access to and increase usage of proven savings strategies and tools – ultimately helping them establish an important safety net. The size and scale of the savings problem requires the knowledge and expertise of established industry experts that are recognized leaders in savings research and interventions on an individual and corporate level. Led by its Social Impact team, BlackRock is partnering with innovative industry experts Common Cents Lab, Commonwealth, and the Financial Health Network to give the initiative a comprehensive and multilayered approach to address the savings crisis. Partners including UPS, Mastercard, MX, and Self Financial have joined BlackRock’s Emergency Savings Initiative to help their employees and customers take the essential first step toward long-term financial well-being.