What’s ‘Said’ Scratches the Surface of What’s ‘Experienced’

08 Jul,2021



The second in our 10-part series where Shaziya Khan focuses on the allyship of brands for financial savviness of women and girls. Link to the first part: Is there a Burden of Hidden Emotions Women carry in it?


Shaziya KhanBy Shaziya Khan

Women are known to be prudent shoppers and savers. Yet, women need to become more savvy in personal finance. This is a key and progressive attitude shift among, both, men and women.


Several women, confess to being uncomfortable about taking decisions in financial matters (seeking validation, often procrastinating etc.). Also, women feel emotionally vulnerable taking financial decisions in a life context of dependency (spouse, father, brother), social “rules” and roles, subtle conditioning favoring a persona that “knows little about such matters”. These ‘silent yet significant’ barriers, lurk deep, generationally and must be surfaced and reassuringly addressed. Thereby, enabling financial savviness of women and girls as a happy ‘normal’ in the present and future. Guided by the truth that the spoken word is different from the lived experience, we looked far below the surface of what is merely ‘said’.


GNAWING FINANCIAL WORRY EXPERIENCED SILENTLY. Women experience a gnawing threat and worry related to “their safety net”. Research reveals that one of the biggest advocates for purchasing general insurance, is the woman of the house, albeit with a deeply subdued voice. Wives and mothers instinctively, quickly, silently understand that “if anything were to happen”, it would sadly, blow a big hole in the family’s savings. They especially worry about the adverse impact on children’s education and future, etc. Yet, despite this threat perception being experienced deeply, they rarely voice it. Why?

There are ‘obvious’ restrictions to voicing a ‘bad omen’, even if one is speaking practically or thoughtfully, with ‘good intention’. Due to the ‘bad omen’ factor and related manifestations of it, women barely voice their financial inclinations. This could be with regard to banking, investing, insurance, earning etc. Thus, out of fright, superstition, “not speaking out of turn”, “being a nag”, “having a black tongue” etc. women learn to live with their gnawing financial worries. Unable to voice their inclination towards purchasing relevant financial instruments. Unable to actively ‘solve for’ financial needs, protective financial measures, in good time.


SOFT SKILLS MASK THE INTENSITY OF THE FINANCIAL NEED OR DESIRE. Women know, there is an art and science of successfully navigating any financial discussion. Personal finance, being a sensitive topic, and theirs being a layered authority, it needs careful ‘handling’. For instance, even blurting out a spontaneous practical suggestion, takes practice. At other times, they learn, or are taught, silence is golden. Many women “have to” master diplomacy, timing and discretion to adroitly discuss a financial matter at home. Mustering courage, faultless logic, impeccable timing and pitch perfect tone of voice are intangible and tangible ‘notes of harmony’ that women orchestrate. These soft skilled expressions, others like them, are common. “I’ll try and cajole over a few days”, “after meals is best time to discuss it”, “so and so, was suggesting”.

Women admit to picking their battles carefully, wisely, especially financial ones. They fear that if a stray remark is seen by their spouse, elders, ‘authority figures’ of the family, to be strident or ill timed, several of their future financial needs and wishes might never see light of day. Or be denied for a long time.


LACK OF ASSERTION OF FINANCIAL AUTHORITY. Many women admit that even when their financial rights exist, they feel, or are made to feel awkward, uncomfortable or guilty, when asserting them. Anecdotally there is much, varied evidence pointing to this lack of assertion. Seeking “permission” to assert what is financially due. Forgoing some part of their financial rights, is ‘taken for granted’. Being the last in the queue to get their financial due is “accepted”. Withdrawal of other familial support, if she claims her financial rights, is familiar to many middle-class women.

This could be partly due to early subtle conditioning, across several aspects. To take just one aspect, several parents mention observing, early on, differing behavior related to gifts. The girl child is passive or vague about what she wants as a gift, versus, a boy child assertively negotiates a gift in return for “x”. Years later, this gets cemented as a ‘pattern’. Women passively “let go” of personal financial matters, preferring vagueness over ‘details’. They candidly admit to being carefree, haphazard, even “lost”, about ‘their own’ finances! Some learn a ‘hard lesson’, better their ways.


ALLIES MUST EMPATHISE WITH THE EXPERIENCE BEHIND THE WORDS. We are learning, that alongside the rational budgeting and saving skills, women have an emotional (roller coaster) experience of personal finances. They live silently, or with hushed words, or muted expressions, with this experience. With gnawing financial worry, a marshalling of soft skills to mask intensity of financial needs, desires and ‘letting go’ rather than asserting financial authority. Words seem to scratch the surface of these deeply felt and lived daily “normal” experience. Brands, keen on allyship with women, must empathize with their lived experience, behind the words.

To ally with a woman on her onward journey of financial savviness – let her know you ‘get’ her experience. Let that inspire innovation, communication, inclusivity to enable her financial savviness. You might hear just a muted phrase or see just a passive nod, trust me, her heart is probably jumping with joy, hope. It is just that her words don’t capture that. Yet.


Shaziya Khan is National Planning Director, Wunderman Thompson. She has won the Jay Chiat Grand Prix  for Strategy and Three WPP Atticus Global Awards for ‘Original Thinking in Marketing Communication’. Her views here are personal.


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