Amidst Informal Ties & Prying Eyes

05 Aug,2021


This is the fourth in our 10-part fortnightly series where Shaziya Khan focuses on the allyship of brands for financial savviness of women and girls. Link to the first three parts:


By Shaziya Khan


Shaziya KhanA key attitude shift is the need for women and girls to become financially savvy.

Women have well-known home budgeting skills, yet when it comes to personal finances, they are uncomfortable. Plausible reasons being contexts of dependency, subtle conditioning. There are other well-hidden emotional factors in play too. For instance, women’s financial experiences necessarily include masking intensity of financial needs or desires, “letting go” instead of asserting financial authority, staying quiet about gnawing financial worries. Thus, women hold themselves back or are held back from purchasing or advocating financial instruments, actively solve for financial needs, take protective financial measures, in good time.



Guided by the truth people hide their true emotions, we dived a deeper to understand what could be areas of allyship to help women and girls to become financially savvy. These areas for allyship matter for brands across all financial categories such as banking, insurance (life & general), investing, saving as well as brands in categories beyond finance to whom impacting progressive attitude shifts for women and girl matter.



“Old ways” of ‘a secret pocket or secret lining’ linger in some fashion. (Traditionally, it was not uncommon to hear of people carrying money, precious items, important papers “hidden securely” in clothes, sewn in by women discreetly, for family members). Informal versions of “hiding securely”, continue. There lingers a certain familiarity about ‘informal safe-keeping’ of personal financial assets. Lack of familiarity, ease of access, affordability, to formal avenues (bank accounts, lockers, home safes, cupboards with safes, financial instruments etc.) reinforces the loop. Many women are habituated to informal ‘corners’ (literally). This, however, is a relatively minor aspect. The issue is the informality of financial ties per se.





Women’s informality goes deeper than “hiding of notes in sugar pots or cloth linings”. There is a pervasive and worryingly, acceptable lack of formality vis a vis women’s personal finances.



Women a ‘significant absentee’ on documents. Often, women are simply absent in the formal aspects of personal finance. These formal aspects could relate to financial documents or forms, deeds, signatures, nominations, accounts, cards. Most women accept, or are unaware, that their names do not feature in financial documents. This is acceptable not just for large assets like a home but also for small assets like an account, card or scheme.  Being a common pattern, in many homes, it is shrugged off as the “norm”.



Accepted it might be, yet undoubtedly it lingers troublingly, as a denial or neglect, of formal financial acknowledgement and agency. Voiced or not, it is a fact that women are conscious of. For instance, during banter, or argument, or outburst, being ‘reminded’ that a financial asset is not truly “theirs”.



Informality in financial ties, for women, is a potential iceberg to watch out for. It can threaten, bring about a crash, silence or in other cases loom large, more below the surface, than above, as a deterrent of choice, a type of cold non-verbal control.



Open access by others to women’s personal finances. Anecdotal evidence abounds of women’s earnings being “handed over” to significant others in the family almost entirely or to a very significant extent. Women’s earnings, it is ‘accepted,’ are “managed” in accounts held by others entirely, or jointly. It is also generally ‘accepted’ that women’s savings, earnings, gifts are the first and easiest to access when the family’s need or desire for money arises. “took my money for buying x”, “had to give my money to y” “ I cannot refuse z”.


As a result of this open access of others to her personal finances, women find themselves having to ‘answer’ to others when they spend, save, invest their money! Reinforcing the informal hiding loop described earlier.





Women generally have less formal agency on personal financial matters, at the same time others have open access to their personal finances. Thus, many, many women find themselves in a life situation of bearing a double burden of financial informality and it being “acceptably” demanded of them as the norm, for the long term. As a result, women’s innate resourcefulness turns into survival mode. For their financial self- preservation, their attention is on discretion – to extract some semblance of ‘personal’ in personal finances. While that helps them survive, the progressive shift of our times, is towards helping women and girls thrive and become financially savvy. Allyship by brands can provide timely, progressive measures to enable this in degrees. Supportive, empathetic and modern means of security, privacy, agency, in personal finance for women and girls, matter. Enabling a fresh habit loop for women and girls, to financially thrive, not just survive.



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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