Shaziya Khan: Providing Women Personal Space for Personal Finance

02 Sep,2021

This is the fifth 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: https://www.mxmindia.com/category/columns/shaziya-khan/

 

By Shaziya Khan

 

Shaziya KhanTote of Personal Finances: needs personal space

 

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

There is much good work to be done, now and in the future, in this area. There is a distinctly uncomfortable relationship women have with personal finances. Yes, that’s right, with their own personal finances. The clue to defining the problem, lies in the name. Personal finance is not regarded as personal, because there is insufficient personal space to engage with it.

 

To empathetically understand why this so and what are the zones of allyship, to enable this personal space, matters. This is relevant for several brands, in the financial category, across other categories too, for whom progress of women and girls matters. Guided by the truth, that there is a human emotional glue to every business challenge, we set out to understand more of what is going on or not. We unpacked, what is personal and what is not.

 

HOME BUDGET IS PERSONAL

Women profess considerable personal ownership of household finances.

Their well-respected budgeting savviness is often transferred across generations and relations. In this domain, women are not only comfortable, they are astute, demonstrating mastery in managing smoothly, despite constraints, uncertainties. Regularly exercising efficiency, finesse, forward thinking and more. “I managed”, “I will cope”,  “Leave the matter with me, do not worry now”. Amazing anecdotes abound behind these oft heard remarks. Real life stories, cue personal ownership, a courageous stepping up to challenges,  strong sense of responsibility for making  “it all work” for the benefit of all at home.

 

SAVING ‘EXTRA’ IS PERSONAL, TOO

In small savings behaviors, too, women exhibit personal ownership. They demonstrate a delightful resilience, a “lean in” attitude, an ingenuous “opt in” to opportunities, a quick grasp of outcomes. In short, “making the most” of what is “within their means”. Women have a dynamic, evolving well habituated small saving behavior pattern. From the monthly home budget itself, occasional gifts, windfall gains, festive, weddings or other celebrations as well as bargain hunting, exchanges, informal lending, recycling.

 

LEANING INTO SMALL EARNINGS IS PERSONAL, TOO

Also, women nurture ingenuity in small services they can personally provide or help to organize via other women in their ‘circle’. Often, they ‘make the best of’ channeling innate talents or acquired skills for “little extra” earnings. For instance, teaching, tele / online services, being an ‘agent’, cleaning, repairing, grooming or gourmet services. They actively seek opportunities, drive word of mouth, network. They advertise their offerings, work extra hours, build a loyal circle of customers. In short, they demonstrate personal ownership toward “every little helps” earning avenues.

 

WHY ARE OTHER MATTERS OF PERSONAL FINANCE NOT SEEN AS PERSONAL?

Savviness in budgeting, small savings and earnings, piques our curiosity. With such keen skills, a financially active mindset, why is a sense of personal ownership, in other matters of personal finance so muted (insurance, investing, banking and so forth)?

 

We learnt, there is little personal space for women to engage in personal finances beyond home budgeting, saving, small earnings. On the surface there is much personal space – best described via sentiments like “everything is yours”.  Indeed, for many women, there is financial protection in the warmth of familial bonds. Yet, even this rousing emotionality, can and does have personal boundaries.  Several factors collide to create narrow personal financial boundaries, erasing personal financial space, eventually erasing personal financial ownership.

 

• Discouragement: Several women have experienced discouragement, passive or aggressive, when mildly inquiring or seeking clarifications on financial documentation, leave alone requesting formal agency.

• Exclusion: Women’s exclusion during significant family financial discussions is ‘normal’. They are ‘informed’, at a later stage, ‘when appropriate’. The range of exclusion extends from being entirely excluded; initially kept ignorant, unless they find out for themselves; being included, but more as a “favour” or obligation, versus a natural right.

• Collective pool: Thirdly, women’s earnings are kept and managed in a collective pool in accounts held by other family members, entirely or jointly. There is visibility of her personal finances to other members of the family, who assess, manage, use, transfer and so forth. Anecdotal evidence abounds from working women whose earnings are rarely kept with them, rather bulk of them are “handed over” to and for “the family”.

• Answerable to others: Women find they are ‘answerable’ to any questions on personal finances. As a result of this lack of privacy, women find themselves having to ‘answer’ questions about their personal finances. What is money being spent on, why, how and so on. This behavior pattern pre-sets limits on what is permissible or not for them.

• Extreme discretion: Speaking in whispers, out of range of other family members, not fully disclosing personal financial questions, worries, plans, ideas are common behavior.

• Invisibility: Many women are compelled to take financial discretion to a different level, when they request financial assistance. Rather than be given to the women, they request it be given directly to the women’s beneficiaries like their parents, siblings, spouses, children etc.

 

 

ALLYSHIP FOR PROVIDING PERSONAL SPACE, FOR SAVVINESS IN PERSONAL FINANCES

In effect, we are learning that many women feel that apart from home budgeting, small savings and earnings, they have little personal ownership and agency in other financial matters. Providing personal space for women to engage more with the gamut of personal finances, is an area of allyship. This personal space can be enabled via education, advocacy, role models, communication, innovation, value added services. Providing personal space enables personal ownership of personal finances. This is a vital step on the journey to savviness in personal finances. Personal finance is personal.

 

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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