Written by Anju Rakesh & Athira Premarajan
The 2020 International Women’s Day message from Paytm was a mind opener to many of us. While complex gender analytics on organizational parameters signify the disproportional impact on women, starting from skewed domestic chores to getting hit severely by the pandemic, their vulnerability because of insufficient financial literacy is another critical and stark reality. For the record, among the 14% of the active population who invest their savings, only 33% of women take independent investment decisions compared to 64% men, reports the DSP Winvestor Pulse survey.
While experts comment on the criticality of having financial literacy for all, Indian society is yet to acknowledge the importance, let alone practice it. With gender-segregated career advancement paths, career gaps leading to slower earnings, pay disparity, and other gaps faced due to the gender status altogether, women tend to be at the risk of succumbing to the impacts of financial illiteracy.
Why the stark disparity?
This can be attributed to the longest and strongest roots of patriarchy and gender-segregated events in an individual’s life and social conditioning right from birth. The familial model of male breadwinner and female caretaker is still embellished in the majority of minds, though the millennial generation seems to be moving away from it. Unfortunately, women in our country were raised with the notion that financial management is something off their table, considering the nitty-gritties associated with it is something that a woman was perceived not to have an edge at, not capable of going beyond the part of handling daily household budgeting. It is also a dismal fact that while Indian women and men’s financial literacy rates are considerably low, it is even lower for the urban women population – the educated professionals. This not only impacts their financial knowledge gap but also their social wellbeing and status as equal citizens in the country that fosters freedom and equality.
The Covid-impact has certainly had a role in driving the idea of financial security and independence among working women. They started seeking financial advisories and investing their savings on account of the unprecedented and disproportionate impact they were succumbed to, from the beginning of the pandemic. According to ‘Down and Out? The Gendered Impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic on India’s Labour Market’ by Azim Premji University, women are 7 times more likely than men to lose jobs during the pandemic or otherwise. Hence, the practice of saving and investment is gaining traction among more women, who have now realized the importance of financial planning, without anyone having to give consent or inspiration. Gauging from the hard experiences gone through in one year, a greater number of women are investing and taking control of money matters. This has risen by 10 percentage points since last year, as per a survey conducted by Scripbox.
The way forward in bridging this gap is through conscious and intentional efforts from the individual side and conditioning the next generation with adequate training and awareness on the importance of it. Independence in all aspects at all levels is the key to individual development, social upliftment, and most importantly, nation-building.
It is interesting to note that we see an upward trend in the number of women occupying business roles in Working Mother & Avtar Best Companies for Women in India. This establishes the potential of financial acumen that women hold. Taking cues, it is important that at a societal level, we take steps to bridge the gap in financial literacy as it is definitely a non-negotiable aspect in the pursuit of improving women’s workforce participation in the country!