Last Tuesday, a Backpack to Briefcase event was held at Deerfield Hall, focusing on the role of gender in financial literacy and featuring Candice Jay, Shalini Dharna, and Jess Mann as panelists.

A 2016 study, “Gender differences in the financial knowledge of Canadians”, by Marie Droler, showed that financial literacy varies between men and women, with women trailing behind men in financial literacy scores.

The study was based on data collected from the 2014 Canadian Financial Capability Survey. Findings demonstrated that women had lower financial literacy scores (15% of women correctly answered key questions, compared to 22% of men), and that women are less likely to consider themselves to be financially capable. However, when financial management is shared among couples, or women contribute similarly to their male partners to household finances, there is no difference in financial literacy.

The panelists discussed their experience with women and financial literacy throughout their careers.

Jay is currently the vice-president at Pembroke Private Wealth Management Ltd.

Dharna is a CPA with over 10 years of experience, and has previously worked as a financial analyst at the Ministry of Education, developing policies and procedures to evaluate financial statements to ensure proper use of childcare funding.

Jess Mann is the chief operating officer at Mantralogix Inc. Prior to this, she was the managing director and head of Scotiatrust at Scotiabank.

Mann stated, “I didn’t see a difference with financial literacy itself, but I did see a difference in the confidence level.”

There is an argument that women are as financially literate as men, but their expectation of that financial literacy is higher than it is for men. This is linked to differences in personality. Men are much more likely to try, even if they don’t believe they have the required elements of financial literacy.

Dharna has a lot of experience working with entrepreneurs, and she sees these distinct differences between her male and female clients.

“[Among women] a lot of the time, I’m the one convincing them they’re on the right track and to just keep at it,” says Dharna, and states that men are more likely to start their business and then come up with a business plan later.

Jay works with high-net-worth clients with an average age of 65. Among this group, particularly among the older couples, there was a tendency for the husbands to make the majority of the financial decisions and the wives to know very little about their financial situation at all. Jay has also found that many women are attempting to change this and become more financially literate, in preparation for if the family finances are in their hands, which is likely, given that men have shorter lifespans than women.

Among Jay’s younger clients, the women are predominantly unmarried females who are taking the reins and learning about investing.

Overall, the way women approach their finances is different than men. Based on Jay’s experiences, women tend to worry more, but she also notices a more nurturing aspect in how women deal with their finances, while men are more performance-driven.

In terms of risk appetite and risk taking, Dharna finds distinct differences between the male and female entrepreneurs she works with.

“A lot of the men are willing to just jump in and then take a look at what they did, and women, in general, just take a bit more of a calculated risk, more likely to set up a plan,” says Dharna.

This isn’t to say that women won’t take risks in business; merely that they are more likely to weigh the potential benefits and costs, and evaluate all possible avenues of achieving their goal prior to taking a risk. Women are constantly thinking about the big picture. To this effect, women will easily ask more questions than men, and even ask the same question in a different way to make sure that the answer remains consistent.

The panel theorized that this is related to personality and the inherent nature of some women to overthink and over-analyze.

Both Jay and Dharna discuss how there is some element of “handholding” to their job. They need to be a coach or a psychologist, while also being aware of their boundaries and knowing when they need to refer their clients to other people, such as life coaches.

“Most of the reservation [that I] find with women when it comes to taking risks are not that they don’t think that the future is bright; they see the numbers,” says Dharna. “It’s the lack of confidence in their ability to get to those numbers.”

Mann’s professional experience has led her to the conclusion that “Women just generally have a different relationship with money. How we see money is quite different, and I think that this is where some of these attitudes stem from”.

Women are more likely to spend money on things which will lead to the creation of memories and experiences, while men have a tendency to spend more on physical objects.

Overall, the way women approach their finances is different from men.
Overall, the way women approach their finances is different from men.

Improving financial literacy is a goal everyone should strive for, regardless of their gender, socioeconomic status, or career path.

Each panelist highly recommends that everyone seek out a mentor. It doesn’t have to be someone older or be a formal request for a mentor, but can involve simply grabbing a coffee and talking about finances.

Dharna states, “People love to talk about their successes, so ask them: How did you achieve what you achieved? […] They’ll just start talking, and you can sit there listening and they won’t even realize how much information they’re passing on to you, that you can take away from it.”

Jay recommended books by David Chilton and Kelly Keen, as they are authors who write books at a novice level, and share information in a way that is enjoyable and fun.

Even using Internet resources can be a great help. Simply by searching a question on the internet, one can find great articles and resources to help grow financial literacy skills and see a corresponding increase in the confidence of those skills.

Additionally, there are continuing education classes offered at UTM that focus on financial literacy, as well as workshops and seminars offered through several financial institutions.

All three panelists find that education, which can be used to increase financial literacy, is a phenomenon that is becoming more common.