Springboarding off of an infamous USA Today infographic (and utilizing a handy Wild, Wild West conceit), finance oracle Whitney Johnson tried her darnedest to unravel the mystery about why female leaders are still a relative rarity in the wide world of investing. It's certainly a puzzle, because, although women are accounting for more of our college grads, are more often earning the bread in a household, and represent just about half of the entire labor force, the USA Today article that sparked Johnson's brief disquisition about ladies in finance found that a mere 22 percent of women are comfortable marionetting a household's purse strings, and a mere 12 percent are seasoned investors.
What's the haps with these numbers? There's no empirical proof to suggest that women suck at investing money anymore than dudes do, so why aren't women breaking through the finance world's glass brick ceiling? Despite the bevy of Old West metaphors at her disposal, Johnson seems initially stumped:
But the fact is that in the Wild West of investing, an Annie Oakley is rare - the realm of investing is still very much a dude ranch. While there may be 1 in 5 women for whom learning to invest is simply an exercise in sharp shooting, for the remaining 80%, I suspect it really is their first rodeo. According to the Bem Sex-Role inventory, society considers a woman to be feminine only within the context of a relationship or when she is giving something to someone. Project this image of the feminine ideal into the world of investing and the only "socially acceptable" roles for women are limited - perhaps doing due diligence as a "helper" or writing a check as a donor.
But lo! There's always an answer or, in this case, a theory masquerading as an answer — Johnson shares a little morsel of insight about donations that she gleaned from a chat with one of the social entrepreneurs in Fast Company's "League of Extraordinary Women." This social entrepreneur decided to designate her business as a non-profit because, she found, women were much more willing to donate than to invest, which, according to Johnson, is highly "illogical," at least from a financial perspective. Where, then, does this strange upwelling of financial hysteria come from?
So how do we explain the high investing anxiety of four out of ten women? I suspect because, deep down, they fear it will bankrupt their femininity. But if women don't feel comfortable handling their own money, it's unlikely that they'll feel comfortable handling a P&L for their firm - and if you don't feel comfortable with P&L responsibility, you're not going to make it to the top ranks of management.
To be fair, Johnson is more eager to offer investment advice and encouragement than delve very deeply into her pseudo psycho-analytic explanation as to why nearly forty percent of women are anxious about making big financial decisions, but her reasoning, however offhand or casual, points to the very tall and sturdy gender ramparts that largely keep women from assuming positions of authority within America's towering financial fortress (see? we can all have fun with conceits). Maybe investing vis-à-vis donating is perceived as somehow masculine, but then again maybe women are just way more honest about how distressing big financial decisions can be. You'd have to be some kind of a senseless mule not to be intimidated by plunking down the yolk of your nest egg on the stock market and watching it skip merrily away like a ball on a roulette wheel.
It's Time We Had More Female Investors [Business Insider via Harvard Business Review]
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