It is no secret that women are shockingly underrepresented in the financial sector. In an effort to engage the female population, firms are launching targeted marketing campaigns as well as segmented services and offerings. Many women have strong opinions on these efforts, and last week in New York City, the Financial Communications Society (FCS) gathered a panel of female thought leaders and marketing experts to tackle just what some of those opinions are.
The New Wisdom of Women & Wealth event centered around the theme of what women need from financial service brands and posed the question: should financial firms market directly to women and, if so, how? The panelists, who hailed from established companies like MetLife and Prudential as well as startups like iFundWomen, presented a wide array of opinions and suggestions, but not one felt as though there was a single definitive answer. Instead, attendees quickly discovered that each one of the panelists believe that if women are to succeed, our society first requires a fundamental change.
What is the best way to reach women? The FCS panel agreed that the marketing needs to be simple and engaging and should “meet women where they are” so that prioritizing financial wellbeing is the easy answer. When asked about successful female-directed marketing campaigns, the panelists cited Dove and Procter & Gamble but could not offer any campaigns from financial services firms.
Beyond marketing, they emphasized that the actual experience needs to match the marketing. A firm that promotes gender equality but is completely dominated by wealthy, white men is going to fail at relating to women or providing them with helpful, actionable financial advice. Those in leadership roles at financial corporations need to evolve their company culture and give the marginalized a chance to succeed. This evolution begins with education.
Studies have shown that financial literacy has a stark gender gap and that kids start buying into gender stereotypes as young as six years old. To help tackle this confidence gap, the discussion concluded that educating girls and boys in the same manner, from a young age, and exposing them equally to proper budgeting behavior, would be the best way to instill a sense of financial competence among both groups. While this unified educational experience approach is not an immediate solution, it tackles some of the fundamental biases embedded in our culture. Karen Cahn, the founder of iFundWomen, remarked that the people with money are the people with power, suggesting that, with more women educated about their finances, more women will reach the positions of power needed to make strides toward gender parity.
The event, which fell during International Women’s Month, aimed to discuss the female experience within financial services. The panel of women agreed that changes in societal perceptions must be made to minimize the gender gaps in financial literacy and confidence. Women finding financial success will have a positive correlation with economic success, so education should begin as early as possible. While there’s no definitive answer on how best to advertise to women or increase trust in financial institutions, the FCS panel did an excellent job of juggling the diverse perspectives on common issues facing women in the financial industry.