Xinja women:
the price of being she

Xinja women: the price of being she

Through of our Xinja Women series of blogs, we’ve looked at hacking the glass ceiling, the industry gender pay gap and women investors. Since then we’ve been involved in various conversations about the gender financial gap and how we maintain our 50/50 gender split as a fintech. In this blog we’re taking a look at what it costs to be a woman – literally.

Over a lifetime, women spend two thirds more of the time that men spend on personal grooming. 

A small but important win

It’s been easy to trivialise, but there has been progress made as the recent media coverage on on the axing of the tampon tax showed. We reckon that adds up to savings of $3,052 over a woman’s lifetime, if she’s 14 today, and thinking about compound interest and such (and roughly what people pay for this) that’s a few billion back in the pockets of Aussie women – as we said before, about bloody time. However, we then began to unpack the other costs associated with simply being female and they rack up……

Women pay more for the same things

A major excess cost that women bear is the requirement for ‘professional’ hair and makeup. Let’s break this down. Not only is there a premium price for ‘women’s’ goods, such as razors, clothing, shampoo, and famously pens (do watch this – an oldie but a goody – Ellen Degeneres at her best – v funny) but women are also required to groom themselves in such a way that costs extra, both in time and money spent.  A 9NEWS consumer investigation has found that

“while the gender pricing gap is closing, some companies continue to slug women more – and the price discrimination starts early”

  • -9 News

Aussie newsreader Tracey Spicer talks about this in her TedTalk (another classic) deconstructing the time, and money spent on tailoring our appearances to look ‘professional’, keeping in mind our appearances have zero impact on our brain capacity. Over a lifetime, women spend two thirds more of the time that men spend on personal grooming. Imagine all the things women could be actually doing in that time, rather than making themselves look in a certain way.

The costs of being a mother

The gender pay gap, which is talked about in our previous blogs averages at 15.2% pay (which equates to $251 less per week over 30 years) increases significantly as women take leave over childbirth and care. Taking parental leave is still largely the domain of women, results in pay discrimination.  This is estimated at 7% wage ‘penalty’ in their first year back and 12% in their second ;

“available evidence shows that for many women, lower wage growth is experienced after taking an extended absence from the workplace to care for a newborn baby.”

– Australian Institute of Family Studies

Further, the average woman loses $160k in super taking parental leave.  Single mums too, bear most of the burden of childcare costs, preventing job participation in many circumstances.

A downward spiral in net wealth

Due to the gender pay gap generally, and the consequences of women being the primary parental leave takers, women retiring this year will only retire with 57.3% ($177k) of the male average ($309k).  Related to this, earlier in the year, we revealed female investors accounted for a paltry 13% of the overall amount invested in Xinja’s equity raise. Women are holding fewer investment portfolios.

Women retiring this year will only retire with 57.3% of the male average [super]

There is also a less quantifiable effect for women in work. With parental leave and caring duties, women out of the workforce are losing out on career advancements. Less experience, and potential losses of skills as industries change and advance also equals less pay and a crucial gap on mothers’ CVs. It is hard to think of a way around these disadvantages.

To compound this increase in costs and lower financial security, women consistently score lower than men in financial literacy measures. According to Professor Roger Wilkins “Women are indeed over-represented in poverty statistics and other measures of socio-economic disadvantage. Low financial literacy cannot be ruled out as a factor in these outcomes.” 

“Women are indeed over-represented in poverty statistics….Low financial literacy cannot be ruled out as a factor in these outcomes.” 

  • – Professor Roger Wilkins

Lifting women up means lifting everyone up

It’s a well-known thing among development scholars and prominent workers in the field, that alleviating women’s poverty means alleviating everyone’s poverty. For example, the Grameen Bank founder Muhammad Yunus talks about why he focuses on lending to women.  Women, especially among lower income women, are predominantly the sole person responsible for the survival of the family. Research has consistently shown that this position is the factor behind the success rates of poverty alleviation programmes targeted toward women.

“Women borrowers almost always spent their money in ways that help their families over time… Thus, they were able over time to improve their families’ diet and education, contributing to the cycle of poverty alleviation”

  • – Muhammad Yunus, Grameen Foundation

 

Once consumption needs are met for the family, women are able to focus on entrepreneurial activities with clear goals and motivation. This is perhaps why they are better for suited for micro-finance loans.  “At commercial banks where middle class men are the primary borrowers, repayment rates are typically less that 70 percent. Women borrowers at the Grameen Bank have repayment rates that have been 97 percent year after year.” – Muhammad Yunus.

So what do we do about it?

We’re interested in your thoughts on these points. What ideas do you have about addressing issues that drag women down financially? Can we come up with some innovative solutions to improve women’s financial outcomes? Do join the conversation on our community forum and let us know what you think.

Camilla Cooke is Chief Marketing Officer at Xinja. We’d love to hear from you on this topic so do join the conversation on the Xinja forum here.

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