To mark International Women’s Day, we reflect on how, despite facing multiple obstacles, women are becoming the largest group of wealth owners on the planet.
When it comes to women and wealth, it is all too easy to turn to outdated assumptions about their behaviours, attitudes and priorities around business, investing and financial decision-making. Women today are challenging stereotypes to manage their wealth successfully – overcoming very real challenges and becoming the largest group of wealth owners on the planet.
Ahead of International Women’s Day, we spoke with Carly Doshi, Head of Wealth Planning & Advisory, Americas, about what she has learned from working with women on their personal wealth planning and wealth management.
On women and wealth:
We’re at an inflection point: women are reaching the upper echelons of corporate life, moving into positions of political power and making their own fortunes as founders. In the past few months alone, Bumble founder Whitney Wolfe Herd became the world’s youngest self-made female billionaire1; Starbucks named Mellody Hobson as its new chair; and Walgreens Boots Alliance announced Roz Brewer as its new CEO. In China, too, exceptional wealth is being created by a new generation of self-made female billionaires: according to Forbes, the world’s richest woman is Zhong Huijuan, Chair of Hansoh Pharmaceutical; she is followed by Wu Yajun, founder of Longfor Properties; and Lu Zhongfang, co-founder of Offcn2. Glass ceilings are continually being smashed. While women are creating and earning their own fortunes, they are also inheriting them, outliving their spouses by six to eight years on average3. Some studies anticipate that over the next 20 years, women will come to control more than half of the world’s wealth.
On the challenges:
Despite their achievements, and acknowledging the fact that every woman is different and there are important differences from geography to geography, women still face specific, fundamental challenges. They continue to be under-paid (earning only USD100 for every USD258 a man makes globally)4, are under-promoted and under-funded relative to their male peers, and are more likely to take time off from their careers during prime earning years. Even as they are taking on greater responsibilities outside of their homes, they are typically still shouldering the bulk of domestic responsibilities inside of them, with the ‘sandwich generation’ bearing the double load of caring for young children and elderly parents.
On the impact of Covid-19:
These challenges have been exacerbated and amplified by the pandemic. Women made up 70 per cent of frontline healthcare staff5 and are over-represented in the insecure labour market: women’s jobs are 1.8 times more vulnerable to this crisis than men’s jobs6. Globally, women make up 39 per cent of global employment but account for 54 per cent of overall job losses. Additionally, working mothers are also absorbing a disproportionate amount of childcare and home-schooling responsibilities. The International Labour Organization, a United Nations agency, soberly has noted that “previous crises offer some cautionary lessons for the current one. They illustrate that when jobs are scarce, women are denied economic opportunity and security relative to men.”7
On smashing stereotypes:
The financial services industry has historically underserved women. It has been run by – and aimed at – men, and has been polluted with antiquated assumptions: women are unsophisticated financially; they aren’t interested or aren’t willing to invest; they are far too risk averse. Countless female clients have told me that they’ve been brushed off by financial advisors, and judged on their financial acumen before they’ve even opened their mouths. At HSBC, we know that women must be treated as individuals, and that they are increasingly empowered to take ownership of their wealth. We want to make sure women are taking a seat at the table. With Annabel Spring taking up the role of Chief Executive of Global Head of Private Banking last year, and an incredible team of talented senior female professionals across every division, we’re making sure we’re reflecting our female clients, encouraging them to take charge of their personal wealth and offering best-in-class advice, tailored to their busy schedules and multi-dimensional lives.
The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is ‘choose to challenge’, and people around the world are committing to challenging inequality and bias, questioning stereotypes and helping to forge an inclusive world.
As women increasingly acquire a larger share of the world’s wealth, we are optimistic that the preconceived notions about the way women save, spend and invest will continue to fade, and that increasing awareness of the obstacles in their path will help to clear the way for a more equitable future.
HSBC Private Banking understands the unique concerns women face and is committed to partnering with them on the full range of their personal financial needs. Our teams provide individualised service and a holistic view of wealth management, always in furtherance of your long-term financial goals. For more insights from HSBC Private Banking into how women can approach the myriad challenges of managing significant wealth, listen to our podcast series: Women and Wealth: Mastering your plan while doing it all.
1‘Bumble Cofounder Becomes World’s Youngest Self-Made Woman Billionaire, Thanks To IPO’, Forbes, February 2021 ↩
2Forbes World’s Billionaires List 2020 ↩
3World Health Organization, Global Health Observatory ↩
4Getting to Equal, Accenture, 2017 ↩
5Policy Brief: The Impact of COVID-19 on Women, United Nations, April 2020 ↩
6‘COVID-19 and gender equality: Countering the regressive effects’, McKinsey & Company, July 2020 ↩
7A gender-responsive employment recovery: Building back fairer, International Labour Organization, July 2020 ↩