This is a topic close to my heart. As a single woman in her 30s, I often find myself having to deal with people second-guessing my financial decisions. I am always told to consult a man before taking things further. Don’t get me wrong. I am absolutely okay with consulting experts. The keyword being “experts.” This is a gender-neutral term not limited to men. If they had told me to consult an expert instead of a specific gender, I would have been fine. But that’s not the case. They pinpoint the gender – it should be a “he.”
In my experience, people in India are skeptical about a woman’s money-managing skills. There’s an absolutely valid reason for such cynicism. Over generations, men have been handling money, and women have been doing household chores. This mentality is deeply ingrained in us. It is only now that the roles are shifting, more women are joining the workforce, and men are learning to handle the kitchen by themselves. In the past, this role-shifting was unheard of, which might explain why breaking away from it now takes some conscious effort. It does not come naturally. People tend to look at you with distrust if you take up a role that goes against the gender stereotype.
“I rather my husband not cook. He might make a mess.”
“I rather my wife not handle finances. She might make a mess.”
These dialogues are not fictional. They very much exist – especially in Indian households. True, some women may not be good at finance, but that applies to men too.
Here’s an actual conversation with my mother:
Me: “I have decided to invest in Sovereign Gold Bonds (SGBs).”
Mom: “Oh! Why don’t you consult XYZ uncle about this?”
Me: “But what would he know? He’s a mid-50s person who distrusts new investment schemes.”
“Okay. But are you sure?”
“Yes! I have done my research, and I understand this product well.”
That was the end of the discussion. My mother looked at me with doubt etched all over her face. I had to convince her that I was making an informed decision.
To date, I have not made a poor investment choice. I read both the pros and cons of all investment schemes before selecting. I stay away from products I do not understand. I avoid systems that are too risky. I only invest in government-regulated schemes, not impulsively, but after going through much examination. However, all this research is still insufficient for society to stop doubting my capability to handle finances. Because I am a woman. Instead, a man who has done half the study is trusted more because of his gender.
Women are encouraged to be financially savvy and aware. But my question is – when we do become financially literate, are there people who would trust us to efficiently handle our money?