Many women do not feel that they have the knowledge or confidence to invest or make better financial decisions that can change their lives and provide greater security. Furthermore, there has been a lack of resources and platforms that cater to women in this regard. The UN has long been pushing Gender Equality as a key Sustainable Development Goal, which includes supporting women all over the world to become more financially independent. In spite of this, we still live in a world where women on average earn 20% less than men in comparative jobs, according to The Global Wage Report 2018/19. Additionally, The World Economic Forum has estimated that if we continue at the current pace, it will be another 257 years until we finally close the gender pay gap. With 50% of the global population being financially stunted just because they are women, it is finally becoming obvious that supporting women in being financially empowered is in everyone’s interest. As this is gradually becoming more and more recognised, a number of companies have put resources into creating spaces for women to make smarter and better informed financial decisions.
When was the last time you felt a financial product was marketed to women, or created by a woman, to cater to other women?
Juno, co-founded by sisters Alexia de Broglie and Margot de Broglie, is an app that aspires to ‘close the gender wealth gap by providing exceptional financial education to all those who identify as women.’ The sisters were inspired to start the app upon noticing the financial disparity between men and women when it comes to financial literacy and confidence related to this topic. Around 77% of millennial women lack confidence when it comes to investing and 75% of articles targeted at women instruct them to spend less money. Furthermore, it is incredibly hard to find interesting and engaging content related to financial knowledge.
Speaking to ErlyStage, Margot de Broglie points out that the way the media markets to women “leads to us not taking action” and women are “missing out on huge opportunities as a result. For example, studies have shown that 70% of women keep their money in cash or uninvested.” The team behind HerJuno looks at financial inequality as a problem that exists beyond the wage gap. This is reinforced in the conversations men and women have around money and attitudes related to investing and trading. From De Broglie’s own experience, she has found that “the conversations with male and female friends were very different. Most of the guys were stockpicking, had a favourite cryptocurrency and were overall very confident with their investment decisions. Speaking to some of our smartest girlfriends, we saw that there was a real investment fear. They often had much higher savings, but were shying away from the stock market.”
Juno is on a mission to hand women greater financial agency. They are working to change the dialogue around money from something that sparks anxiety and uncertainty to a conversation where women feel confident and in control. The app offers workshops and videos around various topics that are taught by experts in a no-frills manner, making information more accessible and free of unnecessary financial jargon. The current options that exist are books and podcasts, which De Broglie argues “have a one-size-fits-all approach, and don’t create a truly transformational learning experience.” Whilst there are many options available for learning a new language, in comparison, “the one language we are all meant to master, the language of money, is overlooked.”
Juno’s content also provides information on making ethical and sustainable investment choices and gives back to the community. For every membership purchased, the company gives free access to the platform to a disadvantaged woman. There is currently a waitlist to join the community but the app is due to launch this fall. For those who are eager to join the Juno community ASAP, there is a Slack channel that features different female leaders who run workshops on a range of topics from crypto to pensions. Juno’s mission is to “get to know the audience and build a community-driven product, with them and for them, that uniquely serves their needs.”
Over in India, Hena Mehta and Dipika Jaikishan, launched the app Basis in 2019 as ‘India’s first financial services destination for women.’ Less than 33% of women in India choose what happens to their money, and although women are gaining greater independence over other aspects of their lives, such as marriage and employment, financial decision-making is falling far behind. Basis wants women to have a ‘future with true independence’ by offering resources that will enable them to make decisions backed by ‘knowledge, data and expertise.’ The app covers all the bases from increasing your money to selecting the right insurance. Basis also provides users with access to tailor-made content, curated financial advice and recommendations, and resources that help plan for personal, financial goals. Women gain access to a like-minded community that will support and guide each other throughout the journey. Basis is a space where women can ‘learn, discuss and transact’ thus handing over power to women to take greater control over all areas of their lives. Currently, at pre-seed stage, Basis has already acquired over 1000 members and appears to be on its way to expanding its community and encouraging greater financial power amongst women in India.
Whilst there are several young startups pushing for female financial literacy, an industry grownup who can be seen as a leader in making financial empowerment more accessible for women is Ellevest. Ellevest markets itself to its audience with a reminder that whilst the financial industry was not built for women, Ellevest is built for the very purpose of encouraging more women to have conversations and challenge stereotypes that exist around women and finance. This knock-on effect will encourage more women to engage in trading and investing, and become leaders within the financial industry. Ellevest offers three plans to members. The Ellevest Essential package sets you back just $1 and provides an investment account, workshops, and an FDIC emergency fund. Ellevest Plus charges $5 for an IRA and retirement plan added on and Ellevest Executive provides 5 accounts to invest toward a down payment, kids, and more for the price of $9.
Founded by Sallie Krawcheck in 2014, the business has raised over $100m in funding, proving that this is a burgeoning field with great room for growth. Prior to Ellevest, Krawcheck worked on Wall Street, with experience at both Citi and Merrill Lynch. She was inspired to begin Ellevest upon realising that conventional financial products weren’t serving women. This seems to be the case across the board!
Over in the UK, Vestpod provides a community for women to ‘embark on a journey to financial independence.’ Vestpod is a digital platform where members have access to a podcast, events, and investment advice and also puts out a newsletter, with content related to money, financial advice, and careers. Founder Emilie Bellet was driven to begin Vestpod to change the statistics related to women, which reveal that there is a £15 billion gender investment gap in the UK. During her time at Lehman Brothers as part of the private equity team, Bellet felt that she was not encouraged to prioritise her own financial future. When going to speak to a financial advisor, she was asked about her husband. Bellet encountered the same problems many women face; speaking about money as a woman was taboo, financial products were designed with men in mind and most advisors were male. Furthermore, getting advice was expensive and intimidating. This prompted her to set up Vestpod, to empower ‘one million women financially.’
Ballet has also published a book called ‘You’re Not Broke, You’re Pre-Rich’ which helps people gain control over their finances. Vestpod was bootstrapped and makes money from selling its educational programs. Bellet has expressed plans to grow her community even further and work towards monetising the platform and creating more products.
There are clear trends in the financial roadblocks faced by women across the world, which begs the question – when was the last time you felt a financial product was marketed to women, or created by a woman, to cater to other women? Additionally, how comfortable and confident do you, as a woman, feel to speak about investing, cryptocurrency, and the stock market? Are these conversations you can have freely within your circles? Are enough women participating in alternative ways to increase their financial freedom, such as crowdfunding? Are there any communities that you feel offer a safe space to ask questions, learn, guide, and be guided?
Whilst Ellevest started the movement in the US, we believe that there is a greater opportunity in this area that remains untapped. This is a sentiment that De Broglie also shares, as “women are still an underserved market when it comes to financial products, with their needs and desires poorly understood.” The potential for catering to the financial needs of women is “huge, from a business perspective but also from an impact perspective. Financial inclusion will play a big role in closing the gender wealth gap.” Great startups and communities are working on increasing financial literacy for women across the globe, such as the ones mentioned in this article. However, we are not where we should be, and there is a lot more to be done. Here at Erly Stage, we are constantly keeping an eye on which markets are making moves in this area and look forward to a greater number of startups that can expand the community.