Personal finance is key to women’s empowerment

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – OCTOBER 19: Lisa Wilkinson MOET event at the Opera House on OCTOBER 19, 2017 in Sydney, . (Photo by Christopher Pearce/Fairfax Media)If there is a word that sums up 2017, it’s empowerment.

For many women, when US President Donald Trump took office in January 2017 the word empowerment was far from our minds. That a pussy-grabbing president could lead the free world seemed inconceivable. Perhaps that’s why the murmur began that has ended with a shout almost 12 months later.

Because as Lisa Wilkinson put it so beautifully at a Business Chicks breakfast this month, collectively we’ve decided “this far and no further”.

This has been a year of defining moments and growing movements. From the fearless girl in New York on International Woman’s day making a statement about standing up to power, to the movie Wonder Woman breaking box office records for a female director and female lead. From the female AFL league kicking off to capacity crowds and female cricketers receiving the biggest pay rise in the history of women’s sport in , to the female-produced Big Little Lies and its tackling of domestic violence. From Saudi women being given the right to drive, to Indian women being given protection from instant divorce.

Not to mention Harvey Weinstein???, Matt Lauer???, Don Burke and more being outed (and in fear of being outed) every day and women embracing in their thousands the #metoo campaign. Wilkinson choosing to walk away from a job despite almost being paid as much as her co-host because she believed in equality and chose to draw her line in the sand, while men and women were given the green light to marry, well, any man or woman they choose.

It has been quite the year for empowerment.

Of course, real shifting of power happens when we have equality and this year we have witnessed men and women demanding it.

While we can slap ourselves on the back for our achievements year, there is still more work to do – particularly when it comes to our finances. There is still a wage gap that exists not simply in the corporate world but in the world of small and medium business owners where women should be on par with men. There is a gap between men and women that we’ve tossed in the too-hard basket for the moment in our superannuation funds and there’s a widening gap between those who own property and those who do not.

What is heartening is that on many occasions this year, men and women have stood up and said enough. Our cricketers have insisted women are included in pay negotiations and blokes such as Dave Hughes have said they were willing to take a pay cut so there was parity when it didn’t exist. There are so many more stories from men and women we don’t know about who, like Wilkinson, have drawn their own line in the sand.

It’s time to concrete that line, fence it and lay barb wire on top.

How we do that is by ensuring equality exists in our own lives and I believe the answer lies with our finances. After all, often power belongs to those who hold the purse strings and particularly as women we simply need to get over ourselves and stop believing that wanting more money, financial protection and talking about finances is crass.

This means deciding in your 20s to contribute more to superannuation so that if you choose to take time to have children you’ve created a buffer. It means having a wealth creation plan so that you’re not reliant on a Prince or Princess Charming. It means asking for pay rises, seeking out job opportunities and seeking out a position with another company if your request is not being taken seriously or you’ve hit a glass ceiling. Or if you own your own business, it means pricing appropriately, understanding the numbers and choosing to play a bigger game. It means being prepared to talk about money openly and candidly as just another thing that we can discuss because we have so much to learn from one another. It means speaking up and demanding equality for your colleagues because you know they’re not being paid the same as you despite doing the same work.

After all, females took the top three spots in the year-long Shares Race in Sunday Money this year with Angie Ellis dominating the four-week share challenge for most of the year, Cathie Reid from Epic Group became one of our few female billionaires and together with Dr Catriona Wallace raised $5 million in 12 minutes for Flamingo AI, one of only 11 ASX-listed companies with a female CEO. It’s a handful of examples of many that could be cited where women are not just capable, but excelling financially.

It’s time we realised that money is just another thing we can talk about, learn from each other and become bloody good at managing, which helps to smooth out the balance of power.

So, here’s to 2017 and the march towards equality and empowerment. Here’s to many of you creating your own financial independence, writing your own financial fairy tale and helping a sister or two along the way. Here’s to continuing the movement of empowerment to a financial one in 2018.

Melissa Browne is CEO of accounting firm A&TA and financial planning firm The Money Barre. Her latest book Unf*ck your Finances will be released January 2018.

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