Women have had a complicated relationship with money since history began - in large part because they had little or no direct control over it for most of that history. As a woman who runs two businesses (one as a copywriter trying to price her work, and one as a coach - again pricing, but also working with women and mindset), I understand all too well how women can often struggle to find confidence around money - in terms of negotiating for it, pricing their work, or creating a longterm healthy money mindset.
There are three reasons for this: history, experience and relationship.
“When you undervalue who you are, the world will undervalue what you do and vice versa,” Suze Orman, financial coach and author.
Through thousands of years of civilisation, women have really only had about a 150 years in which to develop a positive mindset around money. Historically, women have held little power, and therefore little control over money, from family finances, to property ownership and wealth. For the vast majority of civilisation, women’s labour has been unpaid, low paid or undervalued. Thankfully, within the last few generations, women have slowly gained greater autonomy and rights around money, ownership and earnings.
Yet, even within our lifetimes (I was born in 1970), women had to give up work in the civil service and other professions when they got married in Ireland (ending in 1973), couldn’t own their own home outright in their own name (until 1976), couldn’t open a bank account in the UK (until 1975). While thankfully none of this affects us practically today, the historical legacy of women not being paid for their labour and being low paid remains, and connects to the second reason why our relationship with money is complicated: our experiences.;
“Balancing your money is the key to having enough.” Elizabeth Warren
Your personal experience of money starts from your childhood, from how your parents discussed and interacted with money, along with the culture around which you grew up. How your parents talked about and related to money, how you saw your mother in particular deal with money, how much say she had in family finances, will all have influenced your own mindset around it.
For example, my childhood gave me a scarcity mindset around money because of the way my parents spoke about it. I constantly heard phrases like “we can’t afford it” and “that’s too expensive". Money never felt like something that made life better; it was always something that was worried (and even argued) about. It was only when I looked back as an adult, doing my own money mindset work, I realised that the facts were different to the dialogue. While not ‘rich’, we always had enough money. We even had two cars, and holidays, albeit not fancy sun ones. I realised that as part of the post-war generation, my parents had a scarcity mindset, never really being able to relax about money. It was always spoken about in the negative and I absorbed that as my own.
You’ll also be influenced then by your first few experiences of managing money yourself. My scarcity money mindset was further reinforced when I embarked in my initial independent experience of money - as an impoverished student! Without putting the experience in context (being a student, while on the whole is an enriching experience mentally, is usually not one financially!), it simply strengthened my lack of confidence around money - and importantly, not having enough.
So your initial experiences around money will help form your money mindset… one that will carry you through your personal life and career.
Your cultural experience of money has an impact too. We have likely lived through, and perhaps even been affected by, recessions, and today, women still experience, and are acutely aware of, the gender inequality around money:
What have your experiences with money been, and how might they have impacted your money mindset? Have you had mostly positive experiences? Have you experienced recognition for your work? Have you always been able to manage money well? Have you felt fairly treated in regards to money and income?
Our money mindset can also show in the habits we have around spending or saving. For example, I realised that because of my scarcity mindset, I always quickly offered to pay for lunches and coffees with friends because I grew up not wanting people to think I had no money. I ended up paying far more than my share because of this mindset. It was only when I addressed my mindset that I was able to choose healthy behaviours and see money as a positive, rather than a negative part of my life. What habits do you have around spending that is a result of your early experiences?
“When I look at my savings account, I don’t see pounds and pence, I see freedom.” Merryn Somerset Webb
History and experience contribute to the relationship you have with money, and for women that can be very different to men. On the whole, men can easily separate their self worth from the economic value of their output. Women, on the other hand, can find this harder to do, often confusing or connecting their self-worth to economic output without realising it, making asking for money, or feeling comfortable around it, harder. Are you comfortable with budgeting and finance? Do you have full control of your finances, or do you lurch from month to month, afraid to look at your statements? Do you feel confident talking about money, asking for pay rises, or pitching your services or products? Are you happy chasing money, or do you leave money on the table?
Understanding the historical impact, your experiences and your relationship with money is key to understanding your money mindset because they will impact your behaviour whether it’s a business pitch, negotiating a pay rise, setting a fee, spending and savings, and even negotiating with a partner on how to divvy up the childcare.
The money mindset you have in your life will be the same money mindset you bring into your business or workplace, so it’s really important to remember to separate economic worth (which is just subjective maths) from self worth (attaching personal meaning).
Money mindset isn’t about being good at maths. It’s about building confidence around, and being in charge of, your financials, your goals, and your decisions. It begins with looking at your experiences and relationship, and creating better beliefs, enriching habits and taking inspired actions to ensure you are running your money, rather than it running you.
If you would like to delve deeper and learn how to create a healthy money mindset, my Money Mindset workbook will take you through my 5B's Money Mindset cycle:
so that you can get in charge of your finances and feel comfortable relating to, asking for, and managing your money.