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Women’s Equality Depends on Financial Capabilities

If ever there was a time for honing your financial literacy skills, this is it. Most Americans are trying to figure out how to recover or regroup from the avalanche of financial fallout from this pandemic. The closer you are to retirement the trickier this gets.

But for the girls in our programs this is a window of unprecedented opportunity.

A teachable moment.

In their financial literacy classes, we can use the stock market to show girls how current events affect them. It’s a good reason to talk about interest rates, the Federal Reserve, fiscal stimulus, inflation and why people might invest in bonds instead of stocks. It’s a good time to teach about the connections between all of the different aspects of the economy and politics as well.

But young millennials are already breaking new ground. Right before the pandemic settled upon us in earnest, one of our millennial staffers came into my office and announced, “Guess what? I started investing on my own using an app called Robinhood!”

I asked if she knew what she was doing and she said that she had listened to several investment webinars and based on some basic principles she learned, she invested in several companies. Then she gave me her rationale, which actually sounded pretty compelling. “I decided I want to be rich!” she said enthusiastically. She was talking the Girls Inc. talk. Like many other millennials she is taking charge and playing a more active role in her finances.

Futures and Options, Equal Earners, Savvy Spenders

Girls Inc. of NYC starts at an early age encouraging girls to take an active role in their finances. Our financial literacy program begins in middle school by teaching girls the difference between wants and needs; then as they get into high school they learn about the importance of saving, the basics of banking and budgeting, and the prudent use of debt. By the time they’re seniors we teach them some fundamental principles of investing.

Our aim? Developing financially literate young women who are equipped with the skill set to be financially independent, grow their wealth and use those assets to live comfortable lives and contribute to causes they believe in. That includes having a more significant stake in political and social movements, as well as being able to support charitable causes. Closing the financial literacy gap will also enable them to invest in their own businesses in the new Gig Economy.

Actually, there can be no equality for women without financial literacy. Investing in financial literacy for girls is the key to achieving economic and social equality. As we develop girls to become leaders, it's vital to ensure that they have access to a robust and meaningful financial education. With greater economic self-sufficiency and empowerment, there are no limits to what they can achieve.

Cali Cole, Chair of the Girls Inc. of NYC Board, who spent many years on Wall Street, says “Historically, men have been drivers of the conversation about finances and investment. Although there has been some progress over recent decades, there is still much work to do in terms of educating women in these critical areas. This is why our financial literacy programs are so important, not only to our girls, but their families.”

As girls’ relationships with money improves, the empowerment of women will rise. But they’ll need the skills and the services to support them. Programs that focus on the financial needs of women, such as college savings, big purchases like a first home, or retirement planning that consider factors like the gender wage gap, have only just started reaching the forefront.

Women need to be empowered in the financial aspects of their lives, starting with educating girls on financial topics and products. Girls Inc. of NYC will be piloting Equal Futures this summer, a life events based financial app that provides girls and women with the tools they need to be financially savvy, and to develop a level of comfort when dealing with finances. Developed by Joyce Phillips, an experienced banker and a Girls Inc of NYC Board member, she expressed the aim of Equal Futures, “My goal is to give others, especially girls and young women, the knowledge and skills that only my private wealth clients have always had. Hopefully it can help girls understand some of their unique financial challenges, and develop a positive relationship with money at an early age.”


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