You might think that your gender and your bank balance have nothing to do with each other, but money and gender have a much more complex relationship than most of us realise.
It may be helpful for you and your partner to explore some of the different ways gender and money interact.
Gender isn’t something we’re born with, it’s something we learn as we grow up through our families, education and general society. (Think pink toys for girls and blue toys for boys.)
The expectations that society places on us will then inform our behaviour, this is called socialisation. So how does socialisation affect our relationship with money?
Men often receive direct and indirect messages that they should be the breadwinner in a heterosexual relationship. These messages emphasise the stereotypes that men should be powerful, strong, autonomous and aggressive, and assertiveness is rewarded.
Conversely women are often socialised to avoid conflict and put other people's needs before their own, to seek cooperation and harmony. Women are steered away from traits, such as assertiveness, that are traditionally thought to be masculine This means the way women and men approach money may be different.
Different ways of communicating
The different ways in which men and women communicate may affect the kinds of conversations that heterosexual couples have about finances.
Many women seek emotional understanding from their partners, and value empathy and understanding.
Many men, on the other hand, respond to a complicated or emotionally fraught issue with prompt, practical, unemotional advice, assuming that is what their partner wants. This difference in approaches to money may lead to disagreements between you and your partner.
Structural factors in society
There are a number of structural factors in our society that also affect women’s relationship to money, including the gender pay gap and women’s contribution to unpaid and caring work.
The gender pay gap
In Australia women currently earn an average of 18.8% less than men, this difference is called the gender pay gap. Although women are legally entitled to be paid the same amount for doing the same work, a number of factors—such as gender stereotypes, lower wages for female dominated industries, inflexible working conditions and gender discrimination—mean that women still earn less than men.
Caring and unpaid work
Over the past 50 years the opportunity for women to enter the workforce has grown dramatically, but despite this women still do the majority of unpaid household and caring work.
Women make up the overwhelming majority of carers for children, the elderly and people with a disability. This can have a huge impact on their ability to participate in the workforce and their financial independence.
Due to a number of factors including the gender pay gap and taking time out of the workforce to care for others, women generally end up with less super than men when they retire.
Women also tend to live longer than men, meaning they need to stretch their limited super further. This means a growing number of women are living in poverty after they retire. Despite this there are ways women can boost their super, check out the Money Smart website for details on how.