Did you know that, in Italy, up until the abolition of the 1919 marital permission law, women couldn’t sell or buy property, or own capital, without their husband’s authorisation?
Since I started my own personal battle with my friends regarding their control over their own savings and investments, this is the sentence I always start my speeches with; it’s still hard to believe that it’s true!
In Italy, this so-called Sacchi law, which regulated the lives and autonomy of women, was abolished 100 years ago. It’s only been 100 years since women have had to ask their husbands permission to manage any important aspect of their lives or family heritage. That, in all honesty, is not that long ago.
100 years after the abolition of the marital permission law, where are we?
It’s a pity that things don’t seem to be going so well for Italian women in 2019, in fact research data from Episteme and the Turin Savings Museum draws a sad and somewhat alarming picture.
What is immediately visible from the "evidence" is that, no matter the age, education, residence, or family dynamic that a woman has, men still seem to possess:
- A higher income
- A greater propensity to save and invest
- A greater interest in these issues.
A grim outlook at best. Fortunately, however, there is a glimmer of hope. The one exception to this pattern appears to be female graduates aged between 25 and 44. They are more closely aligned with men in knowledge, attitudes and propensity towards these financial issues.
Men and women: risk versus planning
We discussed these differences some time ago, looking in part at the differences in attitude between the two sexes and how to some extent these differences can be explained by biology. Men, biologically, have a higher propensity to take more risks than women, making them more confident in situations like the stock market.
Biology, however, only shows us one face of the coin, as Katrine Marçal points out in her Tedx Talk “How economics forgot about women”. Without the mother who looked after him, fed him, housed him, even the great founding father of Economics, Adam Smith, would have been hard pressed to find the time and opportunity to develop his now famous theories.
We must put the concept of care that women have historically been responsible for, to the forefront, and enhance it. This is the concept expressed by Debora Rosciani in her book "Women of money”. Her winning strategies to manage your money, reflect on how to make savings and investment issues more relevant and accessible to women.
Instead of presenting them from a male point of view, it would perhaps be useful, Rosciani reasons, to exploit the following characteristics that women are more likely to identify with:
- Planning: by nature, we women are often more inclined towards strategic thinking than tactical thinking, as well as thinking over the long term rather than the short. For this reason, by teaching the principles of good financial planning with a focus on the benefits of far-sighted caution could be highly successful.
- Altruism: thinking more about others than ourselves. “Economic Man” has already been famously identified, according to the theories of Adam Smith, as egotistical and purely rational. The theory going that by pursuing solely one’s own interests the economy actually benefits. Women, however, as Rosciani points out, often think more of their children than of themselves. In this case, it would do well to focus on the fact that by making investments there could be long term beneficial goals for their future generations.
- The Nest: Rosciani highlights a search by Immobiliare.it (an Italian property finding website) which highlights how 61% of users looking for a home are women, whether single or in pairs. The stability that we are in many cases led to seek, may have positive results on a society in continuous evolution.
Women without a current account
The research shows that "women are beginning to assume more traditionally masculine responsibilities and commitments", but this continues to be accompanied by an imbalance in the distribution of domestic work, including housecleaning and child care, which are a burden still mostly carried by women.
In short, there is a growth of tasks and responsibilities, but no provision is being made for greater distribution.
When we look in more depth at the statistics regarding who is holding current accounts and investments, we find more worrying data. In a survey sample of 752 women, only 67.2% of them held a current account which they handled completely autonomously. Furthermore, only 19.8% of women between 35 and 44 years of age invest a good part of their savings.
"Above all, women are more sensitive to the issue of protection: saving therefore becomes a form of caution against an unknown future, and a response to a strong need for security."
Protection, safety, and caution continue to be recurrent words. In short, we have to roll up our sleeves in order to start making meaningful changes. Whilst the road is already being paved, there is still a long way to go until it is fit for purpose.
To start thinking about these issues, I recommend reading the following books: "Women of money: The winning strategies to manage your money" by Debora Rosciani and “Who cooked Adam Smith’s Dinner?: A story of women in economics” by Katrine Marçal.
To start taking a issue to heart and deciding to change something in your attitude, you always need to get informed, to start thinking and seeing the issue with your own eyes!