Girls and Financial Literacy: Can Your Bank or Business Help?

History Smiths

It still goes on, although I am told that “things are better” than when I was growing up. Girls and boys are just not taught the same lessons about money, and the expectations for earning potential, investments, philanthropy, and planning for retirement are vastly different.

When I was young (I am in my 40s), not only were girls not taught about business and personal finance in school but I happen to hail from the kind of cultural background where money was never discussed at home either (a typical Bostonian thing, truth be told!). However, the unspoken message was clear that boys were expected to step into lucrative professional positions and girls were to be taken care of. That’s “just the way it was.”

Because it has taken me years (and a terrific coach) to clear my head of misguided notions and determine a much healthier way to operate financially, it really strikes a chord when I consider what girls are being taught today about their financial well being. Or, more importantly, what they’re not being taught. I hate the thought of any more girls having to waste the years I did figuring this stuff out!

Here’s what we know women do with their money:

• They save it

• They take care of their family

• They take care of their community

• They make the majority of a family’s financial decisions

These are your future customers! Why not help them NOW in their formative years?

You could:

• Identify an organization in your community that’s working on girls’ self-esteem and life skills issues. Call the children’s section of your public library or public school superintendent if you don’t know any. Pick up a local parents paper, or go online to local family-friendly sites.

• Work with your partner organization to devise a program around financial literacy (if they aren’t already offering one). Your partner is qualified to deal with the personal and family issues, and you will provide specific information about different kinds of bank accounts, savings alternatives, and investments – and a whole lot of encouragement. Provide examples of applications, statements, Excel spreadsheets — whatever. You could actually make this quite fun!

Identify female members of your staff to head this effort. They might very well find themselves:

• Becoming mentors and role models

• Inviting class participants to your bank or business

• Helping participants get started by opening an account if you are a bank or credit union

• Offering participants an internship or job

• Training the participants to mentor the next class of girls

There are still times when gender-specific conversations are most effective, and this is one of them.

There are also times when conversations must be parent-free, and I believe this is one of them. Sometimes, parents are part of the problem and may or may not be part of the solution. You can work with your partner organization to determine the best ways to involve parents – perhaps at a final presentation, or by offering separate classes for the parents. You will figure out what makes sense for your students.

Can you see how important this work is?

If you are a bank or credit union, you are in a perfect position to help. But even if you are not, you can team up with your own bank and create a three-way partnership with a community organization or school.

You will have a transforming impact on the girls involved, and your leadership will be noticed by grateful parents and a grateful community.

What is the connection to history, you ask? Simple!

• Women didn’t arrive in this place overnight. It’s been generations (actually, centuries) in the making.

• Throughout women’s history, there are terrifically inspiring stories of women who changed the laws to allow women to have more control over their own money, who “got stuff done” despite having little to no money, or who had money and did great things with it to help other girls and women — like start schools or sponsor artists.

These stories can help inform the program you put together, and add a meaningful dimension others wouldn’t have thought of.

Thank you for giving this idea and these tactics some serious thought!