Editor’s Note: This interview is part of a project in which we are exploring why many women lack confidence when discussing money. You can read the first installment of this series here.
Rebecca Eve Selkowe is a financial wellness guru who leads women to fiscal health and independence through her business, Financial Fitness with Rebecca Eve.
She reflected upon what she has observed through working with female entrepreneurs and employees when we interviewed her for this content series. At one point, she noted that “[m]oney is seen as a ‘masculine’ subject, and the reality is that men earn and control most of it.”
Eve continued: “In general, a woman is not expected to have to know about money or math, and it’s thought to be okay if she lacks confidence or takes a backseat when it comes to understanding or managing money — whether it’s her own, someone else’s or a combination of both.”
Edited interview excerpts below.
The Story Exchange: Do you think that being able to discuss money in a frank fashion is important to the success of a business?
Absolutely. The largest measure of success for a business — aside from a non-profit or philanthropic venture — is its ability to make money. Women need to be able to discuss money in order to both handle it and generate more of it. Particularly in women who own passion-oriented businesses, I see two main things happening. The first is this issue of very smart women not knowing what their numbers mean or what to do with them. The second is “fronting” or pretending their businesses are generating more money than they actually are. There is a lot of secret shame and struggle happening, which is counter-productive to the success of any business. However, all the affirmations, meditations and good feelings are never going to be enough for a woman who doesn’t also know and pay attention to the reality of her numbers.
The Story Exchange: Could you talk about your personal experiences with women who have not felt empowered with money?
Money management is a muscle that needs to be toned, and it is not an easy or quick process. Women come to me feeling anxious, stressed, disorganized and discouraged about money. Many of them tell me they want to learn about investing, even though they have less than $500 in their savings accounts and are living paycheck to paycheck. If they’ve tried managing their money, the process has felt complicated, tedious and overwhelming. It has nothing to do with how much they are earning — this is true for starving artists living with their parents, entrepreneurs with day jobs and executives making six-figure salaries. In many cases, the financial situation is actually better than they perceive it to be, but they need information and a solid system for organizing things. In others, they are living above their means and need to make different choices when it comes to spending and saving. In both cases, there is a lot of guilt, self-judgment and self-flagellation. And every woman I work with says that she wishes someone had taught her about money earlier.
The Story Exchange: Have you worked with entrepreneurs on this issue?
I have worked with a number of budding entrepreneurs on taking control of their finances. The fundamental difference between a budding entrepreneur and someone with traditional employment is the existence of a steady paycheck. For an entrepreneur, both their livelihood and the viability of their business depend on their ability to not only effectively manage money, but also, to generate money. For many women entrepreneurs — myself included — pricing and selling their services or products requires a deep exploration of their sense of self-worth. There’s also the issue of budding entrepreneurs becoming the unwitting CFOs of their businesses, despite the fact that they lack basic money management skills.
The Story Exchange: Why is it so important for women as a gender to become more confident with handling money?
Women have made so much progress socially throughout the 20th and 21st century, but financial empowerment has lagged behind. Confidence is absolutely at the heart of this question. It’s not because women aren’t smart enough. It’s because, generally speaking, women are not as aggressive and are less likely to step up and take charge when they aren’t sure how to do something. Few students, male or female, learn about personal finance in high school. So at least as far as our educational system is concerned, boys and girls begin on an equal playing field when it comes to managing money. Men, however, are more apt to be aggressive, take risks and learn by doing. So finance remains a male-dominated industry and women, lacking confidence that they could do any better, hang back and let the cycle continue. In the world today, a person’s choices, opportunities, power and influence are tightly intertwined with the amount of money at his or her disposal. So if women are to have more choices, opportunities, power and influence, they need to develop more confidence around handling money.
For all posts from this project, please click here.