How To Achieve a Feminist Perspective on Money

What does a feminist mindset entail and how does it effect the gender pay gap?

Posted Apr 10, 2018

Photo by Jimmy Chang on Unsplash
Source: Photo by Jimmy Chang on Unsplash

I've never felt comfortable writing or talking about money, which is why I know this article is necessary.  As a feminist, as a woman, and as an entrepreneur—I need to understand the gender pay gap and actively work towards minimizing it. And if there's a day to write something like this, it's today: Equal Pay Day. According to the National Women's History Museum, it's a "date chosen each year (and originated by the National Committee on Pay Equity) to symbolize how far into the current year women need to work to earn the same amount of money men earned during the previous year." This year, it's today: April 10, 2018.

As much as you want to hide it, as much as you don't feel comfortable voicing it: gender inequality exists. And it exists in all of its forms: social (by the lack of co-responsibility at home), economic (by the wage gap), and political (by the underrepresentation of women in politics). According to a Pew Research Center Analysis, in 2017 women were earning 82% of what men earned. The factors vary, including career interruptions, educational attainment, and work experience. But also, an important factor that maintains the wage gap can be attributed to the over-representation of women in lower-paying occupations and—as a consequence—the "glass ceiling" that prevents women from accessing higher-ranked positions.  If you're interested in finding out how much you could be making if there were truly an atmosphere of equality, you can use the gender pay gap calculator. 

The International Monetary Fund established back in 2013 that "if women were allowed to develop their entire potential in the workplace, there would be significant macroeconomic earnings." However, most of these statistics and data are limited to the traditional workplace, so what happens to the freelance market? A population that seems to be on the rise and currently represents about 50% of working millennials. A recent article published by Forbes showcased that female freelancers earn significantly less than their male counterparts in several freelancing gigs. For Stephanie Newman, owner of Stellia Labs, a strategy and consulting agency, female freelancers' feminist mindset can help to close this wage gap. 

Tired of having to tolerate the sexism from clients at her former corporate job and feeling disappointed by the lack of success stories of women in the media industry, Stephanie decided she wanted to build a business that embedded her personal feminist values. "Little by little I put my feminist persona out there, which started to attract ideal clients and turn away clients that I didn't want to work with anyway," Newman recalls. But, what exactly does a feminist mindset entail? 

What is a feminist mindset about money and finances? 

In her article published in Forbes, Stephanie says that "responsibility, from a feminist viewpoint, means more than budgeting; it's about understanding the historical events and expectations that influence our money decisions and shape our financial impact on other women." It's pulling other women with you, but not expecting "trickle-down feminism". It's understanding how privilege (and therefore, intersectionality) play an important role in gender inequality. It's standing up to control your own finances. 

In regards to finances, Newman talks about the "abundance mindset" as both a resource and "a form of protest". "We've been brought up into a world telling us what we are worth and how to handle our money, it's sort of a protest against the patriarchy," she mentions, "investing in myself as a woman and feeling comfortable putting myself out there is not something that's expected from us, and that is revolutionary on its own." 

"Money is not just individual, money can be used to do some good in the world, and it's important female freelancers and entrepreneurs know that they can create a business that can exist outside of mainstream capitalism," Newman clarifies. Knowing this immediately helps, because we—as women—can start the introduce the concept of privilege in the way we handle our business. But, how can we start to apply these mindsets and practices in our businesses while at the same time fostering a "playing field that is equal for all of us"? 

How can equal pay and a feminist mindset converge for the female entrepreneur?

"It starts with loving what you do because if you're truly passionate about your business you can learn how to be more prepared to negotiate with clients," Newman explains, "and fully believing in your services." But, for women, this is sometimes not that simple. A study published in the Journal Psychotherapy, Research and Practice found that women are often predisposed to exhibiting impostor syndrome, leading them to think they're not qualified for their jobs. According to to the authors, this might happen because "success for women is contraindicated by societal expectations and their own internalized self-evaluations.”

I know I've felt that impostor syndrome at one point or another of my career. That feeling that maybe I'm not qualified due to my age or in comparison to other professionals in my field. So, how can we trust the price we give our services while also believing in our skill set? For Newman, it's about "focusing on everything you have accomplished - both personally and professionally. It's not about the financial goals, but the quality of the work and what your clients are telling you." 

Sometimes believing in ourselves is the easy part, but putting a price on our services can become trickier. Newman's advice is to "find generous and kind older men in your industry, and talk to them about your rate." Chances are they will actually look at the real marketplace value and help you defeat this impostor syndrome that can sometimes prevent you from asking for what you're truly worth.  

Why is this important for female freelancers' mental health?

Like most things in life, this approach has a domino effect on our lives. When we—as women—invest in ourselves, we can increase our value, and end up generating a higher revenue for our business. This consequently leads to a more meaningful and happier life, in which you're pursuing your passion and making it profitable.

More importantly, though, adopting this feminist mindset can set us free. Free from expectations and injustices. Free from the notion that we aren't worthy. Free from the lack of control in our finances. From a feminist stance, this also means economic stability that can allow us to use our privileges in a healthy way to support more women, different women, who haven't been able to break free from the societal inequalities pushed on to us. 

On an emotional and mental health point of view, we can't give to others what we don't have ourselves. If we can achieve that state in which we are financially comfortable, can develop a business that aligns with our personal and professional values—then we are much more capable to help our sisters and have a more intersectional approach on our finances. The beauty of this is that the positive outcomes of having a feminist-minded business can potentially impact in the social justice realm, one that all of us feminists are deeply and emotionally invested in. 

Stephanie is the author of Writing on Glass, a space that "makes feminism accessible". You can find her on social media as @wordsonglass. 

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