WOW Festival: Women & Finance

Recently I attended the absolutely amazing Women of the World Festival which is held every March at the Southbank Centre in London. As always with these type of events choosing one panel to attend out of the 7 or 8 in each time slot is so hard because they all look so good. Do you choose the ones that appeal to you the most, or the ones that you find less interesting but will plug your knowledge gaps? Either way you have to accept that you can’t get to them all!

Yet the ones I did attend were fascinating. Hearing so many knowledgeable, talented women share their experiences and call out the misogyny in the world felt so liberating. Hearing what women are doing to combat it was inspiring and empowering. In some of the larger talks there were more people than seats and when I looked around the room I saw everyone paying rapt attention. I felt like part of a congregation listening to a sermon.

Turning 30 and realising that I have no money to save at the end of each month led me to attend a lot of finance related talks this year. I learnt a lot about myself and women & finances as a result. I wanted to share some of that knowledge here in case it helps empower someone reading in the way that attending these workshops helped empower me.

<<Note: a lot of the stats below come from research done by The Fawcett Society and the Chartered Insurance Institute whose members headed up some of the panels. Check out the reports listed at the end of this post for more information.>>

 

Firstly, I learnt that several factors contribute to women being less financially literate than men:

  • Girls are not encouraged to study maths at school.
  • Girls and young women are steered away from finance related professions.
  • Traditionally, society has dictated that in a partnership women deal with home and child care whilst men deal with the dough. Society has fostered a culture which encourages women to feel like they should let men deal with the money.
  • This feeling is exacerbated by the confidence society places in men about their ability to deal with finances; men overestimate and women underestimate their knowledge and capabilities.
  • In the media women are usually the assistants, the secretaries, the moms, the care-givers but rarely do you see a film about female business owners, investors, insurers, bankers, or CEOs etc. etc.
  • Finance products such as pensions, investments, and buying stock, are designed, written, and advertised in ways that cater to men rather than women – and so therefore exclude women.
  • Women are more time poor – so have less opportunity to learn about finances
  • When women seek the counsel of a financial advisor, they are given biased advice because of their gender! Of the women who have an advisor, 73% feel misunderstood by them showing that their needs are not being met as much as men’s.

And I’m sure there are many more reasons that we can add here too. Feel free to comment below with any that you think of.

 

This financial illiteracy is then combined with economic disadvantage.

Women are more likely to be living in poverty. More likely to be unemployed. Are paid less for the work they do, even when doing the same job as men. They are more likely to work part time – and part time workers are paid less per hour. 86% of lone parent families are headed by women. They are less likely to put themselves first, if they have spare money it will go on the home or the kids. Women are disproportionately affected by domestic and financial abuse.

There are many more facts I could list but I’ll stop there for now…

 

Together the two factors lead to some shocking results:

  • There is a 32% gap in insurance wealth between genders.
  • Men are twice as likely to hold stocks and shares.
  • After a divorce women experience a 10% dip in income whilst the man’s income increases.
  • 71% of divorcing couples don’t discuss their pension, leading women to miss out on £5bn every year.
  • At the age 65-69 men’s average peak pension wealth is five times that of women’s.
  • Because women are more likely to live longer and will experience more years of ill health in later life – they will have to pay more for their care in old age. This is made harder because they will have less assets as state provision declines and they are less likely to own their own home. And remember their pensions worth less!

This all really shocked me and in the panels I felt like bursting into tears, because if this is the state of affairs for women in general – then for bisexual women (who are already more likely to be affected by abuse, poverty, and disability) the situation will be worse.

bi-pound

Image shows a pound sign over a bi coloured background.

 

So what can we do to help ourselves?

Non-UK based readers – please Google the equivalent sites for your country.

Read websites such as Savvy Women and Money Saving Expert inside out.

Buy books on financial advice, or visit your local library. If they don’t have a book you want you can request them to order it in.

I understand that debt is complex and not everyone will be able to break out of it- but if lack of knowledge is hindering you, start by reading this sections of Money Saving Expert or Citizen’s Advice Bureau and take it from there.

If finances allow, seek advice from a financial advisor and a pension advisor. The women on the panels advised to ask questions and get explanations if there is anything that crops up that you don’t understand. It’s not your fault for not knowing or not understanding – it’s their job to explain it properly to you!

Bisexuals often lack support from their families. Especially if you have suffered abuse in the past or been cut off after coming out. This means that we lack a safety net many others have if something goes wrong. If we can no longer work – who will take care of us? How will we pay the rent and the bills? We might be able to cover a short term shock but what about if illness or disability knocks us out of action for a long time? For this reason it might be worth looking at critical illness cover.

If you know of any future shocks lurking on the horizon you can prepare for them. This wasn’t something I had thought about before. So with me for example I have huge dental problems. I have an open bite which means 8 of my back teeth are doing all the work. In my teens and early 20s they all got fillings. Ten years on these are all turning into crowns. It’s costing me hundreds of pounds each time that I don’t have – and the next tooth could fall apart at any time. Last time it happened I had to take out a loan to cover the cost! I’ve only just paid it off. I didn’t know until I attended these panels that I could either get a special dental insurance or ‘self insure’ – by setting up an account and paying a sum into it each month. £30 per month means £360 each year – which would cover the cost of one crown per year from now on and/or the root canal work and implants I will likely need in the future.

For other people it may be car troubles, house repairs, uniforms when kids start a new school…anything.

In fact, even if there are no shocks you know of coming up, build up your emergency fund anyway if you don’t already have one. You never know when you might need it.

If you don’t have much just do whatever you can. If you’ve got £5 per month to save, then save it.

And if it all feels too much – just read a page of a website per day.

Finally the women leading the panels also said don’t feel guilty and don’t beat yourself up. What’s done is done. Don’t feel bad about anything in the past such as the way you used to spend, decisions you made, or not knowing stuff. What matters is where we take our lives from here.

 

So thank you to all involved in the Women of the World Festival. I’ll be seeing you in 2019!

 

Information in the article from:

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Handing Over Your Bi Group

After setting up and/or running a bi group the day will inevitably come when it is time to leave it. This could be temporary or permanent. It could be because you want more free time, you want less responsibility, you’re leaving the area, or you’re burnt out. Maybe it’s just not interesting or fun anymore.

These are all valid reasons to hand over the group to someone else. Please don’t feel bad or guilty about it.

When is the best time to go?

  • Before life changes mean you’re too busy to run it properly
  • Before you get too bored/fed up/pissed off/burnt out to care

Clearly this is a lot easier said that done. You might be fine one week then suddenly have to care for a relative the next. Who knows what life is going to throw at us? But at least there are some things you can plan for, such as accepting a new job which you know will eat up the time and energy you use to run the group.

Sometimes if you’re used to ploughing through things you might not realise how you’ve been feeling until you’re already wrung out and disillusioned. It can take a long time to untangle yourself from a bi group. Few people could predict they want to walk away from something in 3 or 6 months time.


What’s the best way to hand it over?

A good friend of mine would say the following; as soon as you set up your bi group start training your successor! Whilst you might want to give yourself time to settle in first, it is sound advice. Especially if you can get 2-3 people on your team who know how you run the group, can monitor email and social media, and know the group members. Then you can be ill, take a holiday, go to a work conference, or treat yourself to something nice without have to worry about the next meet up. Being able to take a break every once in a while will also help reduce burn out.

If people are helping you, you might want to think about drawing up some volunteer guidelines. For example, keep personal information you learn about members confidential. Don’t post any hate content on the group social media etc. etc. I’m sure any potential helpers will be lovely people, but even if you only say it once or hand them over on a piece of paper – it’s been said. You’ve expressed how you want the group to run and you’re on the same page. And if you do have any problems later it’s a lot easier to revisit things you’ve already discussed rather than have that first conversation after an incident has taken place.

In addition to training up helpers you can also prepare some kind of handover file or document from the start. It’s a lot easier to write these things as you go rather than hastily bash it all out later as you’re handing everything over! It could contain anything someone might need to know, such as logins, passwords, who you liaise with at the venue you use, a copy of group guidelines, resources you’ve found helpful, past booking forms, invoices. Anything! (But be careful you’re not sharing any of your own data like your bank details.)

In our perfect dream world volunteers would fall over themselves in their eagerness to sign up and help you. What will probably happen is that 3 people will say they want to but can’t. Then no one else will step forward, except for Gertrude who has only been to one meet up 7 months ago and can’t be relied upon to help with anything! It’s up to you whether you want to hand over to Gertrude or not. Is someone like Gertrude better than no one, which means the group will go on hiatus?

It’s also vital to make sure that the person who takes over is of good character. It’s impossible to list everything here but to provide some examples; if they’re racist, transphobic, Islamaphobic, a known sexual harasser, someone who will behave inappropriately at meet ups… Don’t brush it away and think it will be fine. People who do these things shouldn’t have any positions of power or leadership in our communities. Especially in spaces where people can be vulnerable. (E.g. bisexuals suffer higher rates of poverty, mental illness, domestic abuse.)

 

Here’s some potential outcomes and solutions:

 

You have a few helpful people who don’t quite have enough time or energy to run the group by themselves.

Could you divide duties ? Perhaps one person does the social media and a few others facilitate the meetings between them so they only need to commit to a few meet ups a year each?

Can you reduce the workload? You could meet every quarter or every two months instead of every month. If you ran workshops and pub socials before perhaps just do the pub socials for a while going forwards.

 

No one can/wants to help.

A sad but true fact of life is that everyone wants the thing, but very few will run it themselves. So you could keep running it until you find someone. New people do turn up every month. Perhaps one of them will love your group so much they’re happy to jump in! I’m not a fan of this option. Unless you are very lucky and find someone, people will take you for granted and let you keep running it – thus delaying your exit indefinitely.

You could put a hard deadline out there. Seeing that they are going to lose it might spur people into action. Here’s an example script; “At the end of July I will step down from running the Storybrooke Bisexual Group. If no one is able to volunteer the group will have to go on hold until a new leader is found. Thank you to everyone who has come to the group or volunteered at an event and made it so wonderful these past few years.

Once announced, stick to it! After the deadline you can check emails/social media every once in a while to see if someone wants to take the reins. Hopefully in your absence people will exclaim, “By Jove, we haven’t had a bi meet up in Storybrooke for 6 months! The socials were so good. Let’s start it up again!”

Some former group leaders do come back after a time when no one has done anything in their absence. That’s fine if you’re happy to do so – but think carefully before doing anything again. Can you do things differently than the last time to make it less hard work/more enjoyable for YOU?

 

Yay, you’ve found someone! 

Unless they’ve asked you to mentor them for a while, hand over and leave them to it.

If you’re still attending the group it can be very tempting to point out how you would do things differently, or how much better it was when you ran it. Even if this may be true being smug, gossiping, or behaving in a way that undermines them isn’t going to help you, them, or the group.

If you really feel they’re doing something wrong why not suggest a change directly to them instead of bitching or complaining about it? E.g. “The Storybrooke Pub used to be a great place to meet, but now the Hungry Hippo Boardgame Club use the space too, it’s too noisy to hear anyone speak. How about looking at a new venue?”
or
“I’ve noticed no one is advertising the group online any more. It’s absolutely vital to do that. Are you able to start doing it again or ask someone to help you?”

Hopefully though they’ll do a great job!


Handing it over can be emotional.

Take it easy for a while after you’ve left. This was probably something you invested a lot of time and effort in. If you set up the group from scratch and ran it for a year or two, you’re saying good-bi (pun intended) to a huge part of your life.

If you didn’t want to leave but were forced to because of illness or a change in your circumstances then you’ll need time to grieve.

Even if you needed to get away it’s still a change to get used to. If you were burnt out then your mind and body can take longer than you think to recover. Who knew you could feel more exhausted once you’ve stopped doing something than when you did it!?

Try not to feel too angry or disheartened if no one volunteers to take over. People have their reasons. Those reasons might not be immediately obvious to you. Take comfort from the lovely folk who wanted to help but couldn’t. And you never know what might happen a month or a year down the line. Perhaps you inspired someone and changed their life so much – they will become a bi activist or run their own group one day!

If the group goes on hiatus try not to feel too upset about it. You may feel all your hard work was for nothing – but it wasn’t! Just think of all the people you helped through running the group. You would have had such a vital impact. (If you are not sure about this you could even set up an anonymous online survey and ask! The answers will be more meaningful than you imagined – and can help demonstrate to LGBT centers the importance of funding bi spaces.)

Your bi group meetings may not happen any more but that won’t ever change or take away from the great things that you did. Say well done to yourself and celebrate everything you’ve achieved!


Draw your boundaries – and stick to them

People might bug you to start the group going again. Or something might not be run how you think it should be. Don’t get sucked back into things if you don’t want to! The group may not continue exactly how you want it to but just let it be. It’s not your responsibility any more.

Some might see you at a BiCon and complain about the new person who took over. Others might tell you that the new person is better than you – ouch!

But you don’t have to talk about anything you don’t want to. Change the topic of conversation to something else. You don’t have to justify your decisions or answer anyone else’s questions.

 

So what now? 

Live. Laugh. Rest. Do all the things you wanted but never got round to. Make time for you. Put your needs first for a change. Put the experience of running a bi group on your CV if you’re able to.


Remember,
no matter how much they love your group, no matter how much it’s changed their life for the better, very few people will think to say well done and thank you. So say well done to yourself and celebrate everything you’ve achieved! 

Advice from Workshops: Coming Out

Last month I presented a workshop on coming out at London BiFest 2017. You can read more about it here.

As part of the workshop I asked participants to share their tips & advice on coming out and said that I would post it online afterwards so people can use it as a resource.

Every time I present this workshop I will add to the list- but please feel free to comment below if you would like to contribute anything.


  • Learning facts about bisexuality (e.g. studies have shown there are more bisexuals than the number of lesbians and gays put together) can help you respond to people’s negative comments (‘But bis don’t exist!’) and give you resilience. You know you’re not alone.
  • Sassy comebacks:
    • “No I’m bi, you’re confused!”
    • Answering “I’m 100% bisexual.” if anyone asks what percentage you’re attracted to different genders.
  • Asses how much time/energy you have left to give? If anyone has questions or wants a discussion you can refuse to answer, delay answering until another day, or talk away. It’s up to you. You don’t have to be anyone’s educator or ignorance buster. Nor do you have to explain yourself or justify your sexuality.
  • But if you want to, you can prep answers to questions in advance because sometimes it’s hard to speak in the moment.
  • Choose a place where you can leave easily and/or choose a place where leaving is the normal thing to do. E.g. the kitchen. Makes things safer and less awkward.
  • ‘Lead bi example’ – if you come out like being bisexual is absolutely fine and normal (which it is) then other people are more likely to respond in the same way. (Much better than starting with something like ‘I HAVE SOME DIFFICULT NEWS PLEASE DON’T BE UPSET!’
  • Say what you want the other person to do. E.g. I’m telling you, but don’t tell anyone else.