Breaking Barriers: Women and Finance

21 March 2019 By Lauren Beck

Women traditionally have faced a wage gap on land, reportedly earning almost 19 percent less than men in the U.S. and approximately 16 percent less in the EU in 2017. In yachting, women have also been somewhat limited by their traditional career tracks — female captains are outnumbered by male captains and women’s traditional senior roles, like purser and chef stews, may be restricted by job availability. This can translate to lower earning potential. Even worse, women lag behind men when it comes to investing, too, for multiple reasons.  

“I think it is perceived by many that investing and finance in general is still a ‘man’s world,’” says Peter Brooke, a financial adviser with The Spectrum IFA Group. “I hope this is changing, but I am afraid it is probably changing too slowly. The finance industry sometimes tries to look more up to date than it is by trying to engage more with women, but often the engagement doesn’t last long enough, and we go back to our red braces and pinstripe past.” Brooke shares that some of his female non-yacht crew clients have senior jobs and good incomes, but they still don’t think enough about pensions and investments.

“In terms of risk profiling, we have found that males tend to be prepared to absorb higher risk for increased returns, but this is also in part due to the seniority of the roles and their financial position,” says Olivia Williams, who was recently promoted to be the first female financial planner at United Advisers Marine in Malta. “Sadly, there is a lack of female captains within the industry.”

Time plays a vital role, says Brooke — those women who go into yachting thinking it’s a short-term thing don’t do themselves any favors. This timeframe issue is exacerbated perhaps by the type of products available to crew, Brooke says. “Many of the investment products sold to yacht crew are long term in nature and have penalties for closing them early…therefore those with shorter time horizons simply don’t want to use them,” he explains. But the good news is that, “this is changing as we build new and better solutions with more flexibility.”

Focus is also an issue, Brooke says. While he stresses that he does not mean to be sexist, but in his experience, women may be more concerned with other things and other people’s needs — like family — which can delay them in starting to invest for themselves. “Men are inherently more selfish and so tend to focus on themselves and their futures sooner in their careers,” he says. “I see this quite a lot when doing fact finds with female prospects.” It’s okay to be “selfish” when you’re building your financial future.  

But there is hope that these percentages will equalize. Jean Chatzky, the financial editor of NBC’s TODAY show and founder and CEO of HerMoney, which aims to educate women on “all things financial,” writes in a September 2018 NBC article that women are actually “besting men when it comes to investment returns.” This is despite investing 40 percent less than men, she says.

According to a March 2017 Money article, a 2017 Fidelity study that analyzed the performance of 8 million retail clients in 2016 concluded that women outperformed men in the last decade. And if you do some online research, you might notice that many female-centric education (like HerMoney) and investment platforms arising, including Ellevest, Female Founders Fund, which works to get funding to woman-led startups, and Girls Who Invest, which works to increase the number of women in finance, in the U.S. It’s a trend in Europe, too — check out Lean In The EU Women Business Angels, which aims to get entrepreneurial women involved in business and investing through networking and training, and is co-funded by the European Union.

More women are being promoted into senior ranks and are breaking out of “traditional” roles on board and in the finance industry, like Williams herself. “It is brilliant to see that women are becoming more noticed and powerful within the industry with more and more women coming through the ranks as captains, etc.,” says Williams. “I feel this is a great movement in the yachting industry and hopefully will only get better with time.”

It’s never too late to start. First, find an adviser. “I would encourage all female crew to find an adviser who understands you and what is important to you, not just as a female, but as an individual,” Williams suggests. “It is important to spend time with a financial planner who will help you develop a solid financial plan personal to you and your circumstances.”

Educate yourself and check out the wealth of financial information available. Williams also suggests a few female bloggers “who talk openly and clearly about investing and managing your money,” she says. While not yachting specific, they may be a valuable starting point to build your knowledge. In particular, Williams recommends Lauren Bowling’s Financial Best Life and Jessica Moorhouse’s Mo’ Money podcasts.

Then get started. As both Williams and Brooke highlight, sitting out and waiting won’t do you any financial favors.