By Business Strategist Lisa Johnson
Whenever I mention the money I’m earning online, whether it be spending or investing, there is always a backlash.
“She must be lying”, “It’s not possible”, “She’s making it up” or the many “How crude to speak of finances so publicly”. I’m always told it can’t be true when I’ve made a million pounds during a launch, but even when I show the figures and the stripe account proving it’s true, I still hear, “it’s a lie”, “you have made that up”.
It seems we can’t possibly accept that a woman is doing THAT well for herself off her own back and being audacious enough to be honest about it.
I don’t like to add unnecessary noise to an already crowded space but the reason I insist on sharing how much I earn and most importantly, how I earn it, is so that other female founders recognise the need for transparency. It also enables them to see what is possible for them too. The more we talk about money and our earnings either as founders or employees, the more we’ll seek a leveller with our male peers.
The great salary divide
I remember once during my time at a law firm asking my male counterpart who started at the same time as me and had the same level of experience and qualifications, what his salary was and the collective gasp from the office remains in my memory to this day. I thought he was going to burst he went so red. My question is why? Why should we be made to keep our money quiet?
The shame we feel around our salaries is no different when you make the move to becoming an entrepreneur. In fact, it’s worse. Women just aren’t talking to each other about money. We will talk sex, bras and menstrual cycles but when it comes to money, it’s still far too intimate a topic.
I recently asked my audience of female founders if they were talking about money with friends and 85% of them said ‘absolutely not’. The main response is that it would be considered uncouth, embarrassing, awkward. Just not the done thing.
Yet why do we always know when our girlfriends are struggling? Why is it ok to wear the “I’m broke” status like a badge of honour? The British culture of humility and ingrained ideal that we can’t talk about being successful. We must be humble and modest, putting ourselves down, somehow, we think this makes us a nicer, more rounded person.
I think there’s this prevailing societal belief that we shouldn’t talk about money at all. The unspoken narrative that women are just good for spending money and all they know about it is how many handbags they can buy. It’s time to let this old school association go.
Money is power and security
Women are brought up being told it would be impolite to discuss money but that we should always quietly scavenge some away for ourselves. Girls are taught that money equals the power of secret security and the ability to support your family or escape. It’s a subject that goes on to create such an emotional connection and fear around money and then causes the same attitudes to show up again and again as we become adults.
I think that’s one of the real reasons we don’t talk to our friends about money and what we’re doing with it. We are taught it should be a close-guarded secret. You can’t be seen to be boasting about money but that has to stop. Women need to have these conversations. Women need to feel empowered around what they earn and celebrate when they have financial success.
Three ways to talk money to friends
Here are three ways we can start to get better about talking money with each other:
1 – Share your income/expenditure publicly and talk about it often. This will help to open up conversations about how we’ve made our money and what we’re doing with it. Always share your goals too.
2 – Encourage conversations about money and finance with friends and family. Over dinner with your children, cocktails with the girls, business networking – let’s be open about money with each other in everyday conversations.
3 – Don’t brag about money. When I say talk about it, I don’t mean big up investments and say how well you’re doing, I mean have real, deep conversations. We need to make money less of a taboo subject and much more accessible.
Making money has given me opportunities. But it’s not the money itself that has made me feel successful. It’s the help I’ve been able to give to others, the changes I have made and the difference I’ve seen in myself that have been the real markers of that success.
Whatever you do, please don’t associate money with your self-worth or happiness. Step away from the narrative that you are more or less successful because of the numbers you work with or the amount that you earn.
If we’re to make a real change in how we view money – we need to make a vow to step away from it not being a “womanly” topic. Investing and wealth isn’t a ‘man’s world’ nor should it be seen as such. It’s our world and we need to step up and enter it with our purses held high. Enjoy the freedom it can bring and remove the stigmas, and the fear of judgement attached to your financial setup. And then, you can truly live life as you want to – celebrating any success that comes your way, whether that’s financial or otherwise.