As last week’s Reddit-driven Gamestop stock drama dragged financial market participation into the cultural spotlight, it gave way to another anomaly. Market-illiterate people, many of whom seemed to be women, sending frenetic tweets, flooding the group chats, and even exchanging texts with (ex-)boyfriends asking if it was time to finally jump in. Explainers and preachy missives followed from people more experienced in investing, and a consensus emerged: Women are in a sorry state of knowledge about investing, and they need to get in the stock market yesterday! Down with the bimbo “too hot for stocks” mentality!
Even if the argument sets your trips your GirlBoss Detector alarms, it’s true: Only 26 percent of women in the U.S. are currently invested in the stock market, according to a 2019 report from S&P Global titled “The Financial Future is Female.” What the report glanced over, however, were the economic reasons women in the U.S. might be so risk-averse.
Here’s one possible reason: There’s a massive gap between the average net worth for men ($12,188) and women ($5,541) according to a November 2020 report from the financial content site Earnest. “The lack of pay parity between the sexes is not just a social inequity, but a real contributor to women’s financial disadvantage and even poverty at retirement age,” according to the report.
It’s no secret that, on average, women make less money than men do—or that the gulf widens for most women of color. A September 2020 report from the National Partnership for Women and Families found Latinas making a measly 55 cents, Native American women making 60 cents, and Black women making 63 cents to a white man’s dollar. White and Asian women fare better, but still come up short, making 79 cents and 87 cents respectively compared to the average white man.
Overall, that means women have less money to pour into day trading—not to mention the fact that they’re more likely to leave work life behind for childcare, significantly impacting future career opportunities once they return (if at all!) to the workforce.
Writer Cholia Johnson elaborated on the intersectional dimension to the argument that women need to invest in mid-January (notably before the r/WallStreetBets gambit went viral), giving it depth and context. Johnson highlighted the ways Black women specifically can benefit from investing in the stock market, given the $15,000 annual income gap between Black and white women and the way Black-owned businesses have struggled during the COVID-19 pandemic. “The reality is, no one is coming to save us in any form that will lead to sustainable financial independence, but us,” Johnson wrote. “Not Black men, not the government, not corporate America.” That deliverance, she argues, could come in the form of collective wealth-building for the Black community—a foundation for generational wealth.
Should there be gender parity, and every other kind of parity, in investments? Of course. But the realities of income inequality for women and people of color really blunt the GirlBoss, Lean In feminism of “ladies, you gotta get into the stock market!” plugs. The GameStop gambit has turned income inequality and financial illiteracy into modern white feminism’s topics du jour, but underlying it are the much more serious issues of getting paid and building wealth.
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