When finance meets feminism

When finance meets feminism

by marlies|dekkers

It’s hard to believe, but for women, talking about money is more of a taboo than talking about sex. And why are we still scared of (financial) success? I sat down with financial wizard Annemarie van Gaal to figure it out and score some amazing tips in the process. “If you don’t make any profit, whatever you do is just a cute little hobby.”

Marlies: Annemarie, you are a very successful entrepreneur, investor, tv-personality and author of 6(!) bestsellers. You are also one of my dearest friends and I have to say: I am just so proud of the way you empower women! By breaking it down to the basics, you strip finances of its taboos for us. You are a big fan of the old-fashioned ledger, for example.

Annemarie: Thank you, Marlies! Yes, I believe that simply keeping books, being aware of your income and expenses, is the first step towards financial success. Doing it, you are teaching yourself nothing less than financial management. When it comes down to it, even running a large company is mostly a matter of balancing revenues with expenses!

Marlies: I find that a lot of people know exactly what they make, but they are much less aware of what they spend.

Annemarie: Exactly! Another thing that is hugely important is respect for money. I meet so many people who say: “Oh, money isn’t that important to me.”

Marlies: It is ‘not done’ to talk about money.

Annemarie: Yes, it’s a taboo. But with that attitude, you lose any sense of your financial situation. When I deal with people without respect for money, I first make them leave their cards at home and use only cash. I tell them to look after their wallets with the same respect most men pay their cars; organize the banknotes in different departments, fold them neatly. You can pretend money isn’t important, but it is. And so is profit. Period. If you don’t make any profit, whatever you do is just a cute little hobby.

Marlies: In my workshops and lectures I encourage women all over the world to dream. They respond very well to that, but the next step, making sure your dream is profitable, is often met with glazed-over eyes. To a lot of us, it’s just not a ‘sexy’ subject. It might have to do with the fact that in a historical context, financial independence is quite a new thing for women.

Annemarie: During a talk I held at a big lifestyle fair recently, I asked the crowd of women if they were economically independent, and if not, would they like to be? More women than I expected said that they had no need for independence because they were married. “How can you be so sure that it will last?” I asked one woman. To which she replied: “Because we promised each other so.” There is a persistent naivety that stops women from becoming successful. You just mentioned dreams; I believe that in order to be successful, you have to find out if you actually have the talent to make your dream come true. You need to give yourself a reality check.

Marlies: I have noticed that men support each other by giving useful, critical feedback. Whereas women often just go: “You go, girl!” We don’t challenge each other enough. So, how can we find out where our talents lie?

Annemarie: Really make it into a project. Join a temporary employment agency and spend 2 years trying out 10, 12 different kinds of jobs. Work at an office, a clothing store, a restaurant. And if you return home at night with more energy than you left with in the morning, you know you have a talent for it, and you should continue on that path. Really go for it. Just make sure that the people around you support you in this. Talk to your partner, your family and friends. If they don’t approve, either say goodbye to them or make sure you are immune to their negativity.

Marlies: In this society, it is still very hard for a woman to ruthlessly pursue her dream and go for financial success. When you express your ambitions, people will say things they would never say to men: “But how about your children?”.

Annemarie: Or: “Aren’t there more important things in life?”. You can draw it out in a graph: your talent is a line that goes straight up. The sky is the limit. But there is another line drawn by the people around you. It goes up in the beginning, because that’s when they still want to pull you up. But there comes a point when they start slowing you down: “Should you really work 16 hours a day? Your children are still so small. You will miss so much of their childhood.” So now your graph shows a crescent shape because your straight line up is intersected by people sabotaging your ambitions. It’s not that they hate you. They just don’t want to lose you. And a lot of women find themselves stuck in that crescent moon.

Marlies: To escape that situation, you have to realize you can’t please everyone. And that, for a woman, ambition still comes with a negative connotation: people think you’re ‘hard’, a bitch even! I can’t tell you how many times people have said to me during interviews: “Oh, you’re actually quite nice!”.

Annemarie: I am optimistic that we can change that mindset. But it will take a while; at least 2 generations. It’s our task to hit that reset button as hard as we can.

Marlies: And to tell our daughters not to be afraid of success. Thank you, Annemarie!

You can find Annemarie’s financial columns here.

 

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