The messages a mum gives her daughters directly and indirectly are undeniably powerful, even if they seem to fall on deaf ears at times.
They can literally shape a woman’s identity and future. Not only do they play a role in the types of relationships their daughters will have as adults, they also impact her educational and career aspirations, how she feels about herself and her approach to money – both earning it and spending it.
The latest Gender Indicators report by the Australian Bureau of Statistics found that female undergraduates will start their working life on around $5,000 less than their male counterpart – a much larger gap than a decade ago when the difference was only around $2,000.
But while many women are starting working life with this remuneration handicap, the latest AMP.NATSEM report, Modern Family, found many are succeeding in the long-run with the proportion of female breadwinner households on the rise over the past decade.
So what are these breadwinning women doing? Some work in industries which pay very well – such as mining and manufacturing; some have built successful businesses; and some have worked very hard to climb the ladder.
It begs the question: what lessons should we be teaching our own daughters so that they will have a good relationship with money and know their worth in the workplace. If you have a daughter, here are six of the best things you can say and do which may help set her up for financial success in the future.
#1 Be a good role model
Working mums provide a great role model for their daughters. There is no reason to feel guilty for working as there is very little evidence to suggest that children who attend child care are adversely affected. In fact, through good quality child care children can gain important social skills by interacting with other children that they may not at home. It doesn’t matter whether you work full time, part-time or if you’re studying – as long as you’re doing something it will show your daughter that women are equally capable outside the home. This is obviously best done when the time is right for you and your family. Going back to work or study need not be when the kids are very little – though some mums want to or need to – but as they grow and you have more time on your hands, it’s something to consider.
#2 Don’t be afraid to use the ‘F’ word
Feminism, that is. It is not a dirty word, yet disturbingly in recent times some women have become reluctant to describe themselves as a feminist. To be a feminist simply means you want equality – to be treated in a way that is equal to how men are treated in every sense. I have friends who fear being seen as a feminist at work, saying it may be a career limiting move for them – and at home that it may make them appear unfeminine. If we fail to own our belief in equality by speaking up when we see inequality, our silence may be taken as tacit agreement with the status quo. So, discuss what feminism means with your daughter and encourage her to speak up if she or others around her are ever discriminated against.
#3 Tell her she has inherent value and worth
Regularly tell your daughter that she has inherent value and worth. Children are like sponges and reinforcing positive messages like this will ultimately encourage her to believe in herself and in turn to be assertive. One mistake some women make in the workplace is that they don’t ask for increases in pay. Perhaps this is because some women don’t expect the same level of remuneration as men because at some level they are unsure of their own value and worth. Of course, asking for a pay rise needs to be reasonable and weighed against having the qualifications and experience – but in many cases women coast along with vast amounts of experience and qualifications, yet they end up sitting on the same pay for way too long and end up losing out on thousands of dollars over many years.
#4 Shoot for the moon
Your daughter may need to hear this – even if she is an adult now – and it’s never too late to say it: don’t ever be afraid of speaking up and asking for what you want and need. Aiming too low because we fear failure is limiting in so many ways. Always encourage your daughter by telling her that she can achieve great things if she puts her mind to it and help her understand the importance of striving through setbacks. Your voice may one day be the echo in her mind that makes all the difference. This may not just be about pay, it could be training or flexible working hours. Lack of confidence is very often the root cause of women’s inability to earn more.
#5 Be strategic
Be strategic and have a plan – both personal and financial. Through role-modelling, your daughter will learn that this lays the foundation for success. Not only is this good advice in general, but when it comes to achieving goals, the power of writing down what you want cannot be underestimated. It’s a great habit to help your daughter develop. Perhaps you could make a family ritual of doing a vision board once a year where she can stick pictures and words about what she wants in life. It’ll be interesting to see how this changes over the years and will serve as the spring board from which she can then talk through with you and others the steps she needs to take to get there.
#6 Never rest on your laurels
Continuous improvement is paramount for anybody who wants to do well at work. It’s often the key differentiator between those who are good and those who become great. Encourage your daughter to never rest on her laurels, to always be looking forward and learning something new every day. Once again, set the example by doing this yourself.
*Claire Esmond is an Authorised Representative of AMP Financial Planning Pty Ltd, ABN 89 051 208 327, AFS Licence No. 232706. Any advice given is general only and has not taken into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. Because of this, before acting on any advice, you should consult a financial planner to consider how appropriate the advice is to your objectives, financial situation and needs.