Hannah Lynch looks for signs of gender equality in the workforce and has to squint to find them; instead she gets a five-point lesson in how to avoid the usual money mistakes

By Hannah Lynch

Barbie is the ultimate girl's toy.

When I was little girl I had a generic Barbie doll; she had blonde hair, blue eyes and wore a pink dress. 

Today, Barbie's American manufacturer Mattel sells "computer engineer barbie" or "princess tea party barbie" but what I really would have liked when I was eight would have been "corporate exec barbie.''   

Despite an increased female presence in the workforce over the past fifty years, women are still not widely perceived as corporate executives. 

Historically speaking women have had as hard a time breaking glass ceilings at the workplace, as they have shedding the image that they have only a token place at the boardroom table.

Therefore, I wasn't surprised to find that out of the 150 ultra high-net worth individuals profiled in the National Business Review's 2010 rich-list only three were women. With the 2011 list due out at the end of the month I am not hopefully that there will be a significant improvement in the numbers. 

Maybe it is about time Mattel caught up and sold "corporate barbie."  It might have the effect of spurring more young women to strive  for a spot at the head of the boardroom table, instead of being an bejeweled accessory to male corporate tycoon. 

Young girls can pick out barbie's designer suits in preparation for climbing their own corporate ladder.  

Top 5 financial faux pas: 

I asked why women were are still lagging behind men when it comes to money. She identified five financial faux-pas. 

Sutherland's number one piece of advice for young women setting out to make it on their own, without relying on a male for financial plan,  was to insure themselves.

  1. Women lack adequate insurance cover and income protection. The importance of insurance for women is particularly strong because they live longer than men and will therefore be single later on in life. “Women tend not to have income protection and when you consider that you are earning for longer than men you need to be protected,” Sutherland said.  
  2. A fear of money; women tend to adopt an emotional rather than rational approach to savings and finance.
  3. Women use their money to enable others i.e. spend it on family members. "A women's own financial strength is important," she said.   
  4. Women take time out of paid work to raise a family and look after loved ones.
  5. Women fail to take investment risks. While an inherent conservatism, or possibly self-doubt, can be a strength in investment it can also hold them back, she said.

New Zealand Institute of Financial Adviser's president Nigel Tate agreed that both men and women need to insure themselves but suggested that financial success was also about one's ability to balance public and private life.

"There is value in maintaining thought and financial independence from your partner." 

Tate said women need to have the ability to generate their own incomes especially since there are clear issues around the funding of retirement because women live longer. 

Dream of making the rich list?  

I asked Tate what advise he would give to an aspiring "corporate barbie" who has dreams of making her millions.  

He said, it is important to have clear business objectives with a tight focus. However, you also need to be able to adjust to the environment around you and maintain the ability to be flexible. 

From that perspective, he did not believe gender made a big difference.

"In all honestly I don't see a great deal of difference in the creation of wealth between men and women. There is no gender bias to financial success, the process is the same either way - you have to work damn hard!" 

Fair enough.  

Boys, I'll race you to the top and hopefully by the time we get there Mattel's "corporate barbie" will be rolling off the assembly line. I'll see to it.

We welcome your help to improve our coverage of this issue. Any examples or experiences to relate? Any links to other news, data or research to shed more light on this? Any insight or views on what might happen next or what should happen next? Any errors to correct?

We welcome your comments below. If you are not already registered, please register to comment or click on the "Register" link below a comment.

Remember we welcome robust, respectful and insightful debate. We don't welcome abusive or defamatory comments and will de-register those repeatedly making such comments. Our current Comment policy is here.

3 Comments

Women are excellent managers and facilitators. These characteristics are advantages for them. When it comes to managing financial matters, women should really be efficient for them to saved from financial problems. Having credit cards with them would be very helpful as long as it's use is just right and balanced but if ever you get dependent on your cards, you can navigate out of the forest of credit card addiction with sound tips. I read this here: How to break your credit card dependency.

That could prove an advantage, Ivan! A  friend of mine worked for a company that had to 'downsize', so they sacked the male net-surfer ( who was paid more) and allocated his tasks ( minimal that they were !) to her, and gave her a 50% pay rise. She is doing the job of two people ( easily!) for the price of one and a half, but the joy is - that she still has a job and more pay.

Not always actually. While we were both employed (by private companies in France, the UK, NZ), I have always been paid more than my husband to do the same job with a similar level of experience. 

I put it down to a nice smile (just kidding, although I suppose being a woman in a male-dominated industry can be an advantage sometimes).

As for "out of the 150 ultra high-net worth individuals profiled in the National Business Review's 2010 rich-list only three were women" - Maybe women are simply smart enough to aspire to things other than money and power, who knows?