When Joan Baez met Bob Dylan in 1961, her star was in its ascendancy. She was remaking folk with a pure, haunting voice. People heard her. And they listened. She saw something in Dylan and gave him his first real platform, with the invitation to accompany her on her 1963 tour. In her book ‘Bl**dy Brilliant People; the partnerships that history forgot’, Cathy Newman quotes Baez reflecting on the crowd’s response to Dylan’s contrary singing style and character;
‘I was getting audiences of up to 10,000 at this point, and dragging my little vagabond out onto the stage was a grand experiment. The people who had not heard of Bob were often infuriated, and sometimes even booed him’.
Baez’s fans eventually began to see Dylan through her eyes. But it took time. And her generosity.
So, who was paid the higher fee? The female star or the unknown, self-styled hobo? Dylan, of course.
I could have chosen any number of more recent examples of the undervaluing of female talent and skill. From Hollywood. From the music industry. From science. From the corporate sphere.
But, despite it being so common it’s entirely normalised, this story shocked me. Perhaps because Baez was so clearly the star. Perhaps because she went on to see his star outshine hers. Perhaps because she loved him and he cheated on her. And lacked the soul to support her in reigniting her career when she needed it too.
Or perhaps because my mum loves both Joan and Bob, and would be very cross at this revelation…
Women are taught from an early age that the value they bring to work is less because it is somehow ‘other’
Today women earn on average 85% of the salary for the same role as their male peers. Change is coming but, based on today’s rate of progress, it will take 202 years for this gap to close, according to the World Economic Forum
When starting MPowder we knew the likelihood of securing funding was slim. We were addressing a taboo topic. We were focused on women. We wanted to create a community, but we want to create products and programmes too. And that is risky. And I was a sole female founder.
- Women founders receive just 2.3% of VC dollars across all sectors
- Femtech receives just 1.8% of VC funding in the digital health space
- Of this just 5% is invested in menopause
We face financial barriers that limit us all the time. And it impacts our relationship with money.
Infact, for many of us, the whole financial sphere is uncomfortable. It doesn’t speak to us. So we feel like we don’t really belong.
- Our pension pots are likely to be nearly 40% lower than men. We’re hit by career breaks and by lower salaries. So we delay and divert. But we’re also intimidated by the decisions we need to make
- We’re less likely to invest.
- And although we may manage a lot of the expenses in households, we’re less likely to plan
Which is why, as we head into midlife and beyond, we need to have conversations around our worth. About our relationship with money. In the workplace. In how we budget. How we save. How we spend.
We need to take agency for our finances in the same way we need to take agency for our bodies.
Know the benchmarks, do your homework, ‘collect your successes’ and prepare your line manager for the conversation rather than blind-siding them. In a post-pandemic world, many of us are feeling even less comfortable broaching the subject, but remember, there are other ways for companies to deliver value back to you. From additional holiday, to training and mentoring - and the commitment to have the conversation at an agreed date as businesses stabilise.
With day-to-day funds:
Spend time understanding how and where you spend and assess whether that fits with how you want to spend. Draw up a plan. Utilise the apps that are available to track habits and bring them to life. Some even provide top up cards to manage budgets and sync with your online accounts to help you to save. Both Yolt and Emma have positive reviews (and good security) here in the UK.
Work out what you’ll need to live well and live long. Mrs Moneypenny, previously of the Financial Times, penned one of the best reviewed books on financial management for women in 2015 - and it remains a firm favourite on Amazon today. Find communities and companies that speak your language. Check out Boring Money in the UK for a different take on the complexities of investment and saving vehicles. In the US? Check out ElleVest. A financial planning company for women, run by women.
And if you’ve a business idea bubbling?
Despite the barriers, you’re more likely to succeed in a new venture in midlife. Research your market and your audience in depth, work out how you’ll manage your financial responsibilities...then reach out (we’re always here to share and support ALL female entrepreneurs) and network (women are notoriously bad at developing broad networks in business. And a broad network is a key indicator of future success).
We carry wisdom. We carry those we love. We carry inspiring, female-shaped ideas. But we need to have our worth recognised.
Midlife is the time to redress the balance.
Find time to make it happen.
With love, Rebekah & The MPowder team.
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