“Ask for what you want, and what you think you deserve.” That’s the advice to women on pay, money and career from star fund manager Olivia Engel.
Engel, who moved from Sydney to Boston in 2017, is the chief investment officer at Active Quant at State Street Global Advisors – the same major financial institution behind the famous Fearless Girl statue that was originally positioned to stare down Wall Street’s bronze Charging Bull.
The display sparked a global conversation about women in leadership – something Engel is passionate about when it comes to finance.
“You have to ask for what you want, and what you think you deserve,” she says, adding that during her 25 years in finance she has witnessed a large difference between men and women when it comes to going for a new job or promotion.
“There is a such a tendency for women to wait and see … whereas men are more likely to ask for it up front.
“Fear of missing out [on a pay rise or promotion] is the worse-case scenario. But you are never going to get it if you don’t ask.
“It may seem crass and greedy but I think in general closing the gender pay gap between women and men definitely can be helped by women asking more for what they want.”
Engel believes that building self-confidence is key to overcoming the massive gaps in financial awareness and financial security between women and men.
“I would have never had visualised myself like this early in my career,” says Olivia, who today manages one of State Street’s biggest funds.
“I was in a situation a number of years ago where I was part of a wonder woman network and fundraising group. It was about 20 women of up-and-coming leaders, and at one of our group gatherings we found ourselves committing to an agreement of asking for a pay rise.
“I went and asked… and I didn’t get the pay rise but I got an interesting response from him about my pay and men in the business and that was: ‘You are at least within 10 per cent of them.’”
Australia’s financial services industry is pretty gender diverse when it comes to the overall head count of men and women, however look a little closer and you’ll see more men occupying higher paying management positions and full-time roles.
Because of this, the financial and insurance services sector has the second highest gender pay gap at 22.6 per cent behind professional, scientific and technical services at 21.4 per cent, according to the Financy Women’s Index June quarter report.
The current recessionary environment has fuelled concerns that the gap between men and women’s financial security is likely to worsen and add to financial stress.
The latest Financial Wellness report by AMP found about one-in-five female employees reported severe or moderate levels of financial stress in 2020, almost double the figure recorded for male employees (11 per cent).
To reduce financial stress and build confidence with money, here are three things that may help in the current environment.
1. Build an emergency fund
Virginia Marshall, CFO of SocietyOne, recommends trying to save enough money to cover three to six months of expenses.
“Recessions, much like the one we’re in, can often bring job losses and reduced hours, especially for those in part time positions. Unfortunately, this generally translates to higher rates of female unemployment, as women account for close to 70 per cent of Australia’s part time workforce.”
2. Live within your means
Although it might be fun to splash out on a few luxuries here and there, it’s a good time to only spend what you can actually afford.
“Discussing your current situation with the whole family will ensure everyone is on the same page and feels they have a voice in the conversation. From a spending point of view, focus on taking care of the necessities first, before indulging in expensive dinners or family days out,” says Marshall.
3. Consolidate your debts
Debt consolidation can make it easier to manage repayments by paying one monthly repayment instead of separately for each loan or line of credit you may use.
“What many people might not know is that consolidating your debts isn’t a difficult process and, with the right interest rate, could actually see you save money in the long run,” says Marshall.