Women, on average, live five years longer than men. They make, on average, 21 percent less than their male counterparts, they take more “career breaks" than men do, and their salaries peak much earlier — at age 40 versus 55.
When you take these factors, and others, into consideration, a woman will retire with substantially less than her male equivalent even though she's more likely to live longer. It's a no brainer — the short answer to “should women invest differently than men?" is a resounding, “Yes!"
The Status Quo
“We often read about the gender pay gap that affects women; much less well-known is the gender investing gap," said Sallie Krawcheck, the co-founder and CEO for Ellevest, an investing firm that caters specifically to females. “Investing less than men can cost some women just as much as the pay gap over their lives. While most big investing firms have 'women and investing' programs, most of them have missed the mark. In my opinion, it's because they all tried to market to women, not to serve women."
Currently, 86 percent of investment advisors are men, which translates into a clear lack of the female perspective in a field that affects the sexes equally. Krawcheck founded Ellevest to fill a clear need in the investing market, and the firm has gone back to the very basics to carefully examine, question, and alter the status quo. Along the way, they've discovered that women don't care about outperforming the market, which is the traditional investing goal. Instead, they care very deeply about planning for their goals and investing to reach them.
Susan Conrad, the chief client experience officer and an advisor at Plancorp, has worked in the investment space for 25 years and is particularly knowledgeable about goals-based, purpose-built investing. She agrees with Krawcheck regarding a woman's investment goals versus a man's.
“Women want to feel secure, to know that they are not going to outlive their money. We often set family related goals, such as paying for children's college or assisting with a down payment for their first home and leaving a legacy for the next generation. Men, in contrast, are often focused on investment performance and trying to hit a number that they think reflects success," she said.
Neither is an inherently wrong approach, but Conrad added that “as advisors, we should address the information needed by our clients. I think it's imperative for an investment strategy to be based upon a financial plan that includes the personalized goals and dreams of each client."
Sallie Krawcheck. Photo courtesy of Girlboss
Changing the Investing Tide
A woman outliving her retirement fund because an investment manager assumed a man's lifespan, or didn't account for other female-driven variables, can be catastrophic. And the fact that women are investing less than men, on average, is a sign that the industry hasn't been doing a great job serving the female market. Clearly, real change in the investment world is needed, and we're on the cusp of a tidal shift thanks to female-driven companies like Ellevest, and advisors like Conrad.
In addition to taking into account obvious changes (such as longer life spans, pay disparity, and salary peaks), subtle findings are being accounted for.“[For example], women won't invest in what they don't understand, while men will. Women are not more risk averse — as so many believe — but are more 'risk aware.' That means they want to understand the risks they are taking, and once they do, we have found that they are willing to take them," said Krawcheck.
“We built a proprietary investing algorithm that helps women choose their goals, make trade-offs among their goals, and put together an investing plan to reach their goals. If the client falls off track, we provide her with personalized tips for getting back on track."
Conrad added, “Over the next decade the largest wealth transfer in American finance history will occur. It will affect women, their children and millennials more profoundly than any other demographic.
Add to that the fact that 70 percent of buying decisions are made by women, and you can see why it's so important for advisors to understand women and address their concerns."
I walk into a room full of men and I know exactly what they're thinking: "What does she know about whisky?"
I know this because many men have asked me that same question from the moment I started my career in spirits a decade ago.
In a male-dominated industry, I realized early on that I would always have to work harder than my male counterparts to prove my credibility, ability and knowledge in order to earn the trust of leadership stakeholders, coworkers, vendors and even consumers of our products. I am no stranger to hard work and appreciate that everyone needs to prove their worth when starting any career or role. What struck me however, was how the recognition and opportunities seemed to differ between genders. Women usually had to prove themselves before they were accepted and promoted ("do the work first and earn it"), whereas men often were more easily accepted and promoted on future potential. It seemed like their credibility was automatically and immediately assumed. Regardless of the challenges and adversity I faced, my focus was on proving my worth within the industry, and I know many other women were doing the same.
Thankfully, the industry has advanced in the last few years since those first uncomfortable meetings. The rooms I walk into are no longer filled with just men, and perceptions are starting to change significantly. There are more women than ever before making, educating, selling, marketing and conceptualizing whiskies and spirits of all kinds. Times are changing for the better and it's benefitting the industry overall, which is exciting to see.
For me, starting a career in the spirits business was a happy accident. Before spirits, I had worked in the hospitality industry and on the creative agency side. That background just happened to be what a spirits company was looking for at the time and thus began my journey in the industry. I was lucky that my gender did not play a deciding role in the hiring process, as I know that might not have been the case for everyone at that time.
Now, ten plus years later, I am fortunate to work for and lead one of the most renowned and prestigious Whisky brands in the world.. What was once an accident now feels like my destiny. The talent and skill that goes into the whisky-making process is what inspired me to come back and live and breathe those brands as if they were my own. It gave me a deep understanding and appreciation of an industry that although quite large, still has an incredible amount of handmade qualities and a specific and meticulous craft I have not seen in any other industry before. Of course, my journey has not been without challenges, but those obstacles have only continued to light my passion for the industry.
The good news is, we're on the right track. When you look at how many females hold roles in the spirits industry today compared to what it looked like 15 years ago, there has been a significant increase in both the number of women working and the types of roles women are hired for. From whisky makers and distillers to brand ambassadors and brand marketers, we're seeing more women in positions of influence and more spirits companies willing to stand up and provide a platform for women to make an impact. Many would likely be surprised to learn that one of our team's Whisky Makers is a woman. They might even be more surprised to learn that women, with a heightened sense of smell compared to our male counterparts, might actually be a better fit for the role! We're nowhere near equality, but the numbers are certainly improving.
It was recently reported by the Distilled Spirits Council that women today represent a large percentage of whisky drinkers and that has helped drive U.S. sales of distilled spirits to a record high in 2017. Today, women represent about 37% of the whisky drinkers in the United States, which is a large increase compared to the 1990s when a mere 15% of whisky drinkers were women. As for what's causing this change? I believe it's a mix of the acceptance of women to hold roles within the spirits industry partnered with thoughtful programs and initiatives to engage with female consumers.
While whisky was previously known for being a man's drink, reserved for after-dinner cigars behind closed doors, it is now out in the open and accessible for women to learn about and enjoy too.
What was once subculture is now becoming the norm and women are really breaking through and grabbing coveted roles in the spirits business. That said, it's up to the industry as a whole to continue to push it forward. When you work for a company that values diversity, you're afforded the opportunity to be who you are and let that benefit your business. Working under the model that the best brand initiatives come from passionate groups of people with diverse backgrounds, we are able to offer different points of view and challenge our full team to bring their best work forward, which in turn creates better experiences for our audience. We must continue to diversify the industry and break against the status quo if we really want to continue evolving.
While we've made great strides as an industry, there is still a lot of work to be done. To make a change and finally achieve gender equality in the workplace, both men and women need to stand behind the cause as we are better collectively as a balanced industry. We have proved that we have the ability to not only meet the bar, but to also raise it - now we just need everyone else to catch up.