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Why we need to ditch ‘pinkwashing’ in financial services

Women need financial advice as much as men but dressing up a service in pink or feminine language is not the solution

People, Person, Women Unsplash/LinkedIn Sales Solutions
Bobker: 'Having visual representation of women in finance is something that would encourage more women to get involved, either as a career or as a client'

Yet another financial service company has recently launched a service for women, but the question is whether women really need to be treated differently when it comes to personal finance.

As a woman with over 30 years of experience in what is still a male-dominated industry, my answer is broadly no, but with some caveats. 

It is not uncommon to see various marketing campaigns aimed at women but these are usually what we might refer to as ‘pinkwashing’. The main service, or the products are unchanged but with a pink spin on them. Frankly, I find it reductive and insulting to women’s intelligence

In this region we have seen pink or flowery credit cards; here and elsewhere I have seen services aimed at women in soft and feminine colours as if our girly brains can only engage with money if it is couched in gentle language and inoffensive packaging. 

Women are as capable as men when it comes to managing their money and don’t need to be talked down to. We don’t need different plans or products. The only requirement is that flexibility is often more important as women are more likely than men to take career breaks.

It is true that some women are less confident when it comes to investing but I suspect that many have been put off looking at investment and researching in part to the very male language, jargon-heavy and almost aggressive tone of many websites and literature.  

There is far too much jargon used in financial services and women tend to be turned off by the ‘boys’ club’ demeanour of investing as we see across various social media sites. It is simply not required and any good adviser will use simple and clear language.

Having been a financial adviser for more than 30 years, this role has always been predominately taken by men and the reality is that many are quite aggressively salesy in their manner.

We need less jargon, less posturing and an approach that should really reflect what we do – work with people to advise them.

Before I get shot down, not all male advisers, obviously, and some female advisers also use this method, but the fact is that many women find it a real turn off.  

Many men have the same issues and dislike the way financial services is perceived, too. 

This may be why some companies have seen fit to launch female-centred advisory services. I think the approach is wrong and that they are addressing a symptom, not a cause. 

I suggest that the issue is not that women need anything different but that the industry needs to change. Women still want to invest, take out insurance, plan for their futures and the end goals are all the same. 

I have dealt with a great deal of sexism over the years, although thankfully it is less tolerated in the workplace these days, but we do still need to address that.

While I am approached by many women for advice, part of this is that I speak the same language, but it is also the lack of the bold, masculine approach that many have come across in the past. 

I have also seen many companies launch a female-friendly service, and several companies in the UK are staffed only by women focusing on the female market. Many of them fail as many women, like me, don’t feel the need to be seen as different. 

I am a financial adviser who happens to be a woman, not a “female financial adviser”, so also have no interest in special awards for being female. They exist in financial services but I consider them to be insulting, especially when leading publications don’t have a corresponding ‘best male adviser’ award. That is tokenism, not lifting up women. 

We need to address systemic failures in the financial services industry globally.

If you look at any advisory company you will see a predominance of male advisers and female administrators.

I don’t believe statistics are published for the UAE, but figures from the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority in 2019 showed that just 17% of regulated individuals were female. Regulated individuals are usually advisers, high-level specialists, or business owners. For the 21st century that is depressingly low. 

This is where we are doing women a disservice. Having visual representation of women in finance is something that would encourage more women to get involved, either as a career or as a client.

Women need financial advice as much as men but dressing up a service in pink or feminine language is not the solution. 

The advisory side of financial services is genuinely a good career option for women and, with the right set-up, offers the kind of flexibility that some women, and indeed men, with families would like. 

The world has changed over the past 20 years and we see more inclusivity in many areas, so we need that to have a larger effect in financial services, of all types and at all levels.

What we don’t need is to exclude women from the wider financial arena by placing them to one side.

Keren Bobker is a Dubai-based independent financial adviser and senior partner at Holborn Assets

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