When I joined Yonder, I didn’t know much about credit cards. Even basic things like not knowing that you don’t pay interest if you paid your bill in full every month. I didn’t know that building my credit was important, or that I could get extra protection on my purchases. The thought of getting a credit card seemed scary. I figured I'd think about it in a few years.
The more I spoke about it with others, the more I realised it was a common theme amongst a lot of my female friends. I noticed that so many of my male friends had credit cards and spoke openly about other money-related topics like investments and savings. On the other hand, many of my female friends had no real understanding about how they worked. I discovered that women just didn’t talk about money with their friends at all.
Women aren’t set up to succeed financially
I decided to do some research. An article by Stylist, looking at how pop culture plays into the damaging idea that women are “bad with money”, highlights characters such as Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City, whose credit card was cut into pieces at Dolce & Gabbana and Becky Bloomwood in Confessions of a Shopaholic who described a credit card as a ‘magic card’ and was thousands in debt from shopping.
Across the pond, Forbes did some research too and claims stereotypes like these have led to 47% of millennial women reporting that they feel anxious when using credit cards, as opposed to 23% of millennial men. Just 49 years ago I may not have been able to get a credit card in my name if I lived in the United States. Before the Equal Credit Opportunity Act of 1974, lenders could legally require women to have male cosigners on loans or make larger down payments on homes than men with similar credit profiles.
Experian analysed American’s consumer credit and debt data from Q2 2019, to commemorate International Women’s Day. They wanted to understand the financial picture for American women today and how it's changed over time. They found that despite gaining full, independent access to credit relatively recently with the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, women's average FICO Scores (credit scores) today are nearly identical to those of men. They also carry less debt across all categories except for student loans.
We decided to host an event
Kate and I decided to host an event to bring women together to talk about money. We wanted to create a space that could help bridge the gap between women and their finances. It would be an all-women panel discussion with an all-women audience.
It was important for us to create a safe space for women to discuss their personal experiences with money, finances, and credit cards so that our guests could walk out at the end of the night feeling empowered to take on their financial lives with more confidence.
We wanted to cover off the three key themes that Kate and I had identified:
- Understand why women are less likely to talk about money with their friends and why existing education systems isn’t preparing women to manage their financial lives
- See what practical things women can do right away to better understand what they can do to empower themselves through their finances
- Break down the stigma of credit and debt, and show how responsible use of credit is a vital and rewarding way to build their financial lives over time.
Our panel of experts
We wanted to build a panel full of women from different industries with different perspectives so we could have a comprehensive discussion about woman and money. We landed on a really great mix of expertise as the women were at different stages in their lives, some had their own companies and it led to a really diverse and interesting panel discussion.
We selected our mediator for the event, Ellie Austin-Williams. Ellie is the founder of This Girl Talks Money. This Girl Talks Money aims to help individuals gain confidence and ownership of their finances. Alongside running the community, Ellie has appeared as a panelist for brands including Glamour and Monzo as well as providing expert comment for Refinery29, Stylist, BBC News and more. Ellie is also the co-host of the podcast Money Unfiltered.
Our three panelists were:
Alice Benham - a business & marketing strategist who has helped over 10,000 entrepreneurs to level up their businesses in a more intentional, sustainable and most importantly, value-driven way.
Sophia Ufy Ukor - the founder of Violet Simon, a media-tech company dedicated to using authentic storytelling to amplify the voices and experiences of diverse women in order to push representation, equity and equality, entertain, inspire others and generate calls to action on key women’s issues in all categories of life.
Connie Osborne - the Editorial Business Director at Hearst UK, working across 8 titles including Harper’s Bazaar, ELLE, Cosmo and Esquire. Throughout her 15 years of experience in consumer magazines, she has delivered brilliant work, with a focus on Women’s Interests.
After a call with Ellie, expressing our views on the topic, she came up with a list of questions to ask to the panel. These were:
- How comfortable are you really talking about money?
- Tell us a little bit about your experience learning about finances growing up
- Have you ever made a major mistake with money?
- What's the number one thing you wish you'd been taught about money earlier?
- What has been your impression of credit growing up as a young woman?
- Have you ever had conversations with friends or family about borrowing and credit?
- What would be your main message to anyone listening who feels afraid of credit right now?
These brought out some really great answers from our panelists. There were laughs across the room as they recounted some of their mistakes they’d made in the past - like Alice not realising you have to pay tax when you run a business and thinking the letters from HMRC asking for £5000 were a scam, and Connie’s first experience using credit was taking her mother’s credit card to university with her to buy books successfully convinced her, for 6 months, that Topshop sold books! There was so much laughter in the room and it was a lovely, wholesome atmosphere.
Everyone was so open and honest and it really helped the audience to understand that it’s ok to talk about finances with your friends and it’s not something that needs to be hidden. An agreement from the panelists was that we are all happy to talk about our wins with money and our successes, but we really struggle to talk about our difficulties with money. These are just as important to share. A really important lesson was that everyone makes mistakes with money. Ellie was saying how she lent £2000 to her now ex-boyfriend and when they broke up, she never got the money back. In life, with money, mistakes are inevitable and you just have to forgive yourself, learn your lesson and move forward! You can catch some clops from the event on our TikTok channel.
What did the audience have to say
The feedback we got from our event was so positive. All the panelists were so excited to partake in the conversation as they said that it’s an important conversation that needs to happen! Our audience learnt a lot and really enjoyed listening to women partaking in a discussion about money, something that doesn’t happen enough! We had so many comments of people saying that they left feeling inspired and ready to tackle the finance discussion with their friends!
A group of Kate’s friends made a group chat called “Gimme the money honey” with the first message saying “Thoughts on doing quarterly dinner date to chat ££” with the aim of becoming more money literate and sharing each other’s learnings.
Rebuilding young people's relationship with credit is a massive part of Yonder's mission. We are trying to change the world of credit, from an outdated and non-transparent system that doesn’t have the consumer’s best interest at heart, to a world where financial services are fair and conscious and the stress of debt is eliminated for everyone.
Our event was a huge success and we're hoping this kicks off a series of panel discussions around money. We are super excited to see where this series takes us and can’t wait to continue to inspire and educate audiences!