The role of women since the 50s has moved on – time to catch up!

Posted in: Finance Last updated: 06 Aug 2014

In the 1950s, no one would have been offended or even slightly perturbed by an advert which depicted a woman as a house-wife with two attractive children and a husband. After all, society dictated and somewhat accepted that the role of a good woman was to stay at home and look after the adoring kids. Obviously the world and society has changed a lot since then.

Women are now sharing the responsibility of looking after the family finances, and as more and more women are returning to work after having children, a significant proportion are taking the lead on household income. Last year, The Institute of Public Policy Research reported that 2.2 million working mothers are now the family’s chief breadwinner – an increase of 83% over the past 15 years [1].

Whilst so many industries have grown or exponentially rocketed as a result of this female financial freedom born out of “two salaried households”, why is it that women’s needs are still not being met by industries whose products are really appropriate to them? And how does this apparent lack of knowledge leave the growing number of “single parents” who need financial products to provide and protect their families?

A recent Chartered Insurance Institute (CII) survey found that women do not fully understand financial products, and perhaps as a result, feel less confident about making financial decisions than men [2]. Well, speaking from personal experience and somewhat anecdotally from conversations with others on the subject, it appears that lots of women have managed the financial affairs in their households, so perhaps a lack of understanding in the mechanics of finances is not the root of this problem. However, the fact that  products are not being made interesting or relevant is probably more the point.

"2.2 million working mothers are now the family’s chief breadwinner – an increase of 83% over the past 15 years"

We wonder if there is a touch of the old fashioned “car room sales person” in the way that these products are presented. This now thankfully rare breed bestows the cars technical prowess and the bells and whistles that make it desirable, but shows limited ability in tailoring their facts to a female buyer. We all lead busy lifestyles, and if someone can tell us how a product helps us to cater for our family’s needs and how we can access and benefit from it in a way that is relevant to our lives, then it’s a job well done.

Weight Watchers seem to have got it right – they strike a good balance by empathising with the customers need, in both resonance and education. By providing clients with a plan, achievable goals, and a mentor to guide them along the way, they make their product both desirable and easily accessible.

It’s no surprise either that a female beauty brand have hit the nail on the head when it comes to targeting women. “Dove’s Real Beauty Sketches” campaign drew on the fact that only 4% of women around the world consider themselves beautiful and created a film to challenge their perceptions, by comparing self-descriptions to those of strangers. The campaign elicited a strong emotional response from viewers. In fact it did so well it became the most viral video advertisement of all time.

Ok – so we accept that this is going to be a tall order for the financial services sector, but any step towards making these products more relevant for women and their families is one in the right direction. This way, we will have more females engaging with products that help them to prepare for financial uncertainties, as well as helping address the outdated attitude that “women” do not understand financial matters.


1 IPPR (August, 2014), “Who’s breadwinning? Working mothers and the new face of family support” [online]. Available from www.ippr.org

2 The Chartered Institute of Insurers (CII) (2009), “Women and financial advice: the new model ‘financial health plan’” [online]. Available from www.cii.co.uk

Note: Whilst we take care to ensure Hub content is accurate at the time of publication, individual circumstances can differ so please don’t rely on it when making financial decisions. OneFamily do not provide advice so it may be worth speaking to an independent financial advisor about your own circumstances.