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Women’s Financial History – And The Empowering Future Ahead Thumbnail

Women’s Financial History – And The Empowering Future Ahead

Leisl L. Cording, CFP®
Senior Vice President & Financial Advisor 

As we celebrate Women’s History Month, it’s all but impossible not to realize the implicit role that financial independence – or lack thereof – has played and will play in shaping the lives of women past, present, and future.

The history of women and finances is long and complicated. A woman’s ability to control her own finances (and to accrue wealth and empowerment as a result) has fluctuated throughout the ages and still does across the globe. Suffice it to say, the idea that a woman can and should accumulate and control her own wealth, and thereby her destiny, hasn’t always been popular. 

Thankfully, that’s not the case today in America. But it’s important to understand how we got here, to realize just how recently we crossed over the threshold into financial independence, to give voice to the financial challenges that still plague women today, and to understand why it’s important to everyone that women’s financial empowerment continues to grow in the future. 

So first, here’s a brief look at the history of women and finances in America.

1862: Women can claim land in their own names, thanks to the passage of the U.S. Homestead Act.

1920: The 19th Amendment is passed, giving women the right to vote. Although it’s not a financial milestone specifically, women now hold the power to influence the legislation that has up to this point prevented them from holding power over their own finances.

1963: The Equal Pay Act is passed, making equal pay for equal work no matter your gender the law of the land – at least in theory. 

1967: Discrimination in hiring and employment is banned through Executive Order 11375, opening the door for women to pursue more varied and higher-level jobs.

1974: The Equal Credit Opportunity Act is passed, granting women the right to obtain credit independent of their husbands. 

2014: Fast forward nearly forty years since the last major financial milestone for women, and a woman takes control of the country’s central bank when Janet Yellen becomes the first female appointed as chair of the Federal Reserve. It was a watershed moment that highlighted how far women had come, both on the national stage and in individual households, in the realm of wealth and finance.

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Here’s where women and finances stand now.

Women are steadily becoming the dominant gender in terms of population, lifespan, educational achievement, and labor force in America. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, as of 2021, there were about 4 million more women in America than men, and 72 percent more women ages 85+ than men in that same age group. About 36 percent of women ages 25 and older had earned a bachelor’s degree, compared with about 34% of men.1 

Why do those statistics matter? A 2022 report by McKinsey & Company sums it up well. The authors predict that women will “take center stage as investors over the next decade.” That prediction is driven in large part by the fact that women in the baby boomer generation are outliving their male counterparts. For those who were married, that means they’re quickly becoming the lion’s share of those responsible for handing down wealth.2 

The report reads, in part, “By 2030, American women are expected to control much of the $30 trillion in investable assets that baby boomers will possess—a potential wealth transfer that approaches the annual GDP of the United States. At the same time, younger affluent women are becoming more financially savvy; for example, 30 percent more married women are making financial and investment decisions than five years ago.”  

But one area where women still aren’t catching up, however, is in earnings. Women working full-time still earn a median salary equal to just 81.5% of that earned by men.1

And here’s the empowering outlook on women and finances for the future – along with a word of caution. 

Clearly, the days of women taking a passive role in household finances and having little significance in the fields of finance and economics are over. Instead, quite the opposite will be true. Women will soon tip the scales in becoming the majority in terms of not only population but also employment and wealth transfer in America. 

Looking further ahead, it seems a safe assumption that if the current behavioral trends of younger women persist, they’ll also match or exceed their male counterparts in amassing their own wealth and having an equal or controlling role in household finances as well. 

But, here’s the word of caution – those continuing advances assume that the stubborn wage gap that women have faced for decades also goes the way of history. It also relies on women continuing to build confidence in their financial management and investment capabilities. 

Having been forced to the sidelines for so long, it’s no wonder that many women are hesitant to take control of their finances. But that hesitancy is fading with practice, as older women overcome those engrained mistaken beliefs, and with time, as younger women come into their own without those beliefs to overshadow them. 

For my part, I’m proud to be among the 25 percent of female wealth managers in the U.S., and even more proud still that the number of women entering the field of finance is growing every year. And I’m especially proud to work for a wealth management firm that actively works to understand women’s unique needs in order to empower their future. The partnerships I forge with my female clients while creating a financial strategy that empowers the future they want for themselves is one of the most rewarding aspects of my job.

To learn more about our Plan Well, Invest Well, Live Well™strategic financial planning process at Weiss, Hale & Zahansky Strategic Wealth Advisors and how we can tailor it to help you meet your goals, reach out to us for a complimentary consultation at (860) 928-2341 or on our website.


Authored by Senior Vice President, Financial Advisor Leisl L. Cording CFP®. Securities and advisory services offered through Commonwealth Financial Network®, Member FINRA/SIPC, a Registered Investment Adviser. 697 Pomfret Street, Pomfret Center, CT 06259, 860.928.2341. http://www.whzwealth.com These materials are general in nature and do not address your specific situation. For your specific investment needs, please discuss your individual circumstances with your financial advisor. Weiss, Hale & Zahansky Strategic Wealth Advisors does not provide tax or legal advice, and nothing in the accompanying pages should be construed as specific tax or legal advice.

1. https://www.census.gov/newsroom/facts-for-features/2023/womens-history-month.html

2. https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/financial-services/our-insights/us-wealth-management-a-growth-agenda-for-the-coming-decade

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