Why women have come a long way but still have a long way to go

Every year in March, media outlets focus much of their coverage on the achievements of women in business, politics, sciences, the arts. We truly have come a long way.

As business owners, women have demonstrated time and again their ability to compete and succeed. In Canada, the number of women-owned businesses has grown by 30 per cent over the last decade. A 2022 Statistics Canada analysis of women-owned businesses found these enterprises did better on a number of fronts – such as expense, labour and inventory management – than male-owned businesses.

When it comes to the professional and corporate sphere, a study last year by the law firm Osler highlighted the ongoing progress women have made in leadership roles in public companies. Almost 45 per cent of the companies that participated in the study had more than one female executive officer while 60 per cent had more than one woman on their board of directors.

You rule, but are you the boss of your finances too?

Yet when it comes their family’s finances, many women are still not in charge. One recent survey, by Swiss-based investment bank and financial services company UBS Group, found only 26 per cent of women take the lead on financial decisions, with more than 50 per cent still deferring to their spouse when it comes to money-related decisions.

In our wealth advisory and family office practice at Rubach Wealth, we work with a lot of highly successful women who command enterprises or are at the top of their professions. These women share a lot of common traits: they’re intelligent, driven and extremely hard-working.

Problem is, many are also burned out and stressed out. And until they started working with our practice, many of these highly capable and successful women felt they weren’t in control of the wealth they’ve built for themselves and for their families.

Do you hesitate to delegate? You’re not alone

How can women who run successful businesses and lead teams through challenging situations not be in full control of their finances as well?

The broad and simple answer is that most women face competing demands from career and family. They’re always squeezed for time and are constantly having to choose one priority over another. Often, they choose to do something else other than figure out their financial plan, write up their will and define the values that will drive their financial and estate planning decisions.

A lot of women – especially those who are driven and high-performing – are also reluctant to delegate. But as we often like to tell our clients, comprehensive financial and estate planning is a team effort and what’s most important is finding the right team with the expertise to develop and execute the plan while keeping you in control.

Build financial partnership in your relationship

In a number of cases, the responsibility of managing the family finances is assumed by a spouse. Sometimes this happens by default, other times because one spouse takes control at the onset. There are even situations where the spouse who makes more puts the finances in the hands of the partner who makes less as a way of creating a more equitable power dynamic.

Whatever the reason, if you have little or no control of the family wealth you’ve helped to create, then it’s time to shift towards collaborative decision-making. Working with a family office advisor who knows how to navigate through family dynamics can help move you and your spouse towards a true partnership.

Yes, it can get messy before it gets under control

The need to avoid stress and conflict is also a big barrier to financial planning for many people but most especially for women, who tend to be peacekeepers in their families. Maybe you have a partner who makes less than you and has a smaller net worth. Maybe you have adult children who are fiscally irresponsible. Maybe there are kids from different marriages.

Family finances can be messy because families often are messy. This is where financial planning and family office professionals can really help by bringing an objective lens and voice to the discussion.

With just a few days left before the end of month, the spotlight on women’s achievements – along with their challenging – is likely to dim soon. Let’s keep the conversation going.

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