Investing differently

For better or worse – almost wholly better – I live close to a number of friends with similar outlooks.  You might say we’re very bubbly in Tufnell Park. But one  consequence of this convergence of tastes is that I find myself drowning in journals that are recirculated on to me.  I already buy a daily paper and subscribe to the LRB and Prospect;  so when friends kindly drop other journals through the door I pick them up with a mixture of gratitude and despondency.  How can I get to read the books I want to when the mags pile up so?

Anyway, that’s how I came to be skimming through a recent issue of the Economist, and my eye fell on two Paula-related items.   The PP is most directly concerned with careers and earning, but I recently posted about the Retirement Pay Gap and anything about rewards is grist to the Paula mill.  So I was intrigued by a piece on gender differences in personal investments.  The figures are all from the US, but the UK and other countries are probably not that different.

First, Boston Consulting Group analysis shows women’s wealth growing from $34tr to $51tr between 2010 and 2015.  That’s quite a jump, in just 5 years.  As a proportion, women’s share went up from 28 to 30%, and is expected to increase to 32% by 2020.  Apparently one reason for this is that women are inheriting wealth from husbands – the guys marry younger women and then pop their clogs.  That’s not really in our ambit.

The more interesting results are to do with gender differences in how people go about handling their wealth. Men are more likely to be confident about their financial literacy and appear less risk-averse.  But it seems that they tend to overestimate their competence; does this sound familiar (cf PP Factor 3)?  Apparently women outperform men in the market, by a percentage point annually.

Even more striking is a difference in the goals women and men have in investing.  Men just go for the money – maximising financial returns.  This mirrors men’s tendency to judge their value at work by how much they are paid.  Women, by contrast, tend to focus on a specific item of value such as buying a house or retiring at 60, rather than on the money itself.  And they are much more interested in ‘sustainable’ investing, ie including social and environmental goals – 84%, compared with 67% of men.  Moreover there’s no evidence that this approach reduces the returns to their investments, so it seems that they (and by extension anyone) can combine these several goals.

One aspect of this is that female investors are more interested in seeing their capital going into organisations that have strong gender equality policies and practice.  I’ve heard about this from several friends in the business, and it’s the kind of issue that organisations such as ShareAction promote.  More power to their elbow.

We shouldn’t forget that this trend, welcome though it is overall, is arguably linked in with growing inequalities on non-gender dimensions.  But it’s an encouraging set of indicators nevertheless.

The second Economist piece was on Missing Wikipedians.  Apparently 90% of Wikipedia content is created by men.  This is upsetting the Swedes, and their Foreign Minister Margot Wallström is urging tech firms to do something to redress the balance.  The piece leaves open the question of what women seem more reluctant to join in the content creation and editing;  my guess is that they are probably less keen to spend ore time in front of screens….

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