Understanding and supporting women’s financial wellness

Women and financial wellness

Women tend to struggle more financially than men. While there is no “silver bullet” solution, employers can support the financial health of their female employees.

At a glance

  • Any way you look at it, women tend to struggle more financially than men.
  • Employers can support the financial health of their female employees by providing comprehensive and equitable benefits, helping them address short- and long-term financial goals and designing engaging financial wellness programs.

Any way you look at it, women tend to struggle more financially than men. Only one in five working-aged women are considered financially healthy versus nearly one in three working-aged men.1 Even when controlling for income and other demographics, women still lag men in financial health by five percentage points.2

The reason for this gap is myriad. For starters, women continue to face income disparities. The National Women’s Law Center estimates that, on average, women lose over $400,000 over the course of their careers due to the wage gap.2 At the same time more than 75% of caregivers are women.3 And the Pew Research Center has consistently found that women are more likely to adjust their careers or leave the workforce altogether for family reasons.4 Women also tend to carry higher levels of certain debt, including medical and student loans.5 Finally, women are less likely to have retirement savings or feel confident about their retirement funds.6

With all these challenges, how can employers support the financial health of women? While there is no “silver bullet” solution, there are a number of best practices that can help address some of the challenges facing women. We address a few here.

  • Comprehensive and equitable: Understanding who has access to and is using workplace-provided benefit programs is critical to understanding where employers may have gaps. Research continues to show that many women—and other historically marginalized groups—lack the same access to benefits as other groups. For example, women are less likely to own stocks or have access to and participate in employer-sponsored equity compensation programs.7
  • Short- and long-term goals: In addition to lagging men in retirement outcomes, women also face significant challenges in their day-to-day financial lives and need help with short-term goals such as building emergency savings and managing debt. All of this impacts their ability to save for retirement.8 Helping employees with the range of needs they face can help secure alignment across the different financial benefits employers may provide, and can support employee engagement in a more personalized way.
  • Design for engagement: Even when employers offer financial wellness programs, women are less likely to use them.However, women would be more inclined to use a financial wellness program if its benefits were more clearly presented and communicated, and in a way that is relevant to their individual needs.8

There is no single solution to closing the gender financial wellness gap. But understanding where to focus and how to address the unique challenges women face is key to building a program that has a positive impact.