Sister, It’s Not You. It’s the Gendered Language of Finance.


Why is this personal finance and investment stuff so confusing? How am I supposed to talk about this finance stuff with my kids if I don’t even know what “building a portfolio” really means?

What’s going on here?  Do men possess a “finance gene” that women don’t?

Ladies … have you ever wondered why men just seem to “get” finances and women often don’t?  If that sounds a bit abrasive to you, go with me here. I’m trying to shift a paradigm in the finance space.

I know you don’t believe men are smarter than women and neither do I.  We are way beyond any debate like that in society.

Women have had more access to education in the past century than ever before and are making great gains. 56% of college students are women. 58.3% of graduate students are women. To put that into perspective, that means there are 139 female grad students for every 100 male students.  And more women than men have earned their doctorate for the 10th straight year.* (through 2018)

Here’s an odd theory that may have crossed your mind.  Perhaps, men possess a special “finance gene” that gives them special powers enabling them to understand the world of finance?  Okay, we don’t even need to dignify that question with a response. Although, you can’t fault one for thinking it.

So, what’s going on here?  Why does financial literacy remain a stubbornly difficult problem to solve when women are advancing so rapidly in other areas of their lives?

I see women all around me trying.  Women are reading (and publishing!) finance books, scouring financial blogs and websites, listening to money podcasts, talking to “knowledgeable” others and yet something is missing:  women are confused, bored, frustrated with financial talk. Let’s be practical about this…. It’s not like you are sitting around talking with your girlfriends about your stock portfolio or the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

Why do I, a male financial professional and father of 5 daughters, believe this is?

In a word: language

Language you say?”

Yes, language.

The language of finance is decidedly masculine.

It was created and developed by men, centuries ago when the industry was entirely male dominated, so they could sell financial products to other men.  It was created to fit the way men think about money and the emotional needs fulfilled by money – status, ego, competition, power, freedom.



From the words used to describe financial instruments* to the way financial firms market their products by focusing on statistics and “beating” the competition, everything in the world of finance was built by men to reach other men.

**Note: would a woman ever say financial “instrument” or tout their “10-year track record against their peer group?”  Nope. This is all for the guys.

No matter how many books you read, seminars you attend, or podcasts you listen to, if your “teachers” are using the same masculine language, a language you don’t relate to how are you ever to learn anything, much less teach those concepts to your children?

Markets Not Misogyny

Before I go further, I want to address what many of you are already thinking:  Does Wall Street Hate Women? [stay tuned for a future blog on the subject]

There’s a lot about Wall Street that could be construed as discriminatory but this (masculine language) isn’t one of them.  The language of finance wasn’t created to discriminate against women or exclude them. It was more basic than that – when the industry was created, men had all of the money and the language of money was created to reach an all-male audience.

As it pertains to the language of finance, it developed in direct response to the market it was serving at the time: men.  Further, it wasn’t built to serve every man.  It was built to serve men with money.  If you were a poor man, Wall Street didn’t care one bit about you (some things never change).

This is the harsh truth: 

    • The language of finance does not discriminate.
    • The language of finance, without malice or intent, does exclude women.

No, the language of the finance industry wasn’t designed to be discriminatory towards women.  Or, poor men. It was designed to reach a specific market – men with money.

And for many, many years that system worked just fine.  That is until women joined the workforce in earnest and gained their own money and economic power.

But by that time, the damage was already done.



Stop Blaming Yourself 

The most important thing is to realize you have permission, no… the responsibility, to stop blaming yourself for not knowing more about this financial stuff.  No more beating yourself up. No more damaging, negative self talk.  No more thoughts of “men are just better at this stuff than women.”

This new, more enlightened you brings a greater responsibility along with it.

Now that you know nothing innate is keeping you from mastering money, it creates a responsibility to figure it out.  

Sure, the language barrier exists but it’s not insurmountable.  Yes, there are obstacles in your way, obstacles that men don’t have to contend with, and you’re right, it’s not fair.  But you also know what mama always said about life being fair?

Begin Here

Now that you’ve identified a major barrier is language, you can find appropriate solutions.  Here are few places to start:

Above all, remember it is no longer okay to turn over your financial power to a man just because he “gets it.”  You can “get it” too and hold onto your rightful share of financial power.

Sure, it’s easier to have someone else do it but being on equal financial footing with the men in your life is more important than finding the path of least resistance.