Providers must go beyond highlighting gender gap

Companies in financial services regularly publish data and reports showing women are not saving enough, or not saving in the right way, or taking bad financial decisions. This, however, is where the story ends.

The most recent information comes from Scottish Widows, who says that the number of women preparing adequately for retirement has reached its lowest in nine years.

It found that of its 5,000-plus respondents, over a third of women (and over a quarter of men) are completely without a pension. The women who are saving, it says, are putting away £182 per month on average compared with the £250 put aside by men.

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Accompanying comments use words such as “worrying” and refer to the way women “lag behind men”. They propose some analysis as to why this is, but offer no meaningful solutions. Acknowledging that “perhaps due to family commitments, only 50 per cent of women in their 30s work full-time compared to 81 per cent of men the same age” is a start, but ending the conversation at that point is problematic.

“It’s incumbent on us as providers to use that information, and for it to inform our marketing and communication,” says Lynn Graves, head of business development in corporate pensions at Scottish Widows. It seems, however, as if statistics like these – across financial services – have been produced long enough for companies to be in a position to go beyond saying they will modify their marketing approach.

Lynn herself acknowledges the limited scope and impact of such figures. “Women aren’t understanding pensions as well as their male counterparts but that doesn’t really tell us why. It reports the statistic without giving information as to why that number is.”

The introduction of auto-enrolment will clearly make a difference to the position women have in the pensions landscape, but the implications of producing research that, implicitly or explicitly, casts women as financially irresponsible (or identifies them as financially ignorant without a corresponding improvement in education and engagement) must be examined.