How The “She-Cession” Has Impacted Women’s Financial And Physical Health

Nearly 2 years into the global pandemic caused by COVID-19, it’s no secret that working women’s lives have disproportionately been impacted financially, and even more so for mothers. The term “she-cession” has even been used to specify how, among the ongoing analysis and conversations around the changing economy due to COVID, there is clear data showing how women are being left even further behind, exacerbating the existing issues around gender inequity that have now been highlighted even more.

But it’s not just finances that have taken a hit among women and mothers, and the team at Ellevest have looked into how the she-cession has impacted women’s overall health. They commissioned a Financial Wellness Survey asking more than 2,000 people across the US about how they’re thinking about financial wellness, money, investing, and the financial services industry.

“What we heard suggests that financial wellness is deeply undervalued compared to other forms of wellness, and it’s costing us big time. And while women+ still struggle with confidence in their financial know-how, there’s also a lot of interest in learning more — meaning there’s plenty of room to improve overall financial health through a healthy financial wellness practice,” writes the Ellevest team in an article about their findings.

While money-related stress is very common among women right now, the Ellevest survey found that 67% of women worry about their financial health at least once a week but rank financial health as the least important form of wellness. This is a problem.

“We define financial wellness as the state of money-related well-being that’s achieved and maintained when you know what you have, you know where you’re headed, and you feel good about it,” says Ellevest CEO and Co-Founder Sallie Krawcheck.

Ellevest Financial Wellness Survey 2021

“Money is women’s #1 source of stress. And women have been told, again and again, a series of money lies that have made them believe that they can’t achieve financial wellness. But simply taking action on their money — like investing and saving — is the key driver of reducing that stress. That’s why it’s important to reframe those messages and shed light on how critical financial wellness is to women’s lives overall. Let’s give it the attention it deserves.”

The picture these survey results paint is a contradictory one. While women understand all too well the impact money and financial security have on their lives, financial wellness just doesn’t get as much attention as other forms of wellness.

More than one in five women (21%) report never having invested time in their financial well-being at all. (By comparison, just 12% of men say the same.) Only 14% of women-identifying respondents ranked financial health as the most important form of wellness.

But while women (35%) and non-binary respondents (44%) ranked mental health as the most important form of wellness, nearly half of women (49%) feel financial stress has taken a toll on their mental and emotional health, 46% of women say they’ve lost sleep over it, and 40% of women even believe it’s damaged their physical health.

Unsurprisingly, women also continue to worry a lot more than men do about their finances. Thirty-six percent of women worry about their financial health on a daily basis, compared to 28% of men. Also, 46% of women say that their money anxiety has worsened since the pandemic began.

And when respondents were asked about how they feel about money, the gender breakdown was even starker. The top emotion for men (37%): “Confident.” The top emotion for women (35%)? “Overwhelmed.”

So what we’re seeing, in short, is a clear need. Money stress is having an overwhelming impact on women+’s mental and physical well-being, much more so than for men, and the pandemic has only made matters worse. But the key to changing that could lie in admitting one crucial fact: that financial wellness matters a lot more than we think.

Taking a deeper dive into the survey results, the Ellevest team found that generations’ worth of harmful myths and stereotypes compound the issue at hand. The fact is, most women have a pretty solid understanding of what financial wellness is – not being stressed (52%), feeling confident about money (51%) and having a full understanding of their current finances (48%). But many haven’t dedicated much time to establishing a healthy financial wellness practice. Women also feel discouraged by the tangible structural inequality impacting their lives.

Taboos around money and women also play a role into whether women invest time and resources into their financial wellness and security. These taboos have held women back for too long. Not talking about money — from salaries and net worth and retirement all the way down to the simple fact of how much stuff costs — only empowers people who already have it, and reinforces the inequality that holds women+ (particularly women+ of color!) back, both individually and structurally.

The problems are clear, the need is clear, and there are tangible ways to effectively make change in the lives of women. In the survey 41% of respondents expressed how supportive communities and accessible resources would help them be in a better place financially. In October, a month where many folks look ahead to a potentially stressful holiday season, Ellevest launched their very first Financial Wellness Day on Oct 13th, along with a new financial wellness–themed workshop that provided women with tools to prioritize their financial self-care, reframe their money mindset, define their financial goals, and more.

Reframing mindsets around financial wellness is no longer optional, it is an imperative. Not just for our bank accounts, but also our overall health. Take the time to talk about money with your peers, your children, and even your colleagues. Recovering from the she-cession is going to take all hands on deck – from major policy changes, funding from government, support in the workplace, and a shift in cultural attitudes around gender equality.

If you are interested in more of what Ellevest has to offer, you can take a look at their ongoing workshops here. You can also look at the full breakdown of the financial wellness survey here.

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