Do women really fear the stock market?
The finance industry is becoming far more concerned about why fewer women invest. A growing number of conferences are being organised to try and understand the root causes.
Do women fear the stock market? That was the question posed at one event organised by advice website Boringmoney.co.uk. It found only 32% of women feel at all confident choosing an investment product against 46% of men.
The website's founder, Holly Mackay, has long highlighted not just the gender gap but the investing gender gap. Arguably, this is where the gap becomes a gulf.
In a survey of 2,000 UK adults in 2016, BoringMoney found that 24% of men invest online, compared to only 9% of women.
The question of whether - and, more importantly, why - women are less comfortable about investing than men is far from being a new one. To be clear, it's not that women don't save, it's about where they put those savings.
Clear Barrett, personal finance editor at the FT, has said (in this article): "The mystery of why women are less likely to invest on the stock market than men has baffled the asset management industry for years.
"Women are independent, earn good money and have access to all kinds of online services and information that their mothers never had, yet stick stubbornly to cash savings in an era of rock-bottom interest rates."
But the conversation about why it is that women are unsure about investing in the stock market got me thinking.
Working within the finance industry has given me some opinions on this mystery. It is said that women often refer to the investment market as "untrustworthy", "unwelcoming" and "male-dominated".
The majority of financial services firms increasingly understand the importance of communicating in a way people can understand. Let's be honest, no one appreciates being bombarded with jargon.
The interesting part of it all is that women DO know a great deal about managing money - many are the main breadwinners in the household, run their own businesses (as well as raising a family) or are single parents.
Not only that, some people argue that women are better at investing, that investment portfolios managed by women outperform those managed by men. (Incidentally, there are even investment funds that seek to back companies where there's a high proportion of women on the board, based on the theory that they will outperform).
Holly Mackay had this to say: "Women ignore all the hype and leave it alone. Men in general want to tweak [their investments], they want to look for tips. Men want to predict what is going to happen with their investments, to constantly monitor it and adjust, compared to women. The trouble is, it's difficult to time the market, when to get in, when to get out."
She explains more in this article with Yahoo Finance.
I think that as more women try investing they will find the supposed difficulty and mystery will melt away. And you don't even need a massive amount of cash to invest. Many investment firms will accept as little as £25 a month, some app-based firms ask for only £1.
So what do women need?
The answer, in my opinion: we need more of these amazing platforms and businesses helping us to manage our money, more women stepping up and becoming advisers, so that we can all work towards a friendlier, welcoming and jargon-free financial services industry, and perhaps a little bit more explanation and discussion on understanding your risk. What really is high and low risk for you as an individual?
My hope is that it will be a matter of years rather than decades that women equal the number of male investors.
- Why not start with Marcus Faure's What can I invest in? The asset classes explained