The wealth gap - and why it isn't closing anytime soon

Women face smaller pensions, smaller savings and we’re still fighting the gender pay gap. But unless men become allies, will things really change anytime soon?

Man and woman standing on coins showing men get paid more
(Image credit: Getty Images)

I don't have a daughter, but if I had one, I'd probably be handing her a pension savings account on her third birthday. 

The gender pension gap means she would have to start saving for her pension at age three to end up with an equivalent pension pot that is the same as a man who started saving for his at age 22, research shows.

Unfortunately for her, she will also be contending with the gender pay gap, which averages at 14.3% in the UK, according to the Office for National Statistics.

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Oh, and it is very likely she may also have an investment and savings gap, because on average women save £180 a month compared to £308 for men. And she may not invest, because this is still portrayed largely as a male activity.

That takes me onto the confidence gap - according to HSBC, two in three women (69%) say they do not feel confident about money.

I want to stop there, but let's just also add to the mix gender inequality, sexism, discrimination, misrepresentation and so on. 

And these issues are not always in the workplace, our institutions also have a lot of work to do, too. 

One such example is the Bank of England and its lack of women on UK banknotes - see MoneyWeek’s open letter to the Bank of England campaigning for more women to feature on the back of UK banknotes.

As we celebrate another International Women’s Day which this year looks at inclusion, I ask if we are edging closer to a real change? 

 Can we close the wealth gap?  

When it comes to closing the pension gap, the investing gap and even the pay gap, there are some things women can do.

For instance, pay more into your pension and if you’re young, pay in as much as you can to prepare for a potential career gap - which on average is 10 years by the way.

If you don't invest, take time to start as women do actually make good investors

While someone entering the workforce today is unlikely to see the gender pay gap close, there are things we can do to help minimise it.

But, the thing I fear isn’t changing and will hold women back is attitudes. 

 Can you be an ally on International Women’s Day? 

I was told by a man the other day that career breaks are a ‘choice’ and therefore pension gaps are a choice, too. 

While I reminded my male commentator of the benefits children bring to the economy and how they fund future pension payments, I argue that women should be supported and not put down like this.

I also reminded my male commentator that career breaks are not always about child bearing, often women are carers too. According to Axa, women provide £50bn of unpaid care for adults.

Another male commentator (I seem to have attracted many) argued that women need to show support for men too, and when there will be an International Men’s Day.

Hey guys, if you want an International Men’s Day, tell me your cause -I will support you. 

But otherwise, please just show support and be an ally - because so far, we only have 50% of the story. 

  • Help women return to the workforce.
  • If they take career break, keep them in the loop and make sure they too have equal opportunities
  • Let them be flexible
  • Be inclusive
  • Stop the mansplaining (yes, it happens a lot)
  • Help amplify their voices
  • Recognise micro-aggression
  • Acknowledge male privilege.
  • Make women part of your conversation
Kalpana Fitzpatrick

Kalpana is an award-winning journalist with extensive experience in financial journalism. She is also the author of Invest Now: The Simple Guide to Boosting Your Finances (Heligo) and children's money book Get to Know Money (DK Books). 

Her work includes writing for a number of media outlets, from national papers, magazines to books.

She has written for national papers and well-known women’s lifestyle and luxury titles. She was finance editor for Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping, Red and Prima.

She started her career at the Financial Times group, covering pensions and investments.

As a money expert, Kalpana is a regular guest on TV and radio – appearances include BBC One’s Morning Live, ITV’s Eat Well, Save Well, Sky News and more. She was also the resident money expert for the BBC Money 101 podcast .

Kalpana writes a monthly money column for Ideal Home and a weekly one for Woman magazine, alongside a monthly 'Ask Kalpana' column for Woman magazine.

Kalpana also often speaks at events. She is passionate about helping people be better with their money; her particular passion is to educate more people about getting started with investing the right way and promoting financial education.