The economy is changing, and the workforce is evolving. Women are increasingly becoming the breadwinners in their families, yet many still face barriers to financial independence. In fact, despite women holding half of all jobs worldwide today, they still only earn 77% of what men earn globally—and that gap widens in developed countries.

Though the gender pay gap is apparent, according to the World Economic Forum, women are more likely to be the primary caregiver for children even though they earn less than men. Women are also more likely to take time off from work to care for family members, which can put them at risk of being laid off or having their careers interrupted. This makes it harder for women who want financial independence to achieve it, ultimately affecting their overall well-being.

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The importance of financial independence

Women have always been an integral part of the American economy, but they tend to be less financially empowered than men. Despite the global population skewing slightly male at 106 male births to 100 women births, women only controlled about 30% of all wealth in 2015 and approximately 32% in 2020. And, although both men and women have nearly equal influence in the day-to-day financial decision, a Bank of America study shows that more than half of women feel they don't have financial influence when it comes to investing due to reasons such as: lack of knowledge and not having money or savings to invest. It's imperative that women learn to become more secure and comfortable with their finances, beyond everyday bills, if these stats are ever going to change.

In addition to the economic benefits associated with being able to manage their own finances responsibly and independently, there are other reasons why financial independence is essential for women:

  • It gives you control over your life: Providing for yourself gives you freedom from dependence on anyone else--a key component of personal autonomy and empowerment.
  • It provides security: Having an emergency fund or other sources of income provides a cushion for people who might otherwise struggle financially during hard times (such as illness or loss of employment opportunities, unforeseen circumstances such as natural disasters, car repairs, or general emergencies).

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Financial literacy is key

Financial literacy is a powerful tool that everyone deserves access to, especially women. However, many women are still unable to make informed decisions about their finances and have trouble managing their money. The fact that women, especially women of color, are more likely than men to live in poverty or be financially insecure means there is no better time for women to actively combat this issue.

Women are more likely to be financially independent when they have the skills, knowledge, and confidence to make their own decisions. Financial literacy can help you achieve your financial goals and feel more confident about your financial decisions, and feel secure in today's economy. However, getting started on your literacy journey can be quite intimidating. has an excellent round-up of financial resources for women that could help anyone get started on their financial literacy journey. These resources will expose you to beginner and intermediate concepts, which hopefully remove any possible roadblocks from getting started.

Photo by Kimiya Oveisi

Achieving financial independence

Financial independence is not the same as financial freedom. The latter is a destination; the former is a process. To achieve financial independence, you must first set goals for yourself and then work hard to achieve them. Your goal may be saving enough money each month to pay off your student loans or saving up enough funds so that you can quit working at a job that doesn't make you happy anymore. Or, it could be getting out of debt entirely so that no one controls your finances but yourself.

Whatever your dream might be (and I hope it's big), there are steps that need taking in order for it come true:

  • setting realistic short-term goals;
  • building a budget and creating savings plans;
  • managing credit scores responsibly;
  • investing wisely through diversification strategies (such as investing in index funds vs. individual stocks), and refusing to chase financial fads.

It's a process; each goal or step builds on the one before it. With any process, you will need patience. Rome wasn't built in a day and debt (in most cases) won't go away in a day. The first step or goal amongst the others that you set for yourself, should be to be patient with yourself and be patient with the process. Your starting place may be different than those around you. You may have a long way to go to hit your goal, or you may be only a few steps away. It's important that you remain patient, trust the process, and keep your eyes on the larger goal.  

Photo by Katerina Smirnova

In time, the process will become second nature or routine. The days of you not being in control of your financial destiny will seem like a distant memory. And most importantly, the mental health benefits associated with being in control of your own money will be more than worth the effort needed to get started. Being able to provide for yourself (and your dependents) should give you a sense of pride, confidence, and the belief in yourself that you are capable of being in control of your life and your finances.

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