The buck stops here: Why women are less likely to take control of their money

Find out why women are less likely than men to take control of their money – and what we can do to change it.

Taking control of personal finances is a fundamental step towards financial independence and security. Yet, despite progress towards gender equality, the latest Kantar Winning with Women report shows less than half of women in the UK feel in control of their financial future. Furthermore, a quarter of women say they don’t invest because they don’t know enough about it.

Women also find themselves facing unique challenges that make it more difficult to assert control over their money – such as divorce, caring responsibilities, and career breaks.  

So, why are women less likely to take control of their money, and what can we do to change the narrative?

The gender pay gap

The gender pay gap is not a novel cultural phenomenon, and yet it remains a glaring issue in the UK, with women earning on average 15.5% less than men, according to the Office for National Statistics

The root cause of the gender pay gap is multiplex. According to Amanda Redman, Advising Principle at Amada Redman Financial Planning, St James Place, SJP Financial Adviser Academy graduate and author of Dare to be Fair, it’s a combination of individual choices and behaviours, as well as institutionalised workplace culture and practices.

Unsurprisingly, a reduced income not only impacts immediate financial wellbeing, but also long-term financial goals such as saving for retirement and building wealth. This cultural ‘norm’ also not only affects women’s financial futures, but also their mindset, sense of value, and self-worth. 

Career breaks and the pensions gap

Career breaks due to caregiving responsibilities pose significant challenges for women’s financial stability. Whether it’s taking time off to raise children or care for elderly relatives, interruptions in employment can disrupt earning potential, pension contributions, and career advancement. 

When considering a career break, women often focus on short-term, immediate consequences on household income and day-to-day responsibilities. This is understandable, given that according to a Trade Union Congress 2023 study, 1 in 10 women in their 30s – more than 450,000 women – is out of the labour market because of caring responsibilities, compared to just one in 100 men in their 30s.

However, reduced pension contributions, compounding, and a complicated return to work can dramatically influence financial stability. 

Indeed, career gaps owing to childcare and other factors result in an average ten-year career gap for women, amounting to £39,000 in lost pension savings. As a result of the gender pension gap, women, on average, will have to work an extra 19 years to retire with the same pensions savings as men, according to the NOW: Pensions 2024 Pensions Gap Report. 


Divorce often has profound financial implications, particularly for women who may have relied on their spouse for financial support. 

According to Legal and General, women not only see their household income fall by 41% compared to men (21%) in the year following a divorce, but they are also significantly more likely to waive rights to a partner’s pension, creating potential risk in retirement.

Suddenly switching to a single income household can leave women with money worries. This can be explained by women taking on a disproportionate level of family responsibility and care over the course of their marriage, often at the expense of their ability to stay in work and build their own pension pots.

Gender communication gap

The gender communication gap – that is, accessible guidance around the life events that weigh on female savers – further hinders women’s ability to take control of their money. 

There are lots of everyday discrepancies that can have a huge, life-changing impact on a women’s finances. For example, when women proactively seek out advice about the implications of maternity leave, they are not receiving all the information they need.

Another example is trying to consolidate pension pots that originally made in a maiden name, which creates administrative burdens that men don’t have to face. 

It’s often the case that communications around every day family finances (coincidentally the topics that fall under female responsibility) generally portray financial success as mums ‘making it work’, while content about investing typically represent a much more solitary and less relatable world. We subliminally discourage women from venturing into investments, despite the significant opportunity for financial reward. 

It’s therefore unsurprising that women are more likely to save money but less likely to invest it than their male counterparts. 

Adviser population 

When it comes to seeking financial advice, it is not uncommon that women prefer to consult other women, as they are able to relate to them on a deeper level, especially in cases of divorce or widowhood. 

According to a 2019 study on financial advice by Aviva, 49% of the UK population who sought financial advice were women. However, despite female demand for advice, women make up only 17% of financial advisers. 

Practical financial advice is built on trust and relatability: women bring unique insights, communication styles, and approaches to problem-solving, enhancing the overall experience of advice and service provided to women. And contrary to the stereotype, they are not risk-averse but rather risk-aware, carefully considering risks while making informed financial decisions.

There are steps being taken to encourage more women into the profession: training programmes such as the St. James’s Place Financial Adviser Academy place emphasis on the need for a diverse profession to accurately represent the clients they serve – the UK population. 

One of the ways the Academy works towards achieving this is by partnering with different organisations that reach underrepresented demographics within the financial advice profession – a selection of these specifically focus on attracting women to the profession. 

With an estimated 50,000 financial advisers needed to service growing demands in the UK, the imperative to engage with new talent from all walks of life is stronger than ever. The SJP Financial Adviser Academy has achieved 26% women graduating its programme since inception in 2012.

A step change

Efforts to address these challenges are not an overnight solution, and they require a holistic approach. Reducing the gender pay gap, implementing policies that support women during career breaks, and providing accessible financial education tailored to women’s needs are essential steps toward empowering women financially. 

Additionally, increasing the representation of women in the financial advice profession can help bridge the communication gap and provide relatable guidance to women looking to improve their overall financial wellbeing.

Author: Gee Foottit, Senior Manager at St James’s Place Financial Adviser Academy, and host of The Switch podcast