This Charity is Teaching Young Girls About Managing Money for Success
When it comes to money, it’s well-known that women by and large make less than men for the same work. There’s even an annual Equal Pay Day in March that marks the point in the year at which the average woman will have finally earned what a man in the same position has made in the prior year.
At the Council for Economic Education, a New York-based nonprofit, workers are trying to address that issue and many more of gender-based inequity by teaching school-age girls financial skills as well as opening doors for them to careers in finance.
Through Zoom-based classes, classroom visits and mentorships, the women leaders of Invest in Girls aim to improve on the bleak statistic highlighted in its tagline and motto: "Only 12 percent of girls feel confident making personal financial decisions. We believe every girl should feel financially empowered.”
Invest in Girls wants to “usher in new generations of financially literate girls,” says Betsy Kelder, who has been the organization’s executive director for four years. Kelder says she and her colleagues aim to “change the pipeline of girls who grow into women with careers in financial services.”
Invest in Girls works with about 1,500 students per year and, and since its founding in 2011, has served more than 5,000 people.
Its programs, which are in place in high schools throughout the Northeast and mid-Atlantic regions, focus on three areas. The first teaches girls how to become the CFOs (chief financial officers), CIOs (chief investment officers), and CEO (chief executive officers) of their lives.
“We show girls everything from personal finance and budgeting to how to responsibly use credit cards to how to invest your money in order to gain returns,” Kelder says. “We consider these to basic financial footings.”
That includes visits to investment firms and other professional workplaces that deal with finances, where students are able to demystify what it means to work in such fields.
Many of the students are racial minorities who come from lower-income households, where it's less likely to have family members or adults they know who are in the upper levels of the financial world.
"Women dramatically underestimate their abilities in areas of financial understanding,” Kelder says. “This can often lead to being stuck in a bad job, relationship or living situation simply because you don't feel confident in how you manage money or you have not been managing money and don't have resources to get out of that situation."
“A lot of girls have never been through security in an office building or up to the 35th floor of a skyscraper to visit a financial firm’s office,” Kelder says. “Something like that may seem simple to some people but it’s an incredibly big step for these girls that helps them know that they, too, could one day be working in these kinds of places.”
The second part of the Invest in Girls program is about “exploring finance,” where girls — mostly 10th, 11th and 12th graders — take a deep dive into learning what careers in finance are about.
“We look at what private equity is and we look at what investment bankers do,” Kelder says. “We might bring an investment banker into a classroom and talk about her career path. That investment banker may create an activity that is typical to her workday and show the girls how to do it.”
The final part of the three-prong approach to financial literacy and career development at Invest in Girls is mentorship, where girls are paired for monthly meetings with women who work in finance-related careers. Students are given articles to read and even talk about résumé writing with their mentors.
“A lot of girls don’t have naturally occurring networks — they don’t have parents who have these networks,” says Kelder. “So we want to help them plant these seeds to start forming these relationships.”
While helping young girls kick-start an interest in money matters would be an accomplishment enough itself, Invest in Girls sees the issues at hand as expanding much further into areas of life, relationships, and self-confidence.
“Women dramatically underestimate their abilities in areas of financial understanding,” Kelder says. “This can often lead to being stuck in a bad job, relationship or living situation simply because you don't feel confident in how you manage money or you have not been managing money and don't have resources to get out of that situation. We’re trying to play our small part in helping to fix those problems.”