One year ago Friday, I hit publish on a blog post that I had been turning over in my head for months. I thought it was something that could really add to the conversation in the personal finance space at a point where big time bloggers were publishing their selections of other money bloggers to read – where those lists were almost entirely – or completely – full of men. What I didn’t realize at the time though was just how badly it was needed, or how much it was going to change my personal blogging story, as well as countless others.
When I looked to the biggest podcasts, the biggest media sources, the biggest blogs, it looked like women were simply not that interested when it came to money, because just about every list, every interviewer, every interviewee was a man outside of a very select few token women who were mentioned again and again.
It’s no surprise that there has been such an ingrained bias that men are the ones who care about investing and planning for their financial future while women have to be dragged out of stores with their purses on lockdown so they won’t blow their husband’s money. The joke is always that the woman has to hide her spending while the man protects their future.
But that bias is crap, and we aren’t financial damsels in distress.
**I AM A PARTICIPANT IN THE AMAZON SERVICES LLC ASSOCIATES PROGRAM, AN AFFILIATE ADVERTISING PROGRAM DESIGNED TO PROVIDE A MEANS TO EARN FEES BY LINKING TO AMAZON.COM AND AFFILIATED SITES. I WILL ONLY EVER RECOMMEND SOMETHING I REALLY BELIEVE IN AND ENCOURAGE YOU TO FIND FREE OR SECONDHAND OPTIONS WHENEVER POSSIBLE.**
Meet The Women Of The Financial Independence Community
So with that bias in mind, and determined to create a list of women who were talking about money in a real way, I wrote out The Women Of The Financial Independence Community and hit publish. I had been blogging for just six months at that point and had a very small readership of my own, but I had been consuming personal finance and financial independence related content for most of a decade at that point. And many of those blogs were written by women.
I went to bed that night amazed by the response it triggered and the dozens of women who reached out to say “I’m here, too.” And I woke up the next morning completely overwhelmed by the comments and notes. I knew there was a female community within the personal finance space, but even I didn’t realize the extent of its depth and breadth before writing out the post.In the days that followed, I realized that that post was expanding to a point where I needed to create subcategories to organize the list because there were just so many women that needed to be included – single mothers writing about financial independence to married women writing about debt payoff to women writing about general finance to women pursuing early retirement with a serious focus.
Erin and I set to work compiling and organizing all of the bloggers, podcasters, and authors, and over the intervening year, the list has grown and shrunk as new women have added their voices to the online money conversation while others have decided to continue the discussion offline. But they have all made it clear – women talk about money, and plenty of us know quite a lot about it too.
Things that are now banned: Saying there are few female money bloggers. Here’s a list of 100. Saying you can’t think of any women to ask on your podcast or include in a list of recommendations. Here are 100.
The following week, Erin penned a follow up response to the post, going behind the scenes on our mad scramble to update the list as I realized its larger potential impact as well as more underlying biases that come into play thanks to the underrepresentation of female voices in the financial independence community.
Blogging friendship with Erin turned in person friendship
Since Erin was such an integral part of putting together the updated list once the initial post was published, I knew I needed to reach out to her to get her thoughts about the year since then. Here’s what she has to say:
Like Angela, since helping with the list and writing my follow-up post, the fact that I’m a woman blogging about personal finance has slowly become more prominent in my online presence. I’ve realized (and been far more comfortable acknowledging) that part of being a woman in the personal finance sphere means talking about more than just cold, hard numbers.
It’s an acknowledgement that women have unique financial realities, but it’s also an acknowledgement of the human side of personal finance, too. Being involved with the women in personal finance list was the first step I needed to feel more confident in speaking out about realities beyond the money—about birth control, reproductive health, and family planning; about my money anxiety (helpfully aided by my general anxiety) and what it’s like to be a financially single woman in an expensive area; about my dreams for the future and the power that taking control of my finances has brought and will continue to bring me.
I’ve become far more outspoken about being a feminist on my social media accounts, and I don’t see that as a bad thing at all. Even if I’m talking about my hiking adventures or my latest experiment in becoming the person I ultimately aspire to be, I’m still talking about money. Personal finance is personal in that everyone’s money realities are going to look different, but it’s also personal because money affects everything.
Seeing more women get recognition in this space helps to diversify the personal stories that get told (and I’ll add my voice to the chorus here that we all need to do better to diversify beyond just gender).
I also got the chance, at both FinCon and Cents Positive, as well as other events, to meet many of my blogging friends in person. That was far and away one of the best things about 2018 because holy hell, the women in this community constantly blow me away by being amazing, capable, generous, inspiring, supportive BADASSES.
Spending time with them in person only reinforced how lucky I am to have so many inspiring women in my life (and by “in my life,” I don’t mean a vague presence. Over the past year I’ve probably texted my blogging besties more than I have anyone else—family, friends, and my significant other included). I’ve always said the community is my favorite part about blogging, and it’s the women here who make it such a special place.
Women’s Personal Finance (Women On FIRE)
I soon realized that the need to have a women-only space in the personal finance community extended far beyond a blog roll, and I set up (as far as I can tell) the first real financial independence/personal finance Facebook group just for self identified women.
The group has grown steadily since then and now has just shy of 3,500 members and lots of discussion daily. Some posts are very gender specific (menstrual products and childbirth, among others), but the majority of posts are more generally about personal finance related topics that the group members can feel they can ask and answer in a safe space.
While the group definitely has a heavy component of women focused on financial independence, my goal has always been to keep it inclusive to ALL women along their financial journeys beyond just a place to talk couponing and the like (not that there’s necessarily anything wrong with that, but there are plenty of other groups for that). Members of the group celebrate debt payoffs, new careers, ask questions on how to invest and how to take the first step with figuring out their finances, thoughts on covering up gray hair – or not – all in a place where they will be lifted up and supported every step of the way.
If you’re looking for a Facebook group that is specific to financial independence, another (unaffiliated) group was created more recently called Women In Pursuit of FI, and as a member I will also vouch for the group as a great place to spend your time online.
“Genderless” Personal Finance
There are few women money bloggers who really understand the bias that personal finance is gender neutral better than Military Dollar. While the knee jerk reaction to women’s only groups is to state that money conversations are completely genderless, she has a more unique perspective as someone who was constantly mistaken for a man when she first started blogging – simply because she didn’t state her gender. When asked about her experience as a woman in the financial independence community, this is what she had to say:
When I started blogging in spring 2017, I was purposely vague about my gender. I’m a private person and I knew – for better or for worse –
people would assume I was a man and that would work to my advantage if I was trying to stay anonymous. It’s not good and it’s not desirable that people assume personal finance bloggers and military members are male, but it is true.
When I “came out” as a female blogger at the end of 2017, I pointed out the prevalence of bias in the personal finance space that results in people assuming that any blogger who isn’t somehow clearly female must be male. While that assumption hasn’t disappeared completely (lots of people assume Financial Mechanic is male, too) we are starting to
see women more in this community. And they are being recognized for their contributions. Of the 28 Plutus Award categories that were awarded in 2018, 14 were won by female authors with another 3 won by female/male teams.
Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t want women winning awards just because they are women. But you’d better believe I’m happy to see that women are being seen as equal to men. Because as Angela points out, there was a distinct phase there where women were largely ignored when it came to any “best of” lists.
And if anybody making these lists could’ve justified why women were noticeably absent for reasons other than the oft-cited “I can’t think of any” reason, it might’ve been okay. But alas, that was the reason given more than once. Yes, despite almost 40% of the hundreds of personal finance bloggers/podcasters/YouTubers/authors being female, they couldn’t think of any.
I’ve been following the online personal finance community for years, and it’s starting to feel like people realize women are just as present as men. And that’s how it should be. There is no truth to the thought that men care more about their money than women. No really, we’re pretty similar. So it’s pretty exciting that people are starting to see what’s already there…and what’s been there for a long time.
Women’s Personal Finance Wednesdays
Again, when I first published that post a year ago, I had no idea that it would shape the trajectory of this blog. While sustainability has obviously always been a part of my story here (hence the name of the blog), the woman personal finance blogger part came on slowly but forcefully from that point forward.
For months I had thrown around the idea in my head to take my support of women beyond the one post that remained static beyond updating as new writers came and exited the online scene. I was already publishing content twice a week though, so I was uncertain if I wanted to commit to a regular third day and the idea stayed in my head and the months went by.
I’m not certain what finally changed my mind, but September rolled around and I decided to go for it. The response was absolutely overwhelming and wonderful, and it didn’t take a full day to know I made the right choice. Seventeen weeks in to this new series, and it has now become one of my very favorite parts of blogging because I can see how I’m able to use this platform of mine to amplify other women’s voices within this financial independence and personal finance space.
Along these lines, I asked Tanja from Our Next Life to write a little bit on her thoughts about women in the financial independence community. Here is what she has to say:
Breaking into boys’ clubs never happens quickly. We can’t make them see us. And the financial independence/retire early blogland has been a boys’ club from the beginning, not out of any ill intent, but just another case of the status quo maintaining itself. But just because it’s hard to break into the boys’ club doesn’t mean we should stop trying.
But even more than that, if not every blogger sees this list and uses it, there’s still power in it. There’s power in us seeing it. There’s power in us seeing each other. In us feeling seen by each other. The Cents Positive event I launched last year affirmed for me that there’s value in creating spaces where women can talk about every aspect of money, and this list gives us all a lot of different options to find a safe space.
Mr. Money Mustache said on-stage at FinCon18 that those who’ve always held the mic need to start passing it, and I’ll confess that my first thought when he said that was, “Pass it to me!” And the truth is that I’ve benefitted strangely from the boys’ club of FI blogs. I’ve many times been the token chick on a panel, or been quoted in an article as “the woman” because the reporter assumed it was otherwise all dudes out there. But I’m challenging that now and working to pass the mic myself, shining the spotlight on other women, especially women of color.
Even as someone who’s always known that there are women here, and even when we’re not the ones doing the writing or fronting the blogs, it’s still breath-taking to see such a Big List of us. Our numbers are growing, and the more we show that – by sharing this list and passing the mic to highlight other stories – the stronger we become.
Tanja mentions Cents Positive, and as someone who attended the inaugural event, I can assure you that there is no way to overstate how amazing that weekend was. Every time a “women’s only” event or group or list is mentioned, there are more than a few men – and some women – that find they have the need to share why they feel such a thing is “completely unnecessary.”
For an event that was completely unnecessary, it certainly sold out quickly, and was one of the most impactful weekends of my year. While we might like to say that the same kinds of conversations can go on no matter the gender mix of the room, the difference at Cents Positive was palpable and like nothing I’d ever experienced before.
Magical end to Cents Positive
If you ever get a chance to attend a similar event (like a Lola Retreat or Money on the Mountain), go for it. And if you’re a man, perhaps consider why it may have felt so different and what you can do to make all places, online and in person, feel more inclusive to everyone. This goes beyond just the question of gender diversity and should have us look to do better yet. As Millennial Boss puts it,
The next step in the movement is to move past gender and work to expand and promote a wider definition of diversity in personal finance. Posts such as List of Asian PF Bloggers, 12 African American Financial Gurus to Follow, and Join Gay Bloggers in Changing the World are great places to start. Let’s proactively seek out and amplify the diverse voices already in the movement and encourage new diverse voices to enter.
2018: The Year of Women in the Financial Independence Community
In so many ways, 2018 felt like “the year of women” in the financial independence/retire early space. Beyond Cents Positive and the pieces that I was directly a part of, we saw so much take shape this past year that had women at the center as creators and innovators.
Vicki and Amy launched Women Who Money, a “site created to provide trustworthy personal finance information for women” alongside Women’s Money Talk, the first personal finance curation site to feature only women.
Chelsea brought over forty female money bloggers, entrepreneurs, and financial experts together to celebrate International Women’s Day with the #womenrockmoney collaboration.
Chelsea designs the best t shirts
Vicki Robin, the real mother of the financial independence, retire early movement, graced the cover of Money Magazine and released a fully revised and updated version of her 1992 book Your Money or Your Life.
And her book wasn’t the only one to be published in 2018: The Year of Less, Meet The Frugalwoods, Get Money, and The Feminist Financial Handbook all came out that year as well, and final edits were completed on Work Optional, set to debut early this year.
And that same Tanja Hester, author of aforementioned Work Optional, won The Plutus Awards’ highest honor, Blog of the Year at FinCon, the biggest annual personal finance conference with thousands of attendees coming from all over the world.
FIRE Drill Podcast and The Fairer Cents both debuted in late 2017 but both took off in 2018, adding more female voices to the podcasts, specifically the financial independence and financial equality conversations, and House of FI joined the scene in 2018. And of course, Suze Orman blazed into the financial independence community with her dynamic interview with Paula Pant on Afford Anything and, love her or hate her, she had everyone talking about all things Suze.
2018 may have been the year of the women in the financial independence space, but I don’t see that conversation slowing down now that the discussion has begun in earnest. Women are here, and we’re loud, and we are being heard.
I didn’t start out blogging to be a champion of women in particular, but this year has changed my perspective dramatically. If we are truly going to be an equal and equitable society moving forward, we need to make sure all voices are heard, and I will continue to do my part there, to lift up the diverse and wonderful women’s voices, talking, and teaching, and learning about money. And of course, I’m finishing up writing this post wearing my Cents Positive shirt.