GirlMath: The hashtag that misses the true power of women's wallets

29 September 2023
Nandini Joshi
Chief Operating Officer

I recently stumbled upon the hashtag #girlmath trending on social media. Admittedly, I'm not always the first to catch onto these trends, but when I did delve deeper, I was left somewhat disconcerted.

For those unfamiliar with the concept, let's start with a video transcript: 

A video (with millions of views) showcases a woman exclaiming, “I bought a top from Lululemon for $68 and went to return it as it didn’t fit. What I took in exchange was a $58 piece and so they gave me $10. I just made $10 from Lululemon. Now I’m going to go and spend it on a $15 breakfast while I tell myself that it only cost $5” 

Reality check: No, you didn't earn $10 from Lululemon, and yes, that breakfast did cost you the full $15.

Another perplexing notion I came across in videos and comments sections was, “If I pay cash, it is basically free because it won’t affect the money in my bank account” I'm sure many of us raised our eyebrows at this one.

Before diving into the heart of the matter, let's set the record straight: This should not be termed as 'math', and associating it solely with the female gender is problematic for two major reasons:

1. It Perpetuates Gender Biases in Spending Habits

Tagging such logic as “girlmath” does a disservice to women, feeding into the erroneous notion that only women indulge in frivolous spending that needs imaginative justification.

Consider this: Deloitte's global analysis highlighted that men not only splurge as frequently as women but often spend more in the process – almost 40% more globally on various items.

Anne Boden, CEO of Starling Bank, commissioned a study on gendered financial language in the media. An astonishing 65% of financial content targeting women painted them as excessive spenders. In stark contrast, 70% of male-oriented articles emphasised wealth creation, thus insinuating wealth building as a man’s domain, while women are predisposed to squandering.

Furthermore, statistics indicate a significant percentage of women’s spending benefits family rather than just individual interests, the latter, a trend more pronounced than in men.

2. It Casts a Shadow on the Empowerment of Women’s Spending

Let's be clear: Spending isn't inherently negative. Remember Marie Kondo's philosophy? We ought to keep what genuinely "sparks joy." Women have the clout of controlling an impressive US$31.8T in global spending, and this consumer power is transformative. It can reshape businesses, industries, and even societies.

Historically, women have pioneered pivotal movements using this might: from the Fair Trade Movement of the '80s to the Slow Fashion Movement in the 2000s. When women channel the influence from their financial prowess, it has often been for societal betterment.

Money equates to power, a privilege women have had to tirelessly champion for. By inadvertently supporting narratives like “girlmath” linked to frivolous spending, we risk fortifying age-old stereotypes designed to undermine women’s autonomy and authority.

While it’s essential to approach our financial decisions with mindfulness, let's not inadvertently perpetuate misconceptions. We owe it to ourselves (and previous generations who have worked hard towards financial equality) to redefine and celebrate the true essence of women's financial power.


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