Stop talking down to women

By Melissa Shin | May 1, 2012 | Last updated on December 5, 2023
2 min read

Shopaholic. Clueless. Princess. That’s how personal-finance books describe women.

Sure, we’re savvy and smart too, but we spend money frivolously. So, we need help—preferably packaged in bright pink.

This is a boon to advisors. Financially independent women comprise a new market, and—even though studies show they’re prudent, long-term investors—the prevailing wisdom is they’re too busy spending to care. So they need you. After all, as one glorified self-help leaflet indelicately puts it, A Man is Not a Financial Plan.

Authors say that book and others, like Shoo, Jimmy Choo! The Modern Girl’s Guide to Spending Less and Saving More and Goal Digger: Lessons Learned From The Rich Men I Dated, pique interest and expedite learning by using female-friendly analogies.

Skeptical, I ask friends what they think.

“I worry this approach only further alienates women from more nuanced conversations about finances,” says a fellow journalist.

“The presentation style makes the information less credible,” agrees a researcher with a master of environmental science.

“That doesn’t resonate. The sites I find appealing help young professionals invest money and maximize savings,” adds an occupational therapist.

Some relate to the focus on shopping, so I can’t fault them for buying the media’s myth of how women grasp financial concepts. And the myriad Web sites, blogs and books peppered with belittling language like “baby,” “girl” and “honey” perpetuate that falsehood. Such words diminish the importance of the topic and subversively render women powerless.

Yet in the U.S., marginalizing women is again becoming overt. In April, Wisconsin repealed its Equal Pay Enforcement Act. Legislators aren’t just undoing financial progress: Arizona may soon allow employers to fire anyone who claims birth control under a company benefits plan.

It’s time to force the discourse back on track.

Start with client conversations. There’s nothing wrong with metaphors. But instead of turning to clichés, find out what matters to each of them—starting a tech firm; building a vacation home; establishing a foundation—and frame your advice around that passion.

We’ve forced the discourse higher, too. In our redesign last September, we promised to bring new ideas from great advisors. Many came from women. The result: we showcase your achievements in every edition of Advisor’s Edge and Advisor’s Edge Report.

Advancing women now permeates everything we publish. Further, we’ve aggregated our women’s content at, and highlight it through our quarterly women’s e-newsletter and our weekly women’s news roundup.

Accordingly, this will be our last formal women’s issue. Fifty-one percent of the population isn’t a niche. We deserve more than just one edition a year.

Melissa Shin headshot

Melissa Shin

Melissa is the editorial director of and leads Newcom Media Inc.’s group of financial publications. She has been with the team since 2011 and been recognized by PMAC and CFA Society Toronto for her reporting. Reach her at You may also call or text 416-847-8038 to provide a confidential tip.