After the success of the Money Talks for Better Ageing project, FCVic is very happy to again be partnered with Australian Multicultural Community Services (AMCS) on the delivery of Smart Women Smart Money – a project designed to financially empower CALD women.
People often find it hard to talk about money. As part of this project, CALD women are invited to participate in a five-week program that will provide them with practical information about a range of financial topics. At the end of the program, participants will become ‘conversation leaders’ in their communities, possessing the confidence and knowledge to initiate conversations about financial matters amongst their peers.
In preparation for the five-week program, which kicks off in early November, AMCS and FCVic ran a co-design workshop earlier this month with interested women from CALD communities. The purpose of this workshop was to hear more about the financial issues facing women in these communities, and to use this knowledge to shape the content of the upcoming program.
The 38 attendees ranged in age and came from a number of communities and spoke equally about the pressures facing women in their early 20s, middle age and later years. Many had a great deal of insight into the financial challenges facing their peers. For some, these difficulties included challenges in prioritising funds – particularly when there were family members in another country requiring financial support. Others expressed concern about the financial stability of older women, noting that the gender pay gap often left women in a precarious position come retirement. Some of the younger women at the workshop expressed concern about the financial instability facing students – particularly those of their peers who are international students, and who may face exploitation through cash-in-hand work.
Many women also spoke candidly about the reticence in their communities to speak explicitly about money and finances, explaining that there was a fear of reputation loss or stigma. Others spoke about the complex family dynamics that make financial conversations difficult. As Katrina Barrett, attending financial counsellor, notes, “There was a lot of discussion about gender issues, for example, the men in the family thinking that finances are their sole domain, leaving the women feeling it was difficult to talk about money or have more control over finances. This led to a discussion about how to broach the subject of money in a sensitive manner – there was definitely enthusiasm for this.”
Further issues were raised that may affect some communities, including income not covering expenses; budgeting; women who earn more than their husbands; and families feeling a pressure to keep up their image with their community members – for example, by spending money on cars and private schools.
However, attendees were also clear about the tools that would help increase their peers’ confidence: one woman noting that education is essential in empowering women to take control of their own finances.
In all, the conversation was lively with lot of spirited engagement, and the passion of the participants was evident – there was so much discussion that we didn’t have time to cover everything we wanted to.
At the very end of the session, one participant noted that ‘talking without a solution is not enough’ – there must be some kind of action if the Smart Women Smart Money workshops are to be of practical value. As we reflect on the insights shared by the participants of this month’s co-design workshop, and use these insights to shape the content of the upcoming program, it is this reminder that is most compelling – whatever the content of the Smart Women Smart Money sessions, it needs to be something of real practical value, fitting for women who know what issues they face, know what they want, and know what will help them to get it.