If I Was a Rich Girl: Empowering Women in Finance Imagery

Trends / Realness
Klaus Vedfelt
Gabrielle Pedro Fredrick
Mar 6, 2023
The visual choices that finance companies make play a crucial role in changing how we view gender roles and stereotypes, especially as many still exist within finance imagery. In fact, when featured with a male partner in top finance imagery, women are more likely to appear to be taking a passive role in managing finances – which is contradictory to the fact that 9 out of 10 women1 control their family’s finances.

The stereotypical and oft‑joked‑about relationships that women have with money can negatively affect their relationships with their finances. Recent research published by The Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization has revealed that gender stereotypes surrounding finances can perpetuate financial anxiety and limited financial literacy2 for women, putting us in a vicious cycle of self‑fulfilling prophecy.

The consumer consensus is that media is critical in shaping gender roles3. Unfortunately, 1 out of 3 people believe that the media doesn’t do a good job of accurately portraying women. Gender representation is important when it comes to finance imagery and the visual choices that finance customers make, as they help shape these ideas of how people of different genders interact with their company’s services.
Debt, spending, and gender stereotypes

Despite the misconception of women and money in what the New York Times has labeled, The Myth of the Frivolous Female Spender4, research overwhelmingly shows us that is isn’t the case. The Bureau of US Labor Statistics has noted that women do spend more than men on housing, apparel, and healthcare – and men spend more money on food, transportation, and entertainment – but single men do on average spend more than single women overall5. In fact, men are more likely to have more credit card, personal, auto, and mortgage debt than women. The only debt that women are more likely to have than men is student loan debt.

Though women are more likely to be seen in images downloaded by our Finance customers than men, they can often fall victim to visual tropes that perpetuate gender stereotypes. Women are more likely to be seen shopping online, shopping in retail stores, or using credit cards more often than men.

If finance visuals are meant to be aspirational, consider moving beyond the idea of wealth and material spending. Getty Images’ own VisualGPS research consumer survey has found that almost 3 out of 4 women are worried about the cost of living exceeding their means. In fact, the consumer survey reveals that the rising cost of living is the top economic concern for women. Speaking to the necessity of breaking gender stereotypes, rethink who is portrayed shopping or using credit cards. Highlighting concepts of financial security (such as housing) instead of luxury living or showcasing the reality of women’s finances (such as a budgeting) are likely to resonate with women. 
Financial literacy and investment

Historically, women have been less active in the investing space than men, which translates visually: women are less likely to be featured in popular images related to investing. However, recent trends have shown that women are investing more than they were five years ago6, with more than 2 in 3 women in the US actively investing today. It’s even been shown that though women typically invest less than men, they tend to invest better7, doing more research and being more cautious in their investment choices but seeing more consistent returns.

When we look at who is featured in investment or financial planning‑related imagery, men are taking the more active role, and are seen more than women overall. Men are the ones reviewing paperwork and, investments, and are being seen as the point person in financial settings. Knowing now who typically in charge of a family’s or couple’s finances, consider who is seen interacting with financial advisors, realtors, or other finance employees. Are you defaulting on traditional gender roles or reflecting a more realistic truth?

Highlighting imagery that showcases women being more active in investing—such as meeting with financial advisors or using investment apps—and empowering women to take an active role in their finances can help normalize the behavior and encourage more women to become more confident, and therefore active, in their financial literacy.
Connecting with female consumers

Our VisualGPS survey finds that women are more likely to think favorably of businesses when they address issues and hardships they are facing. Imagery showing financial stress is limited in top finance visuals, but it’s a very real part of everyday life. Visualizing real women with a range of emotions when dealing with finances, and expressing the everyday reality we face in a time of inflation and financial uncertainty can help businesses connect with female consumers on a deeper level.
1) Women are gaining power when it comes to money – here’s why that’s a big deal (CNBC)
2) Gender differences in financial literacy: The role of stereotype threat (Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization)
3) How Advertisers Can Changes Outdated Motherhood Narratives (Ad Age)
4) The Myth of the Frivolous Female Spender (New York Times)
5) Men, women and debt: Does gender matter? (Bankrate)
6) 2021 Women and Investing Study (Fidelity)
7) Women Invest Better But Less — Here’s Why (Forbes)

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