Financial Literacy & Women
Omega: What inspired you to work with women?
Manisha: The focus on women came about in two different ways. The raw, stark data is that women earn less money than men on the dollar. We spend more years out of the paid workforce, caring for children and elderly parents, and we live longer. So we earn less for less time, and yet we need to sustain our lives for more years collectively. Combined with that, the entire time that I worked for other corporations I was one of only one or two women in the room. It was like money was a powerful club for men. I kept thinking, “It’s our language, too.” Women weren’t represented or made to feel comfortable the way I would have liked to have seen.
Omega: One of the most requested skill sets that women feel they need assistance in is finance. Why do you feel that women need help with financial matters in our culture?
Manisha: Take a look at college-aged men and women, and the guys will be talking much more about money and business—even though they’re in school and haven’t necessarily experienced it—than the women will. It’s a language and a dialog and a way of connecting with each other. The way men will bond with each other in terms of talking about sports and talking about business and money is just another way of connecting, like we might give hugs and use exclamation points.
It is not that men know more. I think the subject is equally complex for both of us. For men, as a result of bantering and connecting with each other, loosely using this dialog around business and money feels more comfortable.
Omega: You’ve spoken in other interviews about the messages that society gives, or fails to give, to women around money. In your work, what have you noticed about the ways in which women’s relationship to money most differs from men’s?
Manisha: Let me talk about that on two different levels. One is related back to the messaging. I have observed, and it’s my belief, that the default language of money is “male speak.” The way traders, investment bankers or managers, or financial advisors talk about money, there are a lot of war and sports analogies. You’re beating, crushing, and dominating the competition. The references you hear are through a more testosterone-based lens. I feel money should be our language, too. There are a lot of verbal cues around money that don’t pull us in as women to begin with.
The other thing that I notice, broadly speaking, is that men look at money as a measure of success and power, and women tend to look at money as: what can I do with it? Who can I help? What difference can I make? That’s a very broad statement and I am a classic example of someone who doesn’t fit in that. But my point is that it is more of a measuring stick for men, whereas for women it’s more of a useful tool.
Omega: In what ways do you think that a woman’s financial and leadership skills are most connected? What do you think it takes to be an effective leader today?
Manisha: I find a trait of great leaders and a trait of financially confident people is the ability to sit with gratitude and humility. Good leaders are not afraid to step into an area where they don’t have expertise and own up to the fact, and seek guidance from others and commit to continual self-renewal in that area. People who are financially confident generally have that kind of mindset. Nobody is born with this knowledge—you have to learn it somewhere,
Omega: You have described your work as helping women to develop a financial understanding in a way that will “make her heart sing.” Where do you draw your creative inspiration from?
Manisha: The book that most influenced me financially is Your Money or Your Life by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin. It put a bug in my head that money is about more than success and power. It’s about your life. The core concept is that we go out into the workplace and expend life energy to earn money. So when you are spending money, you are spending your life’s energy.
From that nontraditional viewpoint, I find inspiration in things that most people would think have nothing to do with finance: my spiritual journey, my meditation practice, and focusing on eating more of a plant-based, whole food diet.
I think about money as interdisciplinary—money is the web that ties together all of these different things. If you want to go to a meditation retreat, you may have to travel there. That costs money. It makes money come alive in a way that is so much more 3-D and luminous than the way I think money is presented in the financial pages of a newspaper.
I meet multimillionaires every day who don’t have “enough.” The concept around money is like so many other things in life. If you have a hole inside of you and you’re trying to fill that with money and material things, millions are not enough.