Selina Flavius is the founder of the financial coaching company Black Girl Finance. She hosts a weekly podcast of the same name, is the author of the Book’ Black Girl Finance’ and is the creator of the event ‘Black Girl Finance Fest’.
She is on a mission to make money conversations more inclusive. After a 15 year career in business development, she decided to follow her passion for finance and launch a safe space for Black women and women of colour to talk about money.
“I am on a mission to highlight women who look like me who work in the financial services sector.”
“I carry out my mission through the events I host; our finance workshops and events are run by Black women and Women of colour who work in the finance sector to highlight that women enjoy impressive careers.”
She has also contributed to discussions in the UK media about financial inequality and worked as a contributor to the Money and Pension Service 10 year financial well being Strategy. According to research by kredit karma, women pay a premium to borrow money to the tune of £17,000 moreover a lifetime.
“This gap is because they may not have a strong credit history if they take out credit in a partner’s name or family name instead of their own.”
If she were a financial services company, Flavius would be asking questions such as: “we know this person has a steady income and can afford the repayment. How can we provide a service and not penalise them with excess fees?”
Conversations around money
Conversations around money have become more and more prominent over the past few years, encouraging individuals to own their finances. Flavius recognises the massive impact of culture on how we handle money.
“Research shows our money habits are shaped from such a young age, as early as 7 or 8,” she recalls. “My personal experience was that I grew up in a culture that did not speak about money. There was also a tradition of saving through a Pardner scheme (an informal, collective savings scheme done with friends) and sending money and goods “back home” to support our family in St Lucia.
These were some of my cultural traditions that impacted my parents’ finances here in the UK. When my grandparents and parents arrived in the UK, they came with nothing; there was no intergenerational wealth to give them a head start, so they were not the traditional banking customer when presenting at a bank. It was not easy to get the financial backing they needed, and as a result, I grew up in an extremely cautious and “hush-hush” environment when it came to money. I did not talk about money as I progressed in my various careers and when I struggled with debt.”
Disparity in the workplace
One stat Flavius shares highlighting the disparity is that for every £1 a man earns, a woman earns 89p in the UK due to the gender pay gap. “This gap is often cited as being due to the lack of women in senior leadership positions”, Flavius points out.
“Women account for just five per cent of CEOs in FTSE 350 companies, equivalent to only 15 companies having female chief executives, the Women Count 2021 report found.”
The women count report also found that companies with women making up at least 50% of the executive committee secured a profit margin of 21.2%.
According to the Office of National Statistics (ONS), most minority ethnic groups continue to earn less than their White colleagues when looking at the ethnicity pay gap. ONS’ latest statistics reveal a 23.8% ethnicity pay gap in London, 12.7% in Yorkshire & Humberside and 10.3% in Scotland.
Diversity and money
When it comes to diversity, research by McKinsey finds that companies in the top quartile for gender or racial and ethnic diversity are more likely to have financial returns above their national industry medians.
“There needs to be mandatory ethnicity pay gap reporting in the UK, like gender pay gap reporting that exists, and businesses need to develop their pipeline of talent to increase representation.”
“All reports highlight the benefit of diverse boards to business bottom lines. Increasing pay will also impact pensions and investment disparities seen by women and people from ethnic minority backgrounds.”
When talking about the book’s origin, Flavius admits to having always been a reader of personal finance books. “I started with the traditional male-written books, such as ‘Rich Dad, Poor Dad’ and ‘Think and Grow Rich’, etc., and slowly migrated to books written by women. One of the first UK finance books I read by a woman author was called ‘Sheconomics’.”
Gradually there were more books written by women, and she read many US books by Black women authors. But she noticed none were by Black female authors from the UK. “I made a note of this and decided I wanted to write my Black Girl Finance Book to discuss the influence of background and culture on money. Ultimately I wanted it to be a personal finance book at its heart, so the result is a very personal yet practical and helpful personal finance book.”
Our relationship with money
How is our relationship with money changing and shaping up? As financial wellbeing is becoming more and more a priority, our mindset is changing dramatically. “I think we are slowly shifting from a very patriarchal society, which gave us the message that men handle money and finances.” She points out how research by Starling Bank found that money messages to men were about investing, whilst to women, it was about scrimping and saving. This difference in statements is that women are in higher numbers in higher education and workplaces more than ever earning money.
“If we think about history, a century or two ago, it was the case that when women got married, they gave up their surnames and the right to sign contracts for business, property, and finances in their name. It is a different time, but some of the messaging about money still hark back to these times.”
How can we make money conversations more inclusive?
As a collective, we can encourage a positive change, Flavius agrees. “We can start by acknowledging that we are all different and nuanced. Our experiences with money can be shaped by class, culture, gender, race, disability, and sexual orientation. People from marginalised groups may not have the same financial privileges as those from non-marginalised groups. It’s about shaping financial services that understand this and provide services that take differences into account when presented with someone whose financial experiences to date are outside of the so-called norm.”
Misconceptions about finances
- That investing is not for “us” insert women…people from the Caribbean…. working-class backgrounds…. personal finance and investing is for everyone.
- If you have struggled in the past, you will always struggle. That is not true: things can be improved.
- People deem finance as boring. Personal finance is more fun once you have control of debts, saving, or investing.