By Paula Mariani, Director of user experience at N26

Investing can be a powerful way to safeguard your financial future. But, given the current state of the financial landscape, if you identify as a woman, you could be at a serious disadvantage.

We women often face a range of external factors that negatively impact how much we earn in our lifetimes. This often means we have less disposable income to contribute to our pensions and savings goals than men. Currently, European women who invest, contribute 29 percent less than European men each month. This limits our ability to grow our wealth and enjoy more freedom and flexibility as we age.

But, the pay gap isn’t the only reason we’re not investing as much. A male-dominated environment, inaccessible knowledge, male-dominated language, and an absence of female-led conversations surrounding investing can all prevent women from entering the field. To better understand the reasons for this investment gap, The Mobile Bank N26 conducted a survey about women and investing, in which more than 16,000 people from five European countries were asked about their investing behavior.

What keeps women from investing?

It may not come as a surprise that the investing landscape is largely perceived as male-dominated. In our large-scale study, 64 percent of both male and female investors and 56 percent of non-investors agreed that this was the case. A lack of female visibility within the investing space can be intimidating. This leaves many women feeling as though they don’t have an entry point into the world of investing. Additionally, 54 percent of non-investing women cited a lack of funds, compared to 43 percent of male non-investors, as a main obstacle to investing. The 11 percent difference could point to the costs of childcare and the gender pay gap that many women face.

The behavior of investors complements that of non-investors. Over 70 percent of women who invest want to increase their contributions in 2022, so the benefits of investing are clearly being realized by those with a foot in the door already.

What we can learn from women who invest

The N26 Online bank survey revealed some fascinating and surprising insights. According to respondents, 39 percent of women who haven’t invested yet said a lack of knowledge stopped them from investing, and only 48 percent of women who do invest consider themselves knowledgeable about the field. However, 77 percent of investing women said they felt confident making investment decisions. That means that a significant percentage of women investors are reportedly comfortable navigating and making investment decisions without feeling knowledgeable in the field. This indicates two things:

  1. Women are less likely to consider themselves knowledgeable.
  2. Confidence often comes with experience—something non-investors lack access to.

Taking into account that the primary reason women don’t invest is that they lack funds, this gives weight to the idea that it can be better to invest a tiny amount each month rather than investing nothing at all, because the act of investing builds confidence over time.

What’s more, women investors tend to be more cautious, with 43 percent prioritizing long-term stability, compared to 23 percent looking to make money quickly. These results are mirrored in other data: 37 percent of the surveyed women said they prefer to invest in secure bank products, such as savings accounts, and 28 percent said they invest in more speculative investments, such as cryptocurrencies.

The investment environment can seem risky and overwhelming to an outsider. By appreciating that women generally prefer safer investments and clarifying the risk profiles of different investments, we could reduce some of the anxiety non-investors may have and encourage them to begin investing. But there’s still more that can be done to help level the playing field for women who want to invest.

Three ways we can better support women in investing

When asked what would empower women to start investing, women responded with the following:

  1. 24% want women to talk more openly about their experiences with investing. Visibility in the notoriously male-dominated investment space may help some women feel confident enough to enter the field.
  2. 23% called for more open conversations about the benefits and risks of investing. As women tend to be more cautious investors than men, discussing the risk and reward profiles of different investments can help decrease anxiety around the topic and empower women to make investment decisions that match their risk tolerance.
  3. 21% want investment information to become more accessible. Many women, investors and non-investors alike, feel as if they’re not knowledgeable about investing. Promoting educational resources designed with women in mind could increase confidence and reduce some of the mystery surrounding investing.

For years, the discussion surrounding investing has been shaped and controlled by men. In fact, currently we’re dealing with an investing ecosystem created by men for men. Investing requires significant emotional energy—that is, the emotional energy that is experienced when someone is forced to take on risk, and this is often ignored when designing and communicating investment products. Addressing this effectively is the key to unlocking the investment potential in women.

Financial independence shouldn’t be gender dependent. By gathering and digging into the data, we can identify new opportunities to better support women as they build their financial futures.

The survey was conducted among a total number of 16,030 women and men in Austria, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain, with an equal split between those who invest and those who do not. In this survey “investing” includes options like stocks, bank products, real estate, exchange traded funds, etc. and “investing” is limited to survey participants investing their own money, excluding investments as part of their profession. The interviews were conducted online in February 2022 by the research institute Sapio on behalf of N26, using an email invitation and an online survey. The asked questions aimed to find out about the participants’ preferences, needs, wishes, and pain points when investing or considering investments. The survey defines “women” and “men” as all persons identifying as such. Persons who identified as “non-binary” were not included in the analysis due the sample size not being representative. Please note that N26 does not give investment advice and that investing comes with financial risk up to losing the invested funds.

Paula Mariani

Paula Mariani

Paula Mariani joined N26 in 2020 as the Director of User Experience of the Mobile Bank. Her responsibilities lie with driving a user-centric culture and developing the Design Leadership across the organization. Furthermore, she focuses on setting the vision and direction for the UX department and leveling up the practice.

With over 10 years in User Experience, Paula has led many UX teams within startups and enterprises, gaining experience in hiring, training and setting up product design operations at operational, tactical, and strategic levels. Prior to joining N26, she was the Global Director Of User Experience at Adevinta (former Schibsted), where she put in place the UX operations and user-centric vision of the organization.

Paula is the founder of “To Be Radiant”, a space dedicated to product and design leaders that enable transformation, offering coaching and workshops.