The New Savvy was founded with the mission of empowering 100 million women to achieve financial happiness. Our team consists of women, to each their own, dedicated to contributing what they can, to achieve our common goal.
From all across the globe, catch a glimpse of each and every member of the original #savvysquad in action. Here we have The New Savvy’s India Ambassador, Sneha Sultania, sharing her ambitions and aspirations for The New Savvy in India.
In the past, what were some common traits for women in your country?
Sneha: India has a population of 1.2 billion people and is currently growing at 7.1%. Economists around the world believe the economy to be a powerhouse amongst its Asian counterparts. This optimism in the growth and development of the economy can be further fueled by the maximum participation of both men and women in the workforce.
According to a report by McKinsey Global Institute, achieving gender equality in India would have a larger economic impact there than in any other region in the world – approximately $700 billion can be added to its GDP by 2025. However, a structural transformation of the economy is required to achieve this.
Women form about 48.7% of the population in the country, but their situation has been grim. For centuries Indian women have been denied opportunities for self-growth in the name of religion, tradition and socio-economic barriers.
Widespread illiteracy, forced child marriage, heavy domestic work-load which remains unpaid and unrecognized, the absence of career and mobility, poor work conditions and wages, would tell you the story of the state of Indian women in the past (and for some parts of the country, maybe even today).
It’s easy to spot the patriarchal nature of the society, where the rate of female infanticide is one of the highest in the world and the dowry system makes daughters “an unaffordable economic burden.”
Indian women, in the past, have undergone a slow process of denial of their self-worth – a lack of which can be seen in the majority of Indian women even today especially when it comes to anything remotely close to managing finances.
Personally, do you think that they improved and have become more dedicated to achieving their goals (be it personal or professional)?
Sneha: Over the last decade, India has shown considerable improvement as compared to its immediate neighbours (Pakistan, Bangladesh) in achieving gender equality in areas such as education.
However, the latest report of the National Family Health Survey (NFHS), conducted in 2015-16 – indicated a stark decline in the female labour force participation when compared to the numbers a decade ago. It also revealed that while more than 53% of women still earn less than their husbands as compared to 73.7% in 2005-06, a significant increase in the % of women earning at par or even more than their husbands is heartening to see. (shown in the graph below)
The New Savvy believes in empowering women to achieve financial happiness; Why do you think it is important for the women in your country to be financially savvy?
Sneha: Financial independence is key to making one’s voice heard at the table. If women in India wish to get their voices heard, it’s important they learn about the art of making money. Moreover, empowering women economically has shown to reduce poverty (a major detriment for India’s economy) as women tend to invest more of their earnings in their children and communities.
In a country like India, where women have hardly been considered to be at par with men, it’s only vital to raise voices and bring in the required reforms that women can fight for and achieve – by taking the first step of being financially savvy.
What are you personally hoping to achieve for The New Savvy in your country?
Sneha: India is an extremely important country for the broader cause of The New Savvy – which is to empower 100 million women around the world. It offers a large varied population and geographies, to begin with. Every city and village has it’s own flavour and culture, which The New Savvy’s India team hopes to tap into.
For example, in Bangalore, where we launch, we hope to support the growing number of female entrepreneurs and investors, as well as the large population of women in the IT services sector booming in the city.
In Mumbai, we would like to start with bringing together women who are working in the financial space, larger corporations & MNCs stationed there. In Kolkata, we’d want to reach out to the large population of homemakers and the growing number of talented boutique fashion designers in Delhi.
Creating a strong network and supporters in these cities to build a strong community will be the key mission for The New Savvy in India.
What are your personal financial goals?
Sneha: I feel fortunate to have been exposed to managing my finances from a very early stage in my life. I have learnt that it’s important to plan for everything – be it something as short-term as a pair of shoes or a weekend getaway to something as long-term as buying a house or funding a post-graduation abroad.
My end goal is to save for and invest into a comfortable living for myself and my family and into checking off at least 90% of the short term and long term items of things to do on my life’s bucket list.
How do you think modern women can be more fulfilled in their lives?
Sneha: I strongly believe that the modern women in India need to take charge over their own financial decisions. A large percentage of women in India, despite being educated and working, tend to shy away from these decisions and entrust their husbands or fathers with it. I feel this needs to change. At the rural as well as the urban level.
For the homemakers as well as the working professionals. It’s important for them to understand how financial liberty can bring in individual freedom as well – which directly undermines the disparate social beliefs and perception about the inability of women to multiply money for themselves and the household. This change will be extremely fulfilling for women all over India.
Any advice for women looking to break gender stereotypes and advance their careers?
Sneha: In the survey done by NFHS in 2015-16, it was found that a large percentage of women drop out of the workforce with the most rampant reason being – “attending to domestic duties.”
In India, if both the husband and the wife are high-income earners, it is highly likely for the wife to give up work or be made to believe that she doesn’t need to since the husband earns a high income anyway. This psyche leads to many employers (who might have experienced this even once in their team) falsely believing that women won’t be around for the long haul, leading to undercutting the responsibilities given to existing female employees.
This makes it challenging for ambitious women to advance their careers. It then becomes extremely important that they communicate to their managers their intent to work as hard or maybe even harder than their male counterparts and display their intent to be a team player for the long term. It’s important for them to ask for challenging roles and clinch opportunities as quickly as they arrive.
What is a skill you think all women should learn and why?
Sneha: Since a gender pay gap still exists in not only India but the world today, it’s important for women to save and invest their money wisely and bridge the gap to be able to afford what men would with their incomes. Women should definitely make time and effort to learn about how every rupee they earn and save can multiply tomorrow.
What is the biggest challenge facing women today?
Sneha: Lack of self-confidence. I have met extremely bright women in India who have achieved so much and yet lack the confidence to take financial decisions autonomously.
How do you improve your financial knowledge? What do you think we can do to improve financial awareness today?
Sneha: I think the way financial content is delivered today tends to overlook how a majority of women (who don’t have any prior financial education) absorb knowledge.
I personally (even though I have majored in Finance, work within the industry and track worldwide financial news) try and relate the content to my own life and how it affects me – this helps me in understanding the jargons better.
Delivering financial knowledge and content in a way which would help women from any background understand the concepts of saving and investing simply is key to improving financial awareness amongst women in my opinion.
What changes would you like to see more/ or implicated in your country?
Sneha: India has come a long way since its independence in terms of uplifting the social and economic status of women in the country. There are steps being taken to change the grim picture of women here.
The World Bank, for example, is attempting to ensure that its projects in India are structured to foster greater economic participation by women. They have invested over $3 billion to support state governments to empower poor rural women through self-help groups, over the past decade. More and more such projects can help in bringing about the awareness amongst women and their families.
Moreover, steps should be taken for relieving family pressures off women and equitably dividing household work between men and women so women don’t have to drop out of the workforce despite being highly skilled and capable of high income. Changing social norms around marriage, work and household duties will have to be a major part of the agenda to bring about any long-term change in the country for the women.
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