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New UBS report reveals that joint financial participation is the key to gender equality

  • Significant majority of men and women believe women need to be equally involved in long-term financial decisions to achieve true gender equality, yet half of women let their spouses take the lead
  • COVID-19 has worsened inequalities, with women more focused on household duties and men more focused on finances
  • Despite pre-marital intentions, millennial women are most likely to defer financial decisions to their spouses

New York, July 6, 2020 – According to UBS Global Wealth Management’s latest Own Your Worth report, 74% of men and 82% of women see joint participation in long-term financial decisions as a necessary step to create gender equality. The report, which surveyed 1,825 high-net-worth investors in the US, found that a significant majority believe equal participation helps women to feel financially secure, avoid future financial surprises, and feel more secure about leaving bad relationships.

Yet nearly half of women (49%) defer to their spouses, with millennials most likely to do so. Women cite a variety of reasons, from a lack of confidence to a desire to keep the peace, to entrenched roles—a dynamic further complicated by COVID-19.

“With the important focus on gender equality, it’s surprising that more women—particularly younger women—don’t participate equally in decisions that will impact their future so profoundly,” said Paula Polito, Divisional Vice Chairwoman of UBS Global Wealth Management. “The pandemic made clear the inextricable link between health and wealth, and women are paying more attention to their financial well-being as a result. Hopefully, this awareness will lead women to engage more meaningfully in their financial wellness.”

The pandemic has reinforced traditional gender stereotypes between men and women

Amid the pandemic lockdowns, most women took the lead on domestic duties, such as homeschooling (64%) and childcare (60%). Most men took the lead on yard work (58%) and managing finances (71%).

As a result of the pandemic, however, women are increasingly focused on their financial future, with over 80% wanting to protect themselves and their families more than ever before. Yet, there is a gap between intentions and actions. One third of women have reviewed their financial situation, while 40% are considering it, but have yet to do so.

While single millennial women intend to participate equally in financial decisions, once married they defer to their spouses

The vast majority of single millennial women (88%) envision participating equally in long-term financial decisions with their spouses or taking the lead after marriage. However, once they are married, millennial women are more likely than other generations to defer to their spouses on long-term financial decisions (54% of millennials vs. 39% of boomers).

Millennial women cited a number of reasons they defer to their spouses, including that they “have no idea where to begin,” their “spouse knows more about finances,” or they are “focused on other tasks.” Six in 10 (58%) admit they simply want to be taken care of.

This report was featured in a recent webcast on women and the path to financial independence hosted by UBS’s Paula Polito, with moderator Tina Brown, and speakers Billie-Jean King, Lisa Leslie, Paulina Porizkova and others. Watch a replay of the full event here:

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UBS Switzerland AG
UBS AG is a Swiss global financial services company, incorporated in the Canton of Zurich, and co-headquartered in Zurich and Basel. The company provides wealth management, asset management, and investment banking services for private, corporate, and institutional clients worldwide, and is generally considered to be a bulge bracket bank. In Switzerland, these services are also offered to retail clients. The name UBS was originally an abbreviation for the Union Bank of Switzerland, but it ceased to be a representational abbreviation after the bank's merger with Swiss Bank Corporation in 1998. The company traces its origins to 1856, when the earliest of its predecessor banks was founded.
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