As the CEO and co-founder of SaveUp, I have been touched and inspired by the voice that my colleague and fellow YGL Sheryl Sandberg has brought into the world of professional women in the last few weeks with her new book Lean In. As she explains in her book, fewer than 3 percent of all the venture-backed companies in the world are led by women. As the CEO and co-founder of SaveUp, I am one of those few, and I feel a great call to action and responsibility -- not only to "lean in" myself -- but also to build SaveUp to be a tool that helps millions of Americans succeed financially.
For me, the idea of "leaning in" is not only applicable to my professional endeavors, but also my personal goals. In the past year, while I co-founded this start-up, raised a round of capital, and worked to build the company, I also made a big decision to become a mom, on my own. I am not married (because I have been busy focusing on my career to build socially responsible tech start-ups), and although I don't have that partner yet (whom I hope to have one day), I decided I did not want to miss out on being a mom. I am blessed with my son Zen, whose first 14 months have often included listening intently to his Mom's conference calls or traveling to tradeshows/speaking engagements. I love being a mom. My goal is to be 100 percent present with him when he is awake and get as much done as I can while he is asleep! I am pregnant with a second child now, and feel fully supported by my co-founder, investors and my team including an amazing nanny, and extended family in my effort to balance these commitments.
As the CEO of a personal finance company, I wondered if Sheryl's core message and the self-limiting frameworks she points out are affecting women's long term financial planning and security compared to men. As a result, we took a sample set of 20,000 individuals including men and women and analyzed the differences.
The results are a definite call to action -- men are significantly ahead of women in preparing for long term financial stability, although women live longer and therefore need more resources. What stood out to me is that much like Sheryl's broad thesis in her book, there are two forces at play: structural societal inequities as well as mental barriers that we as women put in our own way.
Structural barriers affecting the level of women's savings include wage inequality and less access to higher paying positions -- and these are certainly issues we must work to change.
At the same time, women are also making decisions that negatively affect their financial planning. Our study found we are taking on less market-risk, and hence less market earning potential. And furthermore, women tend to think we are better savers than men, when in fact men are saving more on absolute terms (certainly aided by their higher earnings). Most concerning to me was the data that showed women are actually aiming lower on the total amount they are aiming to save before retirement.
While we will all need to work together to change the bigger societal issues, I think the power of realizing the internal barriers to financial security that the data exposes is that we can work immediately and independently to make these changes. Let us commit to always negotiating for competitive wages. Always. Let us commit to taking appropriate financial advice on market exposure risk, and include that earning potential into our savings plans. Always. Let's aim higher to save more as we earn more. Always.
I think "leaning in" is all about showing up and driving at our goals with our full force. Building financial security for our families and ourselves is the way these sectors of career and family knit together. I want to make SaveUp a place where millions of American women lean in to their own success while I lean in to mine.
This post was written by Priya Haji, CEO & Co-Founder of SaveUp.