What is the stock market? How did it become so unreachable for women?

By : Johannah Hines

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Illustration by Betsy Kuruvilla

Investing was never discussed with me. My parents never took it upon themselves to teach me. My high school was very core-curriculum based and did not offer courses on basic economics or financial planning courses. Yet, all the men in my life knew every detail of the stock market. I remember hearing the boys in my classes talking about how their stocks were doing and what companies were on the rise, but never my girlfriends. I never invested because I never really understood what it meant. Even in pop culture, men on television were also depicted in fancy suits discussing market trends and stock prices as a stereotypical “male” conversation, yet a woman’s stereotypical conversation was always superficial topics. Investing always seemed so inaccessible and unimaginable for women and girls.

Having women who are willing to speak out and advocate for women in business and finance by providing resources to educate and inform is vital for continued development and expansion. More women will never get involved if they continue to feel like it is unreachable for them. When we speak of our experiences and knowledge, people get inspired and motivated to join. So that is what I’m here to do today, to explain a broad investment topic that until recently, seemed so inaccessible to me.

What is the stock market?

According to Investopedia, the stock market is a “collection of markets and exchanges where regular activities of buying, selling, and issuance of shares of publicly-held companies take place.” Firms will sell shares to their companies, at a set share price that varies depending on industry/company, and ordinary people or other firms are able to purchase these shares. Although stockholders purchasing shares of the company usually do not gain management responsibilities or a voice within a company, investing allows normal people like you and me directly impact a company and aid in its progression. People also buy stock through a broker who arranges the transactions between firms and outside parties. Stock prices change as a result of market force and activity and therefore, people sell and buy stock everyday as the market changes. You may hear a lot of people talking about the market going up and down, usually referring to the market index. Market index is a hypothetical conclusion of an entire market or industry’s activity based on the activity of a select key companies. This is useful for comparing your owned stock’s success compared to the markets and for evaluating whether to sell or hold stock. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is the typical market index used in the US representing 30 key firms.

Stock markets came to be as immigration to the New World increased. As mostly English, Spanish, and French colonizers came to the Americas and taking over regions with differing resources and land available, the growing need to trade raw materials and goods inspired the need for businesses and capital. Groups of men would collaborate and combine their savings to start joint-stock companies, all holding individual shares of their company and acting as business partners. As predicted, women were excluded from these business activities and subjected to home and family work. The Dutch East India Company was the first firm to sell public shares (paper version back then) in 1602 and become a joint-stock firm. Their business model continued to take over encouraging the development of the Amsterdam Exchange. Stock markets that manage shares of all firms and publicize data for people to evaluate before purchasing stock like the one developed in Amsterdam are now present in much of the developed world and continues to grow in developing economies.

How did it become so unreachable for women?

As women were not allowed to vote, own their own property, apply for loans or invest on their own- stock markets across the world became dominated by men. Women could only venture into investing by paying high commissions to men to invest for them and attempting to work around men by creating women-run brokerages resulted in criticism and hatred from their community. Fear of violence, divorce, and being left broke scared women away from the idea of investing, especially as the majority of the firm’s selling public shares were male-owned companies. Mary Gage and Elizabeth Cady Stanton and other women wanting to get onto Wall Street started their own exchanges, prioritizing their own interests and desire to manage their own money. Women in New York City in the mid 20th century were advocating publicly in forums like the New York Times (1927) to get a woman in a seat on the New York Exchange. As women’s rights developed and became cemented into history, the overall attitude towards women in business improved, allowing for women to invest and manage their own funds. It was not until 1967 when Muriel Siebert became the first woman to purchase a seat on the exchange.

Yet, here we are in 2020, and only 5 percent of investors in the United States are women. Only 26 percent of women are investing their money in the stock market. Those numbers will only increase as our knowledge and willingness to learn and advocate does. The largest stock markets today exist in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Japan, India, South Korea, and China, some of the most influential countries in the world.

We have the power to help women everywhere take over these markets and cement equality into the history of economics going forward.

Research companies and their activities to progress women’s rights. Invest in female-driven or created firms. Sit down with your girlfriends and discover resources that will help you learn more about investing basics and how to get involved.

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A lineā — We make responsible investing easy and social. Visit us at http://alinea-invest.com/

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