If you observe demographic numbers, women simply cannot be ignored. Women comprise over half the United States population and now represent the majority of credit union members, surpassing men in 1993. Over 52% of the total national credit union membership is now made up of women, compared to only 47% in 1987!
Aren't Money and Finances "Gender Neutral"?
Even if you are wary of research that suggests that women respond to messaging and approach relationships differently from men (including those formed with financial institutions), there is still an overwhelming body of evidence to support the contention that women are confronted by different economic realities than men. These differences give rise to unique financial needs.
Key Economic Factors Where Women Differ from Men:
- Lower lifetime earnings:
- On average, women earn 77 cents for every dollar that men make.
- When comparing average median full-time salaries, women earned 81% of what men earned. 
- Lower retirement savings:
- Women are more likely to work part time in the labor force and in jobs that are less likely to provide for a retirement plan. 
- Working women are more likely to interrupt their careers to take care of family members, therefore working fewer years and contributing less towards their retirement. 
- Of the 60 million wage and salaried women working in March 2005, only 47% participated in a retirement plan. 
- Longer lifespan:
- Women live seven years longer than men on average, which translates into additional years of retirement expenses. 
- For unmarried women (including widows) age 65 and older, Social Security comprises 53.4% of their total income (compared to their male counterparts at 38.3%). 
A Growing Economic Force
Another important reason to focus additional attention on women is the gender's emergence as an economic powerhouse. According to the Center for Women’s Business Research, women currently control about $14 trillion in assets, a number that is expected to nearly double in the next decade. During this same period, an estimated 85 percent of women will make financial decisions in their households.
It also appears that women will continue to see positive gains in the workforce. Currently, women comprise 46% of the total US labor force and this is projected to increase to 47% by 2014. They also account for 51% of all workers in high-paying management, professional, and related jobs. Of the 10 fastest growing occupations between 2004 and 2014, women already comprise the majority in 7 of these occupations (home health aides, medical assistants, physical assistants, physical therapist assistants, dental hygienists, dental assistants, and personal/home care aides).
What Does This Mean for Credit Unions?
Women are clearly a growing market with identifiable needs that credit unions should address. One specific way to accomplish this is to provide educational opportunities targeted directly to women throughout their lives. Planning for retirement is an immediate need that is crucial to their future financial security, especially considering the enhanced risk of financial vulnerability as women grow older.
As a community presence trusted by their members, credit unions are ideally positioned to pursue a relationship-based approach that is likely to resonate with women. It's time to utilize your internal resources and go out into your community with the goal of building further relationships through women’s groups, charities, educational seminars, community expos, etc. If credit unions proactively move to specifically address the issues unique to women, they can boost their balance sheets while improving their members’ financial lives!
Women are a growing segment of membership in the credit union world and have unique issues that we can address, but how can your credit union specifically get your message to reach them? On February 4th, we will follow up with an article addressing the issue and this topic will also be the focus of the upcoming February 14th Callahan webinar: Empowering Female Members for Financial Success.
1- CUNA National Member Survey (1987, 1993-94, 2006-2007)
2 - US Dept. of Labor: Women’s Bureau Statistics (2006, 2007)
3 - US Social Security (2006)