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Financial literacy in women – the path to meaningful change

Research tells us that one in four women is still financially illiterate. Intesa Sanpaolo is investing to change this and give women the power to shape their financial future.


Financial literacy in women has been on the agenda for years. Yet research tells us that one in four women is still financially illiterate. In 2022, women are still being left behind when it comes to having control over and benefiting from their finances.

In Europe, women have less control over money in the household and are less likely to enter the job market than men. When they do enter the market, their salaries overall are likely to be lower. The UN has warned that, globally, the Covid-19 crisis threatens to wipe out a “generation of gains” of women on the path to financial equality.

This “lag” for women is the result of a deeply rooted gender culture that needs to be overcome. It isn’t that women can’t learn about financial technicalities or apply their learning; it’s just that they need the time, space and education to do so.

Dr Giovanna Paladino, Director and Curator of the Museum of Savings at Intesa Sanpaolo, says: “Culture is difficult to change especially when it is deeply rooted across gender and across different levels of education. To change the culture we need to involve the entire village.”

"Teaching basic financial concepts should be mandatory"

Dr Giovanna Paladino, Director and Curator of the Museum of Savings, Intesa Sanpaolo

Intesa Sanpaolo started to invest in financial education 10 years ago, creating the Museum of Saving in Turin, a “phygital” museum that combines in-person and digital methods to provide financial education.

The museum engages people through apps and special interactive exhibitions that are designed to reach people beyond Turin with financial education activities that are exciting and engaging.

“Teaching basic financial concepts should be mandatory,” says Dr Paladino. “It is sad to say that in many countries, including Italy, school activities are up to the goodwill of the teachers. In many cases they don’t want to talk about money.”

Women are great at saving money but they are usually less confident in investing. During times of inflation, this can mean they are left behind as their money becomes devalued.

The impact of a good financial education will be an increase in wealth, which would be good for the whole society. Even basic mathematical knowledge can make a huge difference to a person’s financial health.

The Museum of Saving is aimed at everyone – but this extends to specific needs such as those for migrant women and women who have been victims of domestic abuse.

“There is not one unique way to approach this problem, it depends on age and education level,” says Dr Paladino, adding that it can be easier to financially educate children as they don’t attach moral judgments to money as easily as adults do.

The whole project is about growing understanding and changing attitudes. It is important that meaningful change happens, rather than just discussion. Too often, women are sidelined in financial decision-making and women’s economic independence would be good for everyone. In workplaces, a shift is beginning to happen, but the focus is on making real change.

“There is a lot of ‘genderwashing’. We need a new taxonomy – as has been done for green investment – to distinguish between hot air and progress,” says Dr Paladino.

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