Women and financial literacy


Wanted: Fearless Girls with Financial Savvy

The Fearless Girl statue was put up to mark the 2017 International Women’s Day. With an intrepid gaze, wide-legged stance, and hands on her hips, the small statue of a little girl with a ponytail stands across from the New York Stock Exchange, one of the most important financial centers in the world.

Girls and women who are “fearless” in financial matters are still a minority, however. Empirical research suggests that many women – regardless of age and education – have less financial knowledge than men and are also less confident about their knowledge. On average, they have a harder time answering financial literacy questions on topics such as inflation, compound interest, bond prices, and risk diversification. Women’s insecurity about their knowledge is also reflected in the fact that women use the “I don’t know” answer option significantly more often than men.

More caution, higher risk aversion

On the one hand, women are on average more prudent and conscientious in their day-to-day handling of money than men, and they are also less likely to accumulate debts. On the other hand, they are also very risk-averse when it comes to savings and investments, and therefore generally achieve lower returns on their invested capital. Their career choices and extended periods of part-time work often contribute to the fact that they have low working and pension incomes.

Especially women in couples often rely on others to make major financial decisions for them due to their risk aversion and insecurity in financial issues. This means that they lack opportunities to develop their financial knowledge and experience. In the subgroup of single-living women who are divorced or widowed, however, the level of financial knowledge does not differ from that of the men surveyed. So women are perfectly capable of developing financial literacy if they have to.

Financial knowledge matters

Having solid financial knowledge is important: People who are more financially literate have a number of advantages (statistically controlling for various socio-economic factors): They are familiar with a wider range of financial products, use more sources of information for financial decision-making, and are more likely to set aside financial reserves for emergencies. They are less likely to take out loans for short-lived purposes such as paying current bills, making purchases on a whim, buying gifts, or going on an expensive vacation trip. Financial education therefore plays an important role in developing financial resilience.

This means that we need to provide more support to women to help them build up financial literacy, to become informed, to manage financial decisions, to go out and get involved, and to develop the confidence needed for making independent financial decisions: In short, we need more Fearless Girls!


Panel discussion

The Gender Gap in Financial Literacy

Event held on occasion of International Women’s Day

  • March 20, 2024, 5:00–6:30pm

  • WU (Vienna University of Economics and Business), Library & Learning Center, Club Lounge - please sign up for the event, information below

Around the world, women do worse than men in financial literacy tests. And in Austria too, we see that the knowledge gap between women and men is larger in the field of financial literacy than in other areas. To mark International Women’s Day 2024, WU has made the gender gap in financial education the subject of a panel discussion. Experts from academia and practice will shed light on the current state of research on this topic, talk about challenges ranging from pocket money to poverty in old age, and discuss practical solutions for overcoming the gender gap in financial literacy.


  • Bettina Fuhrmann, professor of business education at WU Vienna. Her research focuses on issues of business education with an emphasis on financial education.

  • Maria Silgoner, economist and financial education expert at the OeNB

  • Doris Zingl, head of the Law Unit at the Austrian Bankers’ Association, founder of the Gender Diversity Initiative of the Austrian Bankers’ Association

Presented by:

  • Tatjana Degasperi, researcher at the Institute for Business Education, WU Vienna, and Doris Zingl’s co-researcher

Moderated by:

  • Michael Köttritsch, head of the “Management & Karriere” section, Die Presse

After the panel discussion, there will be an opportunity to network over a small buffet dinner.

Please be sure to sign up for the event by March 14 by sending an email to Sonja Lydtin at

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