There has been a lot of discussion in recent weeks in Argentina about the concept of “merit”. While some voices argue that the socio-economic context in which we are born largely determines our future prosperity, others contend that effort and perseverance are the mechanisms that allow an individual to flourish. From my point of view, there is a halfway point between these two seemingly irreconcilable positions. Generally speaking, a person who is raised in a very unfavorable economic environment will have to work much harder than someone who has his or her material needs mostly sorted out.
The scenario, however, is poised to change when we put together tools that democratize access to opportunities. This is one of the great challenges we must address not only in Argentina but throughout Latin America.
The value of education as an equalizing factor is certainly important. But how do we learn how to manage savings? Which instruments are available to obtain various investment returns? What do concepts such as liquidity, risk, profitability or diversification mean? Financial independence is a founding principle to achieve autonomy and the education of children in this aspect is paramount.
If, according to the Central Bank of Argentina and CAF – Development Bank of Latin America, more than 70% of Argentines are in the dark about a traditional financial method such as investing in bonds, these people are not likely to be aware of other alternatives, profitable and safe financing options. Of course, fixed-term deposits and putting their dollar savings under the mattress are not the only options available, but lots of people do not know this, simply because no one ever told them. We must stimulate a critical and analytical spirit. And we must teach people to think in financial terms.
Along these lines, I celebrate the steps that women have been taking towards greater economic independence. As indicated by a study published last year by Finnovista and the IADB, the global proportion of fintech startups founded or co-founded by women is only 7%, yet this figure increases to 33% in Latin America.
This data is really encouraging for the new generations, especially if we consider that both the finance industry and the Real Estate market have been predominantly male-dominated. And this has to do, at least in part, with a cultural element. Historically, men have controlled the economic resources of their families, which in turn led to women adopting a more passive role in financial decision-making.
I do not intend to drag us into long debates about this unequal situation, but I do hope we can look into the future and highlight all the transformations that are taking place, even though there is still a lot more to be done. In particular, technology now offers easy and agile investment instruments, such as real estate crowdfunding, which allows a person to enter a sector traditionally reserved for individuals with abounding economic resources, and to do so with very low amounts of money (from USD $1,000).
We as women must become more and more familiar with these sort of tools, which empower us to manage our income and savings with greater autonomy. Similarly, we ought to get involved in jobs, projects and ventures that aim to promote change and to include women in the labor market, and specifically in the financing world.
Getting stuck in the discussion about merit is not going to solve the problem. In an increasingly globalized world, technological tools are breaking down barriers and opening doors. This also means an opportunity for all women seeking financial independence.
This post is also available in: Español (Spanish)