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Financial Health
March 8, 2021

#ChooseToChallenge: How women are managing and leading through uncertainty

Aligning with the International Women’s Day theme of choosing to challenge, a recent Wells Fargo survey highlights how women are approaching finances in a changing world.

The economic downturn of recent months has been noted as the first in history to affect women more than men, with labor department data indicating more than 11 million women have lost their jobs since February 2020 and another 2.65 million have left the workforce in that same period. Declines in labor force participation from November 2019 to November 2020, reported by the Federal Reserve of Minneapolis, are evident for mothers and women without children alike.

Despite the alarming numbers, women have shown resilience, according to a recent Wells Fargo & Company study published by Wells Fargo Wealth & Investment Management, which revealed that most women remain “confident they have been making the right financial decisions.”

Woman with glasses smiles at the camera.
Nancy Amick

“An exciting revelation, and one that we’re happy to report, is that nine out of 10 women we surveyed see themselves as resilient and able to adapt to unforeseen events,” said Nancy Amick, a senior family dynamics consultant who helped analyze the survey results as part of the Advice Center in Wealth & Investment Management. “Even in the middle of this pandemic, women are feeling confident that they will be able to work through this disruptive change, lead their households, and keep up that momentum of financial leadership to shape a more equitable future as we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The survey results provide optimism during Women’s History Month in 2021, and the information can help Wells Fargo better serve individuals, couples, and multigenerational families seeking to advance their goals.

“Even in the middle of this pandemic, women are feeling confident that they will be able to work through this disruptive change, lead their households, and keep up that momentum of financial leadership to shape a more equitable future as we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.” — Nancy Amick, senior family dynamics consultant
A man in navy plaid suit jacket and light blue dress shirt looks at the camera.
Barry Sommers

“The survey helps inform how we communicate about wealth, as well as educate and prepare the next generation of wealth stakeholders,” said Barry Sommers*, CEO of Wells Fargo Wealth & Investment Management and co-sponsor of the Women’s Team Member Network employee resource group. “It is in keeping with Wells Fargo’s long history of supporting women — as an employer and a provider of financial services.”

As part of International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, we connected with employees and women around the company’s equality-focused initiatives, to discuss how the survey results reflect what’s happening in their lives and what they are doing to maintain resilience and confidence despite the challenges.

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Maximizing the moment, with focus on the future

When my husband passed away suddenly, I found myself almost having to start at ground zero — not really having a lot of assets or a whole lot of what I would call “family capital,” relatives and so forth, to help me.

I also left home at an early age and started my life on my own, so when I became a widow, I kind of went back into survival mode. And I think some of what I learned from those situations helped me during the pandemic. Women are incredibly strong, incredibly adaptive, and creative and resilient. I think that sometimes we underestimate what we are capable of.

During the pandemic, it’s been a challenge to not react emotionally to all that is going on, whether it’s the global market swings or the impact that all of this has had on our kids. So there is that struggle of being able to balance work with the responsibilities of being a mom, and stepping in as a teacher, and also having to kind of keep it together psychologically for everybody in the home. And I experienced it differently from others, just as everyone experiences trauma differently. I was able to appreciate the fact that we were not worrying where our next meals are coming from, and I am not working more than one job, nor am I on the front lines.

From a financial perspective, we’ve made a lot of lifestyle changes and have used this opportunity, like a lot of people, to save. I'm doing my very best right now to teach my daughters about earning money and allowances and saving. I’ve really hung on to the notion, although it may sound corny, that what doesn’t break us makes us stronger.

“During the pandemic, it’s been a challenge to not react emotionally to all that is going on, whether it’s the global market swings or the impact that all of this has had on our kids.” — Janet Walker, senior portfolio manager at Abbot Downing
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Younger women bring home the bacon

Text on a graphic with an outline of a piggy bank labeled 1.5x next to two small groupings of people and a bar graphic depicting 32% versus 20%. Text reads: “Married or partnered millennial and Gen X women (ages 24-55) are 1.5x more likely to be the primary household breadwinner.” First grouping of people adjacent to the 32% portion of the bar graph is labeled “Women ages 24-55” and second grouping under “20%” is labeled “Women ages 56+”.
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Co-leading through changes and challenges

My wife and I certainly had a decent handle on where we were headed financially a year ago, but the pandemic gave us opportunities to really sit back and talk about what’s happening in the world around us, the ways in which things are changing, and how that might impact us. It has generated a lot of conversations that have been good for us to reestablish our approach to financial decision-making and to tweak it where necessary.

My spouse is a little older and is closer to retirement, and she’s really strong foundationally in saving, where, because of my background in finance and my job, my strength is in thinking about investing. And I think the time we have taken during the pandemic to have more conversations about financial planning has strengthened our resolve in making sure that we continue to plan.

I grew up as a child of divorce and vividly remember my mother pursuing her college degree when I was just starting school myself. I recognize today that the interest I took in pursuing my education and being geared toward financial independence is a direct result of having watched my mother plan for how she was going to care for the family as a single parent. I think there are some learnings from that and from more recent times that add to what we’re going to carry forward with us, such as where we can save on little things like dining out by more thoughtfully planning menus in advance.

“My wife and I certainly had a decent handle on where we were headed financially a year ago, but the pandemic gave us opportunities to really sit back and talk about what’s happening in the world around us, the ways in which things are changing, and how that might impact us.” — Tamara Peterson, managing counsel for Wells Fargo Bank, N.A.
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Financial roadblocks for women

Bar graphic labeled “Younger generations see more barriers in developing their financial skills” with three sets of comparison bars in red and purple. Red bars, which are all longer than the purple bars, are labeled “Women ages 24-55.” The purple bars are labeled “Women ages 56+.” The first set of comparisons is “Financial concepts can be intimidating” (red: 39%, purple: 21%). The second set of comparisons says “I did not learn much about finances growing up” (red: 34%, purple: 15%). The third set of comparisons reads: “I do not have enough time to devote to it” (red: 21%, purple: 6%)
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Resilience through resourcefulness

With this pandemic, it just literally pumped the brakes for our business because we had just landed a contract with a really big technical company to work in their food service and provide beverages in their retail market. We had also just landed a prime concessionaire contract with the Hartsfield-Jackson International Atlanta Airport, which is one of the largest in the world. And so March 2020 came, we were delivering ordered products to our business-to-business customers, and then suddenly, the deal scattered, and we just didn’t know where these pieces were going to fall. It was like, “COVID, you’re interfering with my dreams here!” We really had to think, gain mental clarity, pivot, and refocus our company’s intentions.

This pandemic and slowdown has allowed me to take part in some available business accelerator programs. I took this time also to get certified as a woman-owned business and to get all the foundational building blocks in place for my business to be post-COVID ready by creating successful community and revenue drivers. As a result, I applied to secure the $5,000 grant, and that was very meaningful. That money will go toward creating an additional sales channel for our business as part of our refocus on distributing our specialty goods with e-commerce solutions, and developing a direct-to-market kiosk strategy.

I am a person that likes to persevere. So when my orders were slowing down and stopping, I really had to be creative and think through “What can I do right now? What is best for Shayla and her family that will make a difference right now?” My mindset has been, when I hear a “no” I really just hear, “Hold on. We’ll talk tomorrow.” It's not really a “no” in my mind.

“I took this time also to get certified as a woman-owned business and to get all the foundational building blocks in place for my business to be post-COVID ready by creating successful community and revenue drivers.” — Shayla McNair, founder of Shay Latte Coffee
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Women hungry for financial advice as anxiety grows

Bar graph in two part, with larger red bars labeled “Women ages 24-55” and purple bars labeled “Women age 56+.” Outlines of an exclamation point and a figure of a woman with a checkmark are positioned at left of bar comparisons. General text over both sets says “Over two-thirds of millennial and Gen X women ages 24-55 get extremely anxious in times of uncertainty and many say they need financial advice more than ever.” First bar graph next to exclamation point shows 68% (red) next to 49% (purple); next set shows 47% (red) next to 31% (purple) comparison.
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Speaking up for progress in a changing world

I grew up in up in a traditional Chinese family. My mom was the housewife and my dad ran a Chinese grocery store. As the oldest, I had a lot more responsibility, helping my mom with my two younger brothers. But I also had a lot of freedom, and my parents were extremely supportive of how I wanted to develop myself. My mom always wanted me to be very independent. She was always telling me how women should be able to go wherever they want to go, and be whatever they want to be.

Fast forward and now I have my own family, and it’s really emotional sometimes to realize I am living the life my mom dreamed of, especially compared to women of my mom’s generation who mostly centered their lives around the paths of their husbands.

The world is changing and seeing tremendous improvement in really encouraging more balance in terms of embracing women in many roles, including within the financial services industry. I think it is actually very important in any situation, but especially being a woman in a typically male-dominated industry, to speak up, tell people what you want, and what you want to do with your life. Speak with inspiring leaders and identify your ambition. And it is just as important to advocate to surround yourself with a high-performing team. There are many out there who are willing to listen. 

“Fast forward and now I have my own family, and it’s really emotional sometimes to realize I am living the life my mom dreamed of, especially compared to women of my mom’s generation who mostly centered their lives around the paths of their husbands.” — Mandy Wan, regional head of markets for Asia Pacific at Wells Fargo Corporate & Investment Banking
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‘She Means Business’

Learn more about how the pandemic has disproportionately impacted women in the workforce and women-owned businesses, as well as the prospects for recovery, in She Means Business, a report compiled by Wells Fargo’s Corporate & Investment Banking economists.


Investment and Insurance Products are: ▸ Not Insured by the FDIC or Any Federal Government Agency ▸ Not a Deposit or Other Obligation of, or Guaranteed by, the Bank or Any Bank Affiliate ▸ Subject to Investment Risks, Including Possible Loss of the Principal Amount Invested

*This associate is a registered representative of Wells Fargo Clearing Services, LLC, Member SIPC, a registered broker-dealer and non-bank affiliate of Wells Fargo & Company.

Abbot Downing, a Wells Fargo business, and Wells Fargo Private Bank offer products and services through Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. and its various affiliates and subsidiaries. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. is a bank affiliate of Wells Fargo & Company.

Wells Fargo Wealth and Investment Management (WIM) is a division within Wells Fargo & Company. WIM provides financial products and services through various bank and brokerage affiliates of Wells Fargo & Company.

Wells Fargo Corporate & Investment Banking (CIB) is the trade name for the corporate banking, capital markets, and investment banking services of Wells Fargo & Company and its subsidiaries, including but not limited to Wells Fargo Securities, LLC, member of NYSE, FINRA, NFA, and SIPC, Wells Fargo Prime Services, LLC, member of FINRA, NFA and SIPC, and Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. Wells Fargo Securities, LLC and Wells Fargo Prime Services, LLC, are distinct entities from affiliated banks and thrifts.

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