indicatorInvesting and Saving

Beyond statistics, dispelling common myths about women in investing

By Kimberley Walker 30 November 2023 4 min read

At ATB Wealth, we’re always thinking about how we can help every one of our clients achieve their financial and life goals.

In this article, Kimberley Walker, an associate portfolio manager on the institutional portfolio management team at ATB Investment Management, within ATB Wealth, recounts how her relationship with her brother impacted her choice of career, emphasizes the importance of the right financial advisor and reframes stereotypes about women investors’ confidence and risk tolerance. 

Looking back

Growing up, I was the baby of the family. I have an older brother whom I absolutely adored (and still do). I watched and learned from him, and anything he did, I simply HAD to do too. That meant playing hockey and chasing frogs with the boys (often wearing a pretty dress my mom put me in!). Most days, I came home covered in mud, sometimes wearing only one shoe, the other inevitably long lost in one of the many splash-worthy mud puddles I had encountered.

I grew up with the boys and worked hard to keep up with them. In a way, that continued when I ventured into a career in the historically men-dominated financial industry. Throughout my career so far, I’ve been incredibly lucky to have worked with strong men and women who have been in my corner. I’ve had mentors go out of their way to include me in projects outside of my normal job description, and push me to learn and grow.


Find someone in your corner

My advice for all investors is to ensure you find an advisor who is in your corner. Don’t be afraid to shop around to find a trusted expert who has your back. Someone who will listen, be empathetic, and help create a financial plan that’s right for you—a plan that takes into account everything life may throw your way and has your goals at the forefront. Ensure that fees are transparent, fully disclosed and that your advisor's compensation isn't tied to the products they offer. 


Confidence comes first

At ATB Wealth, one of our goals is to bolster confidence in our investors. Generally speaking, I have found that women can be hard on themselves. When asked to self-characterize their financial knowledge, they often rate themselves lower than they should, because they may tie mastery of a subject to confidence. When this data is aggregated in surveys or anecdotally this can cause women investors to be characterized unfairly as less knowledgeable, when they are in fact very financially literate.

I have even seen this lack of self-confidence with my strong, successful mentors, who are incredibly kind when giving me advice, but then tear themselves apart over the very same things they have been coaching me through. We are smarter than we tell ourselves and we need to have the courage to speak up and say “We got this”. Over time, I have learned to change the way I talk to myself and be more forgiving, looking at the situation objectively and realizing that I’m just as capable as anyone else when it comes to figuring something out or solving an issue.

Women and risk

I’m a woman working in finance, but I tend to disagree with many of the articles directed at women investors. They often list several statistics that paint women with a negative brush, missing the context that should accompany their data. For example, the knowledge gap and confidence gap are conflated in many articles, creating a persistent narrative that even shows up in what we share, perpetually highlighting that women are risk averse—but I would argue that women are aware of risk, but not necessarily averse to it. Context is important and I think we can all do better to look beyond the data.

As women, we need to do our homework and think about how investments will impact our bottom line over the next 10 or 20 years. Women often end up with lower salaries and taking more time away from work compared to men, so we need to make our money work for us. This time off is referred to as the “gender wealth gap” and could be due to having and raising children, caring for sick parents or spouse or a variety of other reasons. While things are rapidly changing and more men are sharing caretaker responsibilities, the statistics coming out from covid indicate that women ended up further behind men as we shouldered the care burden and took longer to go back to work

From an investing perspective, the gender wealth gap means that women often have less money to invest. It’s important for women to understand risk—and, in my experience, ensure they’re taking enough risk to make their money work for them.

Being labeled as “risk averse” can cause women investors to be much more conservative than they need to be. They may have been talked down to by a previous advisor, leading them to  believe that investing in larger arenas like the stock market is just too risky. This simply isn’t true. While women have proven that they can and do excel at investing, there is room for growth when it comes to more females putting their money to work for them. Again, having the right advisor will help to dispel myths and give you the confidence to navigate the world of risk.

The takeaway

I believe that financial institutions and the media need to reframe the differing perspectives and behaviour women bring to investing in a more positive—and accurate—light. I’ve watched many strong, confident women get unfairly labelled, and I hope that changes. Our goal at ATB Wealth is to support anyone who wants to go after their financial and life goals with confidence. We are all stronger, smarter and more capable than the negative voice inside that often tells us otherwise.




ATB Wealth experts are ready to listen.

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