Does working = financial independence for women?

When a girl educates and starts working, we celebrate that an independent woman is born, one who can take her own decisions and make her choices.  In the eyes of the society, she is financially independent and can spend where and how she decides.

As a coach working with women and as part of healclinic where again we work with multiple women clients, especially with emotional issues; I have come to realise that in most of the cases this is a myth. In my work, I come across women spanning across economic strata, who have no say in how their salary is spent and where investments are made.

These are women who are well educated, have good jobs, belong to the so called “respectable” families and yet have no choice in how they wish to spend or save their hard-earned money.

The money that they earn, their salary, is transferred to their respective spouse or in laws who then decides what is to be done with the money. They are generally given some amount as pocket money for their personal expenses. Any expense beyond that they must ask their husband or in laws permission.

Whether this is about control or power, I am not sure but, in my opinion, this is another form of patriarchal abuse. It may not leave physical scars of physical or sexual abuse but leads to emotional and mental scars which are invisible and never acknowledged by the society. It also plays a big role in the socio-economic structure of the society, since education and job have not truly empowered the women.

Inspite of earning they cannot take decisions for themselves and still depend on the “Man” of the house. It leads the woman to a subservient role in the house and many a times also no option but to endure abuse as they do not have the financial means to leave.  In case of a crisis, they do not have the financial muscle to take care of themselves as they don’t have much in the name of savings.

All of us work for various reasons, and money is one of the important motivators to work, as it gives us the independence to do and buy things which we like. If not for the salary, many of us would have quit our jobs and followed our hobbies or volunteered at NGO’s. If post working hard, we still don’t have access to our earnings, then the overall motivation to work and do well at our job goes missing. When, we do not have access to things that we like, then there is no will power to upgrade/upskill ourselves, increase our productivity or aim for that promotion. Hence financial independence is not just about using the money the way we like, but also about our confidence, self-respect and having the choice to take decisions as we want to.

Yet these women continue working, for they don’t have a choice but to contribute to the “family income” and sometimes simply because it is a means of getting out of the house and meeting people who may treat them as equal.

Maybe time has come to involve women in financial discussion and decision making from a younger age, so that they realise the importance of not just working but also what financial independence truly means to them.

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