Ingenious Women- Cash
I wasn’t sure what to expect for the second Ingenious Women weekend, this time centred on the subject of cash. As a PGR, I tend to associate money with funding applications and regular squabbles with the council over my student tax exemption- basically, cash doesn’t rank highly on the fun scale for me. However, I needn’t have worried, as Janet and Sara delivered another thought-provoking and empowering weekend.
We began by picking up where we left off five weeks ago- what had everyone been up to? The cohort had travelled, competed in sports competitions, started new jobs, and were building “small wins” into their daily routines. It was wonderful to hear everyone’s news and share successes, before diving into the weekend’s programme, naturally, still feeling creative post-weekend one!
First, Janet encouraged us to look at our attitudes to cash, noting that financial progress for women has moved quite slowly. Did you know that women needed fathers and husbands’ signatures in order to apply for bank loans until 1974? We discussed how generational values and our families may have influenced how we feel about cash, as Janet and Sara shared the things that had contributed to their personal attitudes; from taking economics at A-Level and growing up in industrial towns, to their parents’ own attitudes towards borrowing and spending. The cohort had been asked to bring objects which they associated with their attitudes to money, which they shared during their discussions, ranging from piggy banks to newspaper and magazine articles. Looking back, I can certainly see how growing up in a former mining town in Yorkshire and later attending an all-girls’ school has shaped how I feel about cash, and it’s certainly something worth contemplating, however awkward you may initially feel.
Prior to this weekend, I’d never thought that the FT was “for me”, and I’m sure other members of the cohort had similar feelings, but Janet quickly proved us wrong. Copies of the paper were given out, and the programme paused for the afternoon to allow time for reading, walking, swimming, and catching up further. Like many of the cohort’s members, I was surprised to find the FT was not the dry or intimidating read I had expected, and read a number of features on sleep, as well as debates on arts vs science degrees. I don’t think I’ll become a regular reader, but this exercise helped to rid me of any feelings of “Financial Times imposter syndrome”, and I’d recommend flicking through a copy if you ever get the chance.
Our evening activity was a lively debate, with the motion that “this house believes that women should be educated about money”. Though the motion was ultimately defeated, both sides raised a number of fascinating points as they debated: children’s wage expectations vary dramatically as young boys expect a much higher future salary than young girls; 62 million girls around the world are denied any form of education, not just a financial one; issues such as societal and the pay gap also impact upon women financially…
Day two saw the introduction of calculators as we began a financial quiz. Questions included the cost of renting an office space and train travel between cities, as well as conference snacks and VAT rates. As the quiz progressed, it quickly became clear that we weren’t just talking literal prices, but also considering how much we valued our time and contributions. A train from Glasgow to Edinburgh isn’t just the literal ticket price- there’s travelling to and from stations, and potentially working during the journey to also factor in. It’s always worth remembering that we are valuable, and considering how much a bargain or opportunity may eventually cost us.
Next came the consultancy business challenge. Groups were given a 12 month spreadsheet and given potential scenarios to negotiate during their fictional consultancies’ first year. Discussions amongst the groups ranged from how much value they placed upon their expertise versus their clients’ offers and expectations, as well as issues such as taking on too many projects and building reputation. As noted following the exercise, a number of us send a daily invoice of £0 for work we’ve done for free, whether it’s social media promotion, room booking, or similar tasks. How much do we benefit from doing these free tasks?
The afternoon saw us getting into the heads of potential funders- some groups were banks, others friends and family, or funding organisations, and each received an envelope of money to invest in a project. What factors would we consider before investing? Discussions ranged from trust, impact, and track record, to spending plans and project outcomes. Although each group covered a difference potential funding source, it was certainly a valuable exercise in considering how “the other side” may think when receiving funding applications. Definitely something I’ll take away for the next time I apply for conference funding (also check out Bianca’s latest post on conference funding for more great tips!)
The weekend ended reflecting on everything we’d covered. As it turned out, talking about cash wasn’t as intimidating or uncomfortable as it once seemed; Janet and Sara made what seemed like a rather dry topic enjoyable and stimulating, and it was wonderful to be surrounded by so many inspiring women again. Weekend three is later this month and focuses on Control- I can’t wait!
Image credits: Cia Jackson and Jo Young.
Cia Jackson is a PhD candidate in Comparative Literature, researching the portrayal of fangirls in DC's Harley Quinn and Batgirl comics. She is PGR office intern 2016-2018.