Factors that influence middle class women's financial capability: an Australian study

Ward, R 2015, Factors that influence middle class women's financial capability: an Australian study, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Management, RMIT University.

Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title Factors that influence middle class women's financial capability: an Australian study
Author(s) Ward, R
Year 2015
Abstract As Australian society has changed over time, women have become more active participants in paid employment. Importantly, women, especially middle class women, make significant contributions to the economy. The principal aim of this thesis is to investigate factors that affect Australian middle class women’s relationship with money and finance over time. It does so by investigating three factors that underpin financial capability. These are: 1. financial socialisation, which is foundational and predisposes an individual for future economic success; 2. economic inclusion, which enables a person to be financially literate to participate in the personal financial market, and 3. a fulfilling career that provides the opportunity for an individual to be well rewarded financially. With much research focused on low socioeconomic groups, the focus in this thesis is on middle class women, with class defined by income level.

Prior to the 1960s, most women worked in the unpaid domestic arena. It was only after the law and policies were changed to remove the ‘marriage bar’ in the public service sector that married women could fully participate in the labour market. These reforms plus two ‘equal pay’ cases that were influential in 1969 and 1972 signalled women’s move from the domestic to the economic realm. Women were now included in the labour force and were generally described as working class because they worked for low wages in unskilled or semi-skilled xi occupations. Married women who participated in paid work and advanced from work to create a career were seen as middle class women.

The practical context in which this study arises is the problem that middle class women continue to face two main impediments in creating a secure financial future. One is that the gap in pay between women and men working full-time is nearly 20 percent. Another is that many women have interrupted work patterns due to family responsibilities. This problem is compounded by the fact that women now outlive men by at least five years, which means that, depending upon their retirement funding scheme, women will generally need more funds after they leave paid employment. This thesis argues that despite these difficulties, many middle class women have achieved their personal and economic goals. They have been able to do so because they have developed a strong capability and resilience.

The thesis investigates the nature of this developmental process by employing a constructivist interpretive research methodology and using qualitative research methods. The empirical data was drawn from group discussions and face-to-face interviews with two distinct cohorts of women. The first cohort comprised twenty-two participants, of which five were adolescent women aged fourteen to sixteen years. The second consisted of twenty-six adult women, aged from their late twenties to mid-fifties. Analysis of these interviews resulted in the formulation of a conceptual model that identified the factors that influence women’s financial capability. The thesis focused only on examining those women who were financially successful and not xii others. This thesis was anchored to factors that influenced financial capability and the role of socialisation, including socialisation theory, in this process.

Six interlinked factors were identified that contribute to financial capability. First, the women’s family provided adolescents with foundational economic knowledge. The next two factors, personal values and emotions, drove individuals’ decisions and behaviours. Fourth, experiences gained in various stages of life influenced these women’s ability to manage finances. Fifth, the importance of relationships was a significant motivator for many women to be financially resilient. This is because caring for family and others occupied a substantial portion of their lives. Finally, and predictably, good financial decision making was fundamental to women’s success or otherwise in providing for themselves and others. The thesis integrates these six factors into Sherraden’s 2010 model of financial capability to provide a richer and more accurate account of the developmental process.

Middle class women who are motivated by the values of independence, security and personal freedom tended to develop financial resilience, and thus were capable of managing their finances well. While family and ‘significant others’ were initial influences in adolescence, the process of becoming financially capable was enriched by personal attributes, either inherited or learned from diverse life experiences. The external factor of financial inclusion, as well as formal and informal education in financial literacy, also assisted them in this developmental process. The significance of this thesis lies in demonstrating the range of diverse factors that xiii influence the evolution of women’s financial capability. Without one or other of these factors, middle class women would be less able to manage their financial affairs, and thereby be even worse off when they retired.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Management
Subjects Business and Management not elsewhere classified
Family and Household Studies
Sociology not elsewhere classified
Keyword(s) financial
middle class
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Created: Fri, 17 Mar 2017, 07:30:19 EST by Denise Paciocco
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