The Key to Women’s Economic Empowerment is Financial Literacy

The Key to Women’s Economic Empowerment is Financial Literacy

6 second take: There are several steps we need to take to ensure that women can be economically empowered. Doria Lavagnino discusses how we can start.

CentSai co-founder Doria Lavagnino speaks about the economic fallout of the paucity of mandated financial literacy in the US. Check out the article and — where this piece originally appeared — to learn more about how all women can work together to empower each other and their finances. This Women’s Small Business Month, it’s time to get involved!

This year has been hard on almost everyone. Covid-19 has ravaged our country’s health and economy, killing people of color disproportionately and attacking the finances of women more than men.

If Covid-19 has had one positive, it’s this: We can no longer ignore the economic fragility facing women and people of color in our country.

I see parallels to the endemic lack of financial literacy in our country—a reality that disproportionately affects women and people of color.

Four years ago, my cofounder and I left our jobs to create a start-up focused on financial literacy—called CentSai—as a reaction to the fallout of the 2008 credit crisis. At the time, many people didn’t understand why they were losing their homes while financial institutions were receiving bailouts. Today, the pandemic has brought our financial literacy epidemic front and center again.

It’s no surprise—only 21 states require high school students to take a course in personal finance, according to the Council for Economic Education (CEE).

How can we expect students to understand the basics: how to budget, understand credit, why saving is essential, when legislators don’t prioritize making financial education compulsory in every middle school and high school in America?

While the Community Reinvestment Act was meant to encourage financial institutions to reinvest money and education in lower-income communities, it seems to have become a checkbox requirement, not a mandate for change.

Financial Illiteracy: What Can Be Done?

We need to start with support for teachers and parents—our frontline advocates—providing them with the materials and training they need. Next, our local, state, and federal elected officials should make financial literacy a core curriculum skill, not an elective. Without it, many Americans will continue to make poor money choices.

As the mother of two daughters, I am acutely aware of how economic empowerment is the key to any woman’s independence. Yet white women still earn 84 cents for every dollar a white man earns, and Black and Latina women continue to make even less.

How can my daughters—or any woman—realize her full potential when she routinely sees other women underpaid and undervalued?

Let’s also start by ensuring the Equal Pay Act is enforced in every state. We owe it to our young leaders to make good on the notion that change starts with mentorship. We must teach them to have the courage to raise their hand in a meeting, to revolutionize with the audacity to take space, and to negotiate their worth.

Vote for elected officials who are serious about acknowledging there is a motherhood penalty for women who leave the workforce to have children.

The United States has one of the worst maternity leave policies of any country in the world: Out of 41 nations, ours is the only one that lacks paid maternity leave, according to the Pew Research Center. And the economic fallout of caregiving is dire, severely damaging the finances of women across the country.

As fintech continues to dominate the headlines and venture capitalist interest, let’s seize this moment to hold our schools, business leaders, and elected officials accountable. This moment calls on all of us to ensure every student has the opportunity to build the money skills they need to be responsible for their future.


To help the government fight the funding of terrorism and money laundering activities, Federal law requires all financial institutions to obtain, verify, and record information that identifies each person who opens an account. What this means for you: When you open an account, we will ask for your name, address, date of birth, and other information that will allow us to identify you. We may also ask to see your driver's license or other identifying documents.

2. The Federal Equal Credit Opportunity Act prohibits creditors from discriminating against credit applicants on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, age (provided the applicant has the capacity to enter into a binding contract); because all or part of the applicant’s income derives from any public assistance program; or because the applicant has in good faith exercised any right under the Consumer Credit Protection Act. The federal agency that administers compliance with this law concerning FinWise Bank is the FDIC Consumer Response Center, 1100 Walnut Street, Box #11, Kansas City, MO 64106. The federal agency that administers compliance with this law concerning Coastal Community Bank and Midland States Bank is the Federal Reserve Consumer Help Center, P.O. Box 1200, Minneapolis, MN 55480. The federal agency that administers compliance with this law for LendingPoint is the Federal Trade Commission, Equal Credit Opportunity, Washington, DC 20580.

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