Dept. of Banking and Securities aims to boost financial literacy, savings for Pa. women

    Dept. of Banking and Securities Sec. Robin L. Wiessmann is joined on stage by lawmakers and advocates to introduce the 'Investing in Women' program (Capital-Star photo by Cassie Miller).

    Women across the commonwealth are at a disadvantage when it comes to planning their financial future, and Pennsylvania needs to provide them with the tools and training to secure that future. 

    That’s the message that state Banking and Securities Secretary Robin Wiessmann delivered Wednesday as her agency kicked off a new initiative, “Investing in Women,” that aims to do just that.

    “Through strategic partnerships, the goal of ‘Investing in Women’ is to evaluate investment habits, stereotypes and obstacles for women and reduce the gender gap through education, awareness and research,” Wiessmann said during a Capitol news conference, where she was joined by lawmakers and a prominent advocate

    The newly minted program will provide women across the state with information about banking, credit, saving and investing, Wiessmann said.

    Citing Financial Industry Regulatory Authority reports that female Pennsylvanians make 80 cents for every dollar male Pennsylvanians make, Wiessmann said the program will also address the gender pay gap. 

    Additionally, FINRA reports that women in Pa. are saving for retirement or investing at a rate lower than the national average, Wiessmann said the program will go a long way to empower women in the Keystone state.

    “By presenting fundamental concepts about the importance of financial capability and the unique financial challenges facing women, we encourage women in Pennsylvania, stakeholders, and partners to get involved,” Wiessmann said.

    While Wiessmann couldn’t comment on the exact cause of Pennsylvania’s lack of female savers and investors, she did say the state’s socio-economic traits could be a factor.

    “It corresponds with the income level in Pennsylvania relative to other states. Historically, we’ve had a very rural economy outside of the two large urban areas and while that’s changing, I have found that there are places in Pennsylvania where there isn’t even the internet,” Wiessmann said. “So, the opportunity to self-educate is even more limited.”

    Wiessmann added that the department is hoping technological advancements will help facilitate this effort over the long run.

    Julie Bancroft, the chief public affairs officer at the  Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence, who also appeared at the news conference, said that the program will undoubtedly help women in instances of domestic violence.

    “Feeling trapped by a lack of financial resources, or access to them, is a reality for victims of domestic violence as financial abuse occurs in 99 percent of abusive situations,” she said. “Economic empowerment initiatives, like ‘Investing in Women,’ help survivors build knowledge and resources, leading to long-term financial independence and safety.”

    The initiative will have three key components:

    • Financial education presentations across the state on common financial challenges for women including credit, investing and saving for retirement.
    • A study of the financial capability of women to hear directly about the tools, resources, and skills they need to better prepare for any financial situation.
    • Financial capability forum in May to bring together experts from the financial field to share what individuals can do to take control of their finances.

    The results of the survey will be made available to the public by summer, Wiessmann said, along with any key takeaways the department learned throughout the survey process.

    Cassie Miller
    A native Pennsylvanian, Cassie Miller worked for various publications across the Midstate before joining the team at the Pennsylvania Capital-Star. In her previous roles, she has covered everything from local sports to the financial services industry. Miller has an extensive background in magazine writing, editing and design. She is a graduate of Penn State University where she served as the campus newspaper’s photo editor. She is currently pursuing her master’s degree in professional journalism at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. In addition to her role at the Capital-Star, Miller enjoys working on her independent zines, Dead Air and Infrared.