Where the Women Are Not: Alone in Higher Education.

For most of my educational life, I didn’t give much thought to how my experience might differ from that of the males in my class. In high school, my honors and AP classes all had a lot of girls. Outside of that group, it sometimes felt like boys were intimidated by smart girls. That was their problem and not mine.

There are more women going to college and graduating from college every year at all levels from undergraduate to doctoral programs. Women are certainly taking every opportunity to become better educated and more successful. Yet, that was not my experience. I imagine that the world I face was more similar to the university life around 1900 than the typical female university experience in the year 2000. I was definitely in the minority, and everyone was not happy to have me in the classroom.

Physical science majors (physics, chemistry, geology, and astronomy) are about 25% female. None of those women were in my physics classes. I literally never saw another girl in an upper-level physics class. In the year that I graduated, my class was three boys and me. I was the 25%. Yet, no other girls had graduated from the geophysics program before me, and none graduated after me. So, the 25% can be deceiving. In fact, I was alone. My experience was that scientists are pretty open-minded. Everyone thought it was cool that I liked what they liked, and nobody ever made it seem like I shouldn’t be there. Sure, it got a little weird when all the physics Ph.D. students thought I should be their girlfriend because I liked physics and was nice to them. Other than that, I never had a problem.

I didn’t run into many women in my classes or as my professors, but that didn’t bother me. I was friends with the guys in my major, and the lack of women never made me feel like I didn’t belong there. I had one female professor in my major classes. She didn’t champion me with a “girl power” talk or really encourage me in any way. She was just there doing her own thing, and I’m not even sure that she liked me all that much. So, there was no female mentoring. I came to depend on getting support and advice from men, including a great advisor.

In the end, I switched fields and switched careers in graduate school. It had to do with the career path I was on and my realization my senior year that I would not emotionally survive a doctoral program in geophysics. I ended up in a doctoral finance program. Women in 2014 made up 42.3% of business doctoral graduates. Those women, however, are mostly in fields such as management and marketing. They are not in finance. Women were 27.7% of the doctoral degrees awarded in finance in 2014. Once again, I find myself in the 25%. I was the only female admitted in the year I started, but since people hang around for several years, I did get to know other women getting doctoral finance degrees. The university usually graduated one woman per year with a finance Ph.D., which meant there were about 4 of us there at any point in time. Half of them were Chinese students. If you want to be a minority in your field, be a white woman in finance. Even worse? Be a black woman in finance. They are almost non-existent.

Business Doctorate Recipients, 2014

I didn’t have a single female professor in graduate school. Maybe that was part of the reason some of the male professors were less than welcoming of women in their classes. This was the first time in my life when I ever experienced harassment and a clear message that the male professors didn’t want me there. There were two in particular who targeted me for their attacks. Luckily, I had a great advisor and enough of an attitude to be unbothered even then. I survived and thrived, which I am sure bothers them to this day. I didn’t have a female role model or mentor in my career because they just didn’t exist. Instead, my mentors and colleagues have been men who respect me and look out for me. Sure, there are times when it would have been helpful to have another woman in my corner. Finding people who you trust, however, should always come before anything else.

 

 

 

My Four Favorite Budgeting Apps (and they are free!)

four favorite budgeting apps

 

As a finance professor, people ask me a lot of questions. One of the most common questions is about ways to make budgeting easier or if “there is an app for that.” There are two difficult parts to the budgeting process. The first part is sitting down to actually make a budget. The second part is knowing where you are in your budget and sticking to it. For me, this is by far the more challenging task because it takes time to record your expenses. I’m always looking for an app to help make my life more efficient, so I have actually tried a lot of budgeting apps over the years. Today I’ve decided to share four of my current favorites.

 

mint money budget app
Mint: Money Manager, Budget, and Personal Finance is a free app that provides a complete money management toolbox for users. You can connect all of your bank, credit card, and investment apps to your personal Mint account and let the app do the rest. Mint will keep track of your spending and income and even make suggestions for how you can improve your budget. If you want an app that will literally track and do everything for you, Mint is the way to go. Personally, I don’t want to use this app for security reasons. I don’t like the idea of tying all of my financial accounts into this one place. If you don’t mind, however, you won’t find anything better than this.

 

daily budget original money budget app
Daily Budget Original is a free app that provides you will a daily budget after you enter your monthly income and fixed expenses. Since it does not connect to your bank account, there is some work on your part. Each time you make a purchase, you’ll need to enter that into the app so that it can deduct that dollar amount from your daily allowance. However, the app is simple and easy to use.

 

mvelopes money budgeting app
Mvelopes is a nice, free app if you are fond of the envelope method of budgeting. You can set up the categories, or envelopes, of your monthly expenses as needed. These are fully customizable, so you can have just a few, broad categories or envelopes for individual expenses like cable, coffee, cell phone, gym membership, etc. Mvelopes will also connect to all of your financial accounts (like Mint) and automatically deduct your expenses. Again, this has the benefit of taking the work out of the equation for you, but be careful about keeping your accounts and identity secured.

 

wellspent money budgeting app
WellSpent is another free app also based on the envelope method of budgeting. Unlike Mvelopes, however, WellSpent does not connect to any of your financial accounts. So, you’ll have to be diligent about entering all of your daily expenses. Once you get into a habit of entering expenses as you go or at a certain time of the day (take a minute to do it while eating lunch or at the end of each day), you’ll find this is an incredibly useful budgeting app. You have the flexibility to add as many envelope categories as you want and track your spending in each category in real-time.

  
Do you use an app for budgeting? If so, do you use one of these or something else? If you do not use a budgeting app, which of these sounds the best to you?

Financial Literacy in College Students: Re-visited

college high school financial literacy education

Last year I wrote about a project my honors thesis student completed on the topic of financial literacy in business students. The hypothesis for the thesis was that business majors are more financially literate than non-business majors. On the surface, it seemed like it should be a simple answer. Business students are trained in the ways of accounting, finance, marketing, and management. Financial literacy should be a result of their education. Over 400 university students responded to a survey that included sixteen financial literacy questions from the JumpStart Coalition’s test. On average, students answered half of the questions correctly. Business students, however, did not do any better than the non-business students. As a finance professor, this was not a pleasant discovery. It turned out that only age and measures of financial experience resulted in higher financial literacy scores.

 

This year I had another student working on an honors thesis related to financial literacy. She, however, wanted to focus on high school education. Some states either require a high school course in personal finance or at least are exploring the idea. Given the poor results from last year’s study, we decided to take a different approach to measuring financial literacy. Financial education is not required in Mississippi high schools, but those that offer courses predominantly utilize the Ever-Fi financial education curriculum. So, we designed our financial literacy metrics from this curriculum. The Ever-Fi curriculum focuses on basic, personal finance applications that young adults are most likely to encounter within five years of high school graduation.

 

The good news is that according to these metrics, college students have a higher level of financial literacy than expected. Over 90% of students were able to answer most of the questions correctly. At least half of students were getting the correct answers to the most challenging questions. So, perhaps college business majors are more financially literate than the previous study indicated and the measure of financial literacy should be carefully considered.

 

Financial experience and finance education both resulted in higher financial literacy. Educating high school and college students about personal finance is extremely important to the economic health of our country. Curriculum, however, should focus on what students are most likely to encounter after graduation and incorporate applied learning opportunities.