I am driven to make the world a better place. That’s why I want more women to have more money – because I truly believe that we can change the world. But to do so we need to step into our power. Actually, we first need to acknowledge that we have power. We need to stop pretending that our actions don’t have an impact on the world around us. And the ripple effect makes this even more so.
It seems to me that the current economic system has failed us. This version of the capitalist model encourages the degradation of our natural world by allowing corporations to pollute, erode and deforest the earth in the name of profit; it upholds the patriarchal structure that keeps women stuck in poverty, self-loathing and violent relationships, and; it fuels the ever-widening gap between rich and poor.
Some days I want to opt-out completely and go live on a permaculture farm somewhere far from a Wi-Fi network. Other days I rage inside and think “Let’s burn the whole thing down!”. Unfortunately, I don’t think either of those options is the best solution for humanity. Sticking my head in the sand is hardly going to change the world and quite honestly, I’m not really sure what burning the whole thing down even looks like.
The biggest problem with capitalism (as if what I mentioned above wasn’t enough) is that it’s predicated on the belief that humans are inherently selfish. Scottish philosopher and economist, Adam Smith, who is known as the father of economics, espoused that humans are naturally motivated by competition and self-interest. In his book, The Wealth of Nations, he developed the concept of division of labour, which fuelled the industrial revolution and the rise of capitalism in its current form.
Personally, I don’t believe that we need to buy into the notion that humans are selfish. If we look around us we can find so much evidence of kindness and altruism. In fact, new research shows that humans aren’t inherently selfish – we’re actually hardwired to work together. It’s likely that socialisation and normalisation of selfish behaviour is what makes it so prevalent today.
So, what do we do about the problem of capitalism? I don’t think lurching to the opposite end of the spectrum (i.e. Communism) is the answer. The solution is likely to be more nuanced and complex than that. However, my view is that the problem needs to be addressed at two levels.
The first is on the structural level. This could mean finding a completely new system or it could mean refining what we currently have, meaning more regulation and a greater degree of corporate accountability. Either way, it’s extremely complex and there are people out there who are way more qualified to address this than me.
The second is at the individual level which is what I want to focus on in this article. We often underestimate our power to make a difference. I will admit that I tend towards despair and overwhelm at times thinking about the scale of the problems that need to be addressed. But we can’t ignore our own individual power, because together it can be the force of change.
One aspect of our personal power is in our role as consumers. We can use our dollars (or Pounds, Euro or Yen) to change the system from the inside out. Every time we spend, invest or donate our money, we are exercising that power. Like it or not, with every financial transaction, you are making a choice about the world you want to live in.
In that case, isn’t it important that you do it intentionally?
Before we can change the world, first we need to become aware of ourselves and the world in which we live. I don’t mean our physical selves or the tangible things in our environment – I mean who we are at our core, not who the world around us wants us to be. We have to know what our highest values are and what is truly important to us in order to make our spending decisions from a place of informed power.
Have you thought about the kind of world you want to live in? What do you feel is wrong or unjust about the current state of our world? Listen to your inner voice to guide you to what causes are most important to you. Once you know what you stand for, you can start to make small changes in your behaviour and lifestyle. In case you don’t know where to start, here are a few of my ideas.
Before I share these ideas, I want you to know that I don’t claim to be perfect. I am not doing all of these things nor any of them perfectly. I often struggle to find the balance between my desire to make a difference and the monetary and time pressures of modern life. But all of us making small manageable changes is better than just a few people doing everything perfectly.
Let’s dive in!
- Buy local. Supporting small business is an effective way to distribute wealth more laterally rather than the centre of power being with large corporations.
- Support businesses that prioritise treating their employees well by paying a living wage, providing sick leave and other benefits rather than lining the pockets of billionaires.
- Ask businesses about their sustainability practices or buy from businesses who actively employ sustainable practices to minimise their water use, packaging or carbon emissions.
- Buy from women-owned businesses. Investing in women is shown to have a greater impact on a community as a whole rather than only one person or company benefiting.
- Buy as much of your fresh fruit and vegetables seasonally (and locally) to avoid the long carbon miles of imported produce
- Consider going plant-based or at least reducing your meat intake.
- Where is your Superannuation (retirement fund) invested? Are you inadvertently supporting businesses or industries that you don’t want to? Make sure you do your research and consider switching to one that’s more aligned to your values.
- Do you already have a portfolio or want to start one? What companies are you investing in and do they align with your views and values? Ethical and Sustainable investing has become a lot more accessible in recent years and performs just as well, if not better than traditional funds.
- Where do you do your banking? Does your bank lend to the fossil fuel industry? Does it have a diversity and inclusion policy? Is it walking its talk? Many smaller banks and credit unions offer a different way of doing banking than the “big end of town” and at competitive rates.
- Do you give to charity and if so, could you increase what you give? It’s a great way to flex your abundance muscle. You can read more about that in this blog post.
- Which causes are most important to you and have you done your research on the efficiency of your charity dollars. Effective Altruism is a great resource to help you find the most effective and efficient charities.
- Consider microloans. I wasn’t sure whether to put this under-investing or giving, but essentially it’s a way for you to invest into people in developing worlds, rather than giving them a handout. Kiva is one such example and you’re able to search by the causes that are most important to you. This isn’t tax-deductible, as you (can) get your money back, but it allows your contribution to continue helping many different people as it’s reinvested over time.
Imagine a world where companies that do the right thing by people and the planet are rewarded? A world where wealth is distributed more evenly and where everyone receives a living wage. Imagine corporations looking after their employees and ensuring that they are physically, emotionally and financially healthy. Imagine a world where profit is important but is secondary to people (beyond shareholders) being treated with dignity and respect.
I want to believe that what the Dalai Lama said could be true, that: The world will be saved by the western woman. We can prove Adam Smith wrong and build a system built a kindness revolution. Let’s start using our monetary power to create the world we want for ourselves and future generations.
Of course, money isn’t the ONLY power we have. There is so much power inherent in all of us, especially as women, but I hope that this inspires you to recognise and use some of the power you do have at your disposal.