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#12 - Wealth Gap: Wider Than Gender with Prof. Anne-Maria Makhulu

Transcript from interview #12 - Wealth Gap: Wider Than Gender with Prof. Anne-Maria Makhulu

Professor Anne-Maria Makhulu :0:00

There is a sense within one intellectual strand that capitalism and patriarchy really go hand in hand.

Nicole :0:15

Welcome to the I Also Want Money podcast where our mission is to democratise demystify and demasculinize making money. My name is Nicole Kyle and I'm here with my co-host Sophie Holm and co-producer Harrison Comfort. Our regular listeners here at the I Also Want Money podcast know that we spend most of our time focused on the gender wealth gap and how to close it. The reality is closing the wealth gap is about more than men and women. It's about elevating marginalised, and underrepresented communities into wealth conversations and into spaces that they have historically been largely excluded from. They say those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it. That's why we've invited cultural anthropologist Dr. Anne-Maria Makhulu to the podcast today. She'll help us learn about the history of wealth structures that were built to exclude those of different genders, race and class, among other factors. I do want to welcome a professor of cultural anthropology at Duke University. Dr. Anne-Maria Makhulu, welcome.

Professor Anne-Maria Makhulu :1:27

Thank you. Thanks for having me.

Nicole :1:30

Anne-Maria, we've invited you today, because we know as we've said that helping women make money is part of a larger journey in closing wealth gaps and inequities that exist within society. How can consciousness of some of our inherited beliefs around money and wealth help us as individuals make better decisions when it comes to money?

Professor Anne-Maria Makhulu :1:58

Well, perhaps I'll start with my own experience, which is to say that we're all influenced by the people who come before us. So there are questions about how we think about money in our own lives, and as modelled by the parental, grandparental generation and so on. For my part, I think that [I] probably was raised in a household where money was certainly not unimportant, but it also wasn't the driving factor, the driving motivation. I think that I was probably ill-prepared for the world of work insofar as most people associate work, employment with compensation. So I may not have made the kinds of decisions that would have most advanced the project of wealth accumulation. Let's put it that way. I think that's probably true for a lot of people. So even as young women increasingly enter the workforce in ways that perhaps 2, 3, 4 generations ago was not the case. It may very well be that they have a mother or they may have other female relatives who they regard as role models, who may have had a slightly different trajectory in terms of their relationship to the idea of work and compensation.

Nicole :3:28

Anne-Maria, I like your point there about those who come before us are deliberately and subliminally shaping the path and paths that we end up taking in our own lives. In your experience, and maybe what you've observed in your studies, how do some of those traditional economic forces and to an extent gender roles, hold women back and also women of different backgrounds, ethnicities, races. How does that play out?

Professor Anne-Maria Makhulu :4:04

So it isn't to say that women aren't in touch with money. I mean, if I think about my own work in South Africa, now over the period of 20 years, mostly in Cape Town, but increasingly also in the city of Johannesburg, and originally research that focused primarily on very, very poor households in the city of Cape Town. Ironically, it was women. And in fact, it continues to be women who are very much in touch with household budgets. So then managing money, but then managing money in a context of scarcity. They may also not be primary breadwinners, though that's not exclusively the case. So their relationship to money is perhaps a relationship of scarcity, of budgeting, of management, of trying to get money to last, usually over a 12 month period. So I think one has to distinguish between the degree to which women are probably rather good at managing money. And whether they have a lot of it, right there's those two things are different. So it goes without saying that in probably most societies and certainly the society that we're all familiar with, whether in the UK or the US, women in the past, have tended to, I would argue, work, but in the home. And that kind of work, what feminists regard as being affective labour or care work has historically not been remunerated. The domestic sphere, the household is understood as somehow sitting outside the formal marketplace. And of course in the 1970s, particularly in North America, and in Western Europe, feminists really started to rail against this distinction between the domestic or household sphere as against the sphere of ostensibly productive work in a formal marketplace. As you saw in the 1970s, feminists arguing, for wages for housework, to really highlight that what was going on in the home shouldn't be distinguished from what was going on, supposedly out there, in the formal marketplace. We've obviously moved on from those kinds of conversations. And in fact, the struggle for wages for housework really ultimately dissipated with women entering the workforce in larger and larger numbers in the 1980s. You know, think Dolly Parton than nine to five, that whole sort of popular cultural expression of that transition But I think as is obvious, it's fairly clear for all that women entered the formal marketplace and the world of formal remunerated work, many of them continued to also do the lion's share of non-remunerated work in the household. So, this goes back to my observation that for young women, today say in their 20s, and 30s, they very well may have still someone most immediately related to them, whether a mother or grandmother who has operated on that sort of model. That's the first thing I'll say. The second thing I'll say is that, for all that women have entered the workplace in larger and larger numbers, how they are remunerated, even within the formal marketplace tends to be different from the ways that men might be remunerated. So there are all sorts of assumptions about well, if you have children to care for and you continue to be the person who really manages the private household, maybe you need a flexible job, or a part time job, or a contract job or a contingent job. And these, of course, are forms of employment that tend to go less well remunerated. And this is why the conversation has really moved from the decade of the 70s through the decade of the 1980s into the 90s and 2000s into a conversation about first, the feminization of work, but also the feminization of poverty. So those two things meaning that yeah, there are more and more women working actually all over the world, mostly in service industry occupations, but those tend to be the kinds of occupations that are on the lowest rungs of the economy. And so consequently, that women work a great deal doesn't equate with earning a great deal.

Sophie :9:08

Your first point there around unpaid and emotional labour. Has society and the economy evolved to recognise this more formally?

Professor Anne-Maria Makhulu :9:19

Well, I suppose one can go to the example that I think a lot of people like to track out, which is Sheryl Sandberg's invocation of leaning in, a few years ago. So Sheryl Sandberg at Facebook, and then subsequently her book, Leaning In. And the problem with that, which I think is fairly obvious at this point is that her socioeconomic or class status is radically different from all the other kinds of people who let's just take Facebook as one example, work at Facebook. So the women who work at Facebook, we're speaking of people from other folk in the C suite, to middle managers to coders, probably to contract workers of various sorts. And then of course, service employees who are doing things like working night shifts to clean Facebook headquarters, right, whether in Silicon Valley or in Seattle. That invocation of just you know, just lean in, just basically do it all, is an uneven proposition across all of those different occupations for women. So you can think of the kind of iconic or ideal, typical example of a woman who works for Facebook in Silicon Valley in the Bay Area. Maybe she's a service worker. She works that job at Facebook. Maybe she has a second job, right? She's also negotiating being the primary caregiver in her household. And so leaning in is just, I mean, it's literally a practical impossibility.

Sophie :11:18

I wonder if part of the problem is that she has learned to be a woman in a very masculinized world, and not necessarily bringing in and playing on her feminine characteristics.

Professor Anne-Maria Makhulu :11:35

Yeah, I mean, of course, we don't want to psychologize her too much. But when I could well imagine that perhaps she spent a lot of her life holding her breath. Right? And so I think for women who are probably Generation X, I imagine that's what she is, sort of coming of professional age in the 90s. That was the generation by and large, women who found themselves having to try to do it all, and coming away realising with some few exceptions that really it's not possible, but certainly tried very, very hard to be both all things to all people in the professional workplace, and all things to all people in the home. I think there's been a shift in the last 10, 20 years to, by and large, acknowledging that was really a failed project from the start.

Sophie :12:35

And when you when you talk about these different generations, I look at my grandma, she's a baby boomer, that whole generation like we talked about before fought a lot for a woman's rights and for changing some of these social constructs that they were brought up in, like just being a housewife, etc, really taking that higher education and starting to enter the workforce. And then you have Gen X that try to your point, maybe do it all. And it was a slightly failed project. What are we seeing around the millennials and Gen Z as it relates to some of these feminist movements and belief systems that we are adopting?

Professor Anne-Maria Makhulu :13:17

So obviously there have been tremendous strides. And the very fact that we're having this conversation suggests that they've been tremendous strides, right? We see people in the workplace who are also women. You see women CEOs, although they're fewer a number, of course, people at the very top of, say, corporate life, in my case, university life. There are certainly senior administrators and university presidents who are women, and in the medical and legal professions and so on. And certainly there are conversations too, about women charting out a course for themselves without feeling that they have to rely on others for things like earnings or money and so on. And there's certainly a conversation about the earnings gap. But the earnings gap hasn't been closed. So, of course, in every historical moment, that there are certain conversations that can be put on the table as a wonderful thing. But the next thing that has to happen is that we have to close the gap between the 83 cents on the dollar, that certainly women in the US earn by and large. But the conversation is a starting point for


Nicole :14:45

Yeah, and Anne-Maria, you're absolutely right, leaning in of itself is a privilege. If you are time poor or have a certain socioeconomic status to your point, that's just not as possible. This point actually just reminds me that closing the gender wealth gap, of course has to be intersectional. And we talk a lot about that here at the podcast, we're very aware that the three of us... we benefit from white privilege, we benefit from cultural privilege, right, given that we've all gone to university. While some of us don't come from high socioeconomic backgrounds. Now we have well paying jobs, and we know money will be in our bank account every month. So we have privilege. And I guess my question to you Anne-Maria is, from what you've observed, and in your research, where are those with privilege effectively spending it to elevate others and strive for equality? And conversely, where is that breaking down?

Professor Anne-Maria Makhulu :15:51

So let me take a stab at it, which is that I sort of think about politics, which I think in part this is, or about activism or about a given cause or an issue. A bit like a leaky ship, you sail out with the intention of establishing gender equality. And then your gender ship springs a leak. And the leak is that it turns out that all the women on this ship are women, but they're not all of the same socioeconomic status, right? They're not of the same class background. You try and address that. And then your gender ship springs another leak, which is as it turns out that not everyone is the same complexion, and race plus gender plus socioeconomic status or class make for a very uneven playing field, depending on what combination of those things you might be. And we could go on and on with the analogy, not to sort of go down the identitarian rabbit hole, but I think you get the point. So, yes, you mentioned being well educated, having good employment opportunities, good salaries. Even if that were true for all of these women on the ship that keeps on springing another leak, and the next one might have to do with sexual orientation, or whether one is gender conforming or non-conforming, and so on. Let's say everybody has a good job on the gender ship. Regardless of all of those differences and all of those intersections of difference. You would probably find, to take one example, that women who are also women of colour, have a burden to possibly depending on where they come from. Take some portion of their salary and put it back into the household. Not down the generations to people younger, but up the generational ladder to people who are elders. This is very often the case with the work that I do in South Africa that people are generating income or some sort of value that then has to be reinvested in the household at the parental and grand parental generational level. Or it might be, say that someone newly immigrated to a place like Britain is remitting money home to their home country, so that salary, that paycheck is sliced and diced. Or, and I think this is probably one of the larger sort of obstacles to wealth creation is that for many, many people, particularly of colour, particularly people of African descent, historically, for reasons having to do with the legacies of slavery, indenture and so on, and laws that prohibited property ownership for black people. This is certainly the case in South Africa, that there is no mechanism for intergenerational wealth transfer. Because amongst middle class people, generally, the primary mechanism for producing middle class status is inheritance. So when you get that first job in a place like London and the rents are very high, and it's the job you really want, because it's interesting, not so much that it pays very well, right? You're working for a publisher or something like that. The way that you survive is because your parents or your grandparents have been able to perhaps advance some of your inheritance or you had a small trust fund or something like that. So, even when you describe something like good job, good educational opportunities, good salary, it doesn't play out in the same way for all people.

Sophie :20:22

Right, and for people with privilege like Harrison, Nicole and myself, you know, whether it's gender or race or generational advantage, how can we play a bigger part in levelling the playing field?

Professor Anne-Maria Makhulu :20:38

I mean, I guess it depends in what capacity, what are we talking about here? Are we talking about corporate policies? Are we talking about human resources departments? Are we talking about benefits beyond salary? Are we talking about policies of salary equity, rather than wage suppression? Are we talking about training women to be better negotiators? Right? So all the evidence out there suggests that when men go in for an interview, and salary eventually is on the table, they're rather good at making demands. And those demands within limits, of course, are regarded as normal, as routine, as really expected. The literature suggests that when women do that, they're being too demanding, or in fact, they wouldn't dare negotiate. So I think that's one place. I think we realise that once you are locked into a particular salary level, for example, most employers when you switch jobs, want information about what your prior salary was. I always say, but surely that's extraneous to the current conversation, what I earned before has no bearing on what I should be earning now, right? But these are some of the logics at work that reinforce the sort of 83 cents on the male dollar logic. It might be that there are other forms of compensation that could be afforded women, minorities, minority women, etc, etc. To enable them to in a sense catch up. I'm not in the business of writing policy or thinking about policy so much, but just in my own experience. There are things in my own occupation that are benefits that are extensively gender neutral, but that actually benefit male employees, disproportionately, I would argue I'll give you one example. So most top tier universities in the US anyway, afford employees some form of tuition relief for children, so children of faculty, the children, of administrators, the children of facilities workers and so on. And that's usually tied to a kind of network of sister peer schools, where the children of faculty, children of administrators, and so on, could attend at college age. The reality is that male faculty don't actually have children. It's their partners, our children, which is to say in in heteronormative family arrangements. So those male faculty de facto benefit from the fact of being able to have families. I don't know the numbers, but not all male faculty are with partners or spouses who are also academics. But it would seem that most male faculty have children, women faculty, for reasons having to do with the somewhat delayed maturation in career, in academia. Women faculty are less likely to have children. For all the reasons we talked about at the beginning of this podcast having to do with who carries some or a disproportionate amount of the care work and has to carve out a career as a researcher, as a teacher, as an administrator, and so on. So, this is, of course, a very small sample, but in my own department, we have about 50% fertility. And those who don't have children are disproportionately female faculty. So we don't benefit from the tuition relief. So what sort of benefit, could we benefit from, instead? I think that goes actually, right to the heart of some of the questions you're asking about wealth creation for women.

Sophie :25:43

Right, it definitely puts into question a lot of these social constructs that we move around in. And I think one of the things that I'm sitting here reflecting on is really just whether capitalism in its form today in the US and in the UK whether that's really tailored to benefit women in any kind of way. I've recently read a very interesting study, which I think was by Stanford where they looked at attitudes of women in China, who grew up under the communist regime, where gender equality was very much emphasised. And they compared it to the attitudes of those who grew up during the post-1978 reform era and in capitalist Taiwan. And it found that those exposed to the strong messages of gender equality, even if it was for a short period of time, were much more competitively inclined versus a woman that hadn't been exposed to these really strong messages of gender equality.

Professor Anne-Maria Makhulu :26:53

Yeah, I often think about my Danish colleagues and friends who somewhat similarly, I mean, of course Denmark is what a social democratic country right? And, also Denmark has a free market, free market economy. But there are things about having a strong social safety net, that make a big difference on gender grounds, perhaps not so much on racial grounds. As my colleagues, they like to remind me it all looks very nice from the perspective of gender, but from the perspective of immigration, and therefore race, and questions of religious difference, not so much. But just on the question of gender. I look at these friends and colleagues of mine and in one particular instance and the choices that one of the women made about her ability to have the career she wanted to have, her ability to make decisions about the family she wanted to have. And those two things were not in tension for her. Why? Because the Danish state provides 365 days a year of free quality childcare. That was one reason, that's a certain kind of benefit. Of course, taxes are very high and so on. But she was able to make decisions about what would fulfil her as a person, what would compensate her financially and what would feed the soul in a way of having a family? Those three things were not mutually exclusive of one another. So, yeah, perhaps ideology has something to do with it. Perhaps the kind of economy that one is looking at has something to do with it or perhaps it has to do with the state that sees as part of its responsibility to its citizenry, that there should be a social safety net.

Sophie :29:07

Yeah, I sometimes wonder why I moved out of Denmark, especially when you bring up all these great points. I think there's also one small additional factor in that Denmark is a very, very small country. And for them to survive on a global scale with globalisation, they can't really afford to overlook this part of the workforce. So, they have to provide structures where women can thrive, or that economy to be sustaining and continue to innovate at the rate that they've been very successful with.

Nicole :29:41

Yeah, and this has me thinking about the UK, in particular, and I'm going back a little bit to Anne-Maria, your point around inheritance and generational wealth. So some of our global listeners might not realise but in the UK, you know, where the aristocracy is still very much alive. When you buy a flat in London under what they call a leasehold, you're actually just leasing it from the nobility who still owns that land for 999 years or something like that. And when I first learned that it really struck me as absurd. So Anne-Maria, in your research and observations, why is you know, a, frankly, feudal structure like that still around?

Professor Anne-Maria Makhulu :30:29

Well, that's another podcast. I mean, of course, it's about self interest and self interest is so powerful. Look, you know, one could talk about what is the ideological power of the right to private property? That's what you're really talking about. If you think about it for a long time, it sounds absurd. How can a person or a family owns something that will outlive them? Right 99 year leases or 999 year leases. So the notion that a thing is still around long after all those people are gone. And yet, it's that thing that mobilises people to behave themselves in a certain way. This has to do with self interest. I mean, I guess, in short, the question could be what are we talking about when we say wealth? Are we talking about retirement portfolios, which for most people are contingent on monthly contributions from paychecks pre tax? Well, that's kind of a form of wealth creation, and those who get to do it are very fortunate. But when you talk about wealth in the sense of property leased to temporary owners by really big landowners, for example. Now, that's wealth. And so the world is increasingly divided into those who own, as in ownership and those who earn, as in earnings. And there is no way for people who wealth create, so to say, through earnings to catch up with those who have established streams of revenue of wealth through ownership.

Nicole :32:39

It's certainly our mission at the podcast to close that gap between earning and owning that you mentioned. And really thinking about wealth drivers beyond earning. And I think what's been really great about this discussion Anne-Maria is that you're helping us understand the barriers and historical structures that are in place that will make that hard. And that's critical because until we understand those, we won't be able to stop consciously participating in them. It strikes me, you know, I think a lot of what is underneath what we're talking about here is, frankly, some scepticism around capitalism in its current form, and that might be unusual to say in a money and wealth podcast. But it does have me thinking that way.

Sophie :33:28

Feminism... does that have anti-capitalistic roots? At its core?

Professor Anne-Maria Makhulu :33:34

Well, it depends on which branch.

Nicole :33:36

That's true. Which wave? I think you could say capitalism has patriarchal roots. And that's the problem.

Professor Anne-Maria Makhulu :33:45

Yeah. So in the interest of full disclosure, the story that one could tell, which is an anti-capitalist, anti-patriarchal, anti-private property story. Which is not quite the same thing as saying one is a feminist is about why human societies evolve to a point where the predominant arrangement is a family, at least in appearance, monogamous, in appearance monogamous, attached to an interest in ownership of private property. So, this was the argument that Karl Marx's lifetime collaborator Friedrich Engels. This was the argument he was making in a little book called The Origins of the Family Private Property in the State. So, yes, there is a sense within one intellectual strand, one intellectual tradition that capitalism and patriarchy really go hand in hand which has less to do with whether it has to do with men and women, but to do with patriarchy, which of course is a certain kind of system of power and informs gender relations and arrangements. But there are many kinds of feminisms, there's Marxist feminism, there's those 1970s feminists that I mentioned at the beginning of this podcast, were proud primarily white and middle class. And black womanism, particularly in the United States actually pushed back against those arguments relating to housework. It was black feminists in the 1970s who were saying you know what, I would really love to go home and look after my own children. I have no problem with being at home. So you know Betty for Dan and her Feminine Mystique and all of that, it's not ringing true with me or resonating with me because I don't want to have to go and work for other people's households anymore to look after their children. I want to look after my own, there are many different feminisms.

Nicole :36:30

And it just makes me think of your analogy or metaphor rather back to the ship. It's almost as if we had all talked to each other, before we started building the ship and taking a more intersectional approach. The ship probably would have made the journey.

Sophie :36:46

Less cracks.

Nicole :36:46

Yeah, something like that.

Professor Anne-Maria Makhulu :36:47

Something like that. Yeah. Yeah.

Nicole :36:51

Anne-Maria, thank you so much for your time today. We really appreciated your reflections on the history of gender capitalism, the structures in place that make it hard and what we can do to improve things. What is your I also statement?

Professor Anne-Maria Makhulu :37:09

Well, it's sort of nonspecific, but it says it's all. So hashtag I also am complicit.

Sophie :37:19


Nicole :37:20

That might be our best I also.

Sophie :37:23

And we've heard a lot.

Nicole :37:24

And we've heard a lot now, thinking back on our other interviews, so...

Sophie :37:29

Thank you so much Anne-Maria, for being here today with us.

Professor Anne-Maria Makhulu :37:32

You're very welcome.

Nicole :37:33

Thank you, Anna-Maria. Learned a lot. Fascinating. Thank you.

Professor Anne-Maria Makhulu :37:37

Thank you.

Nicole :37:38

Thank you for listening. If you like what you're hearing, join us in the I ALSO movement. This means take to your social platforms and post a hashtag I ALSO statement, follow us on Instagram at IALSOpodcast and of course, subscribe. This podcast is co-produced by Harrison Comfort and the theme tune is by Malin Linnea.

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