Did you know that confidence is shaped at the age of 5?
And did you know that money habits are set by the age of 7?
Those 2 facts were the starting point of Mara’s books journey.
Pushing my baby girl’s stroller into a nice café in Zurich, I recall my first encounter with Mara Catherine Harvey.
I first met her at the Lean In conference in Zurich. She was one of the keynote speakers of a very inspiring conference. Her topic, however, was not only an inspiring story, but rather a wake-up call for all of us – “When a pay gap leads you down an unexpected path” . The gender pay gap begins early- way earlier than we thought: it starts with pocket money. Myself, as many other women in the audience, were stupefied. How can it be that the parents are the first ones who are creating the gender pay gap?
Mara Harvey has published the first two of a series of four children’s books: “A Smart Way to Start” and “A Smart Way to Save”, which are both books that are helpful for exploring financial confidence for children in a very simple way. Both of these books are wonderfully illustrated by Mariajo Ilustrajo. The stories explain important notions of working and earning money, equal pay, financial confidence, and sustainability. The books are a parent-child guide around one of the most crucial topic in life, often kept as a taboo in many families: money.
Placing my little baby between us, I ask my first burning question: why did a wealth manager working in a big bank decide to write children books?
In her 19 years’ work experience, Mara has always been very engaged in gender equality, and she actively supported initiatives to give women the inspiration to grow professionally during her career. A decade ago, her professional path led her through take on an HR position where she saw first-hand the gender gaps and lack of diversity in the financial world.
Mara: “The lack of cultural diversity inside a company also reflects the lack of diversity while dealing with its clients,”
she says, referring to the fact the male dominated financial word could do better to understand their female clients, currently underserved. There is a lot more work to be done and a broad opportunity to be grasped.
In 2018 Mara published Women and Risk (Nicolai Publishing & Intelligence GmbH), and while researching for this essay in 2017, she discovered that the gender pay gap starts with pocket money. (check here, here and here for more information ).
One day in January of 2018, while watching a live stream from the Equality Lounge in Davos, by Shelley Zalis, CEO of The Female Quotient, Mara had her “Aha!!” moment: confidence starts at the age of 5, and so does financial confidence.
M: “I understood in that moment that if we want to have a conversation about gender pay gaps and gender equality in general, we need to start discussing it with our children at a very early age.”
Inspired and motivated by that, she decided to write a children’s book explaining the notion of equal pay and financial confidence. Being a mother, she knew that the book needed to be interesting for the parents, because at the end of the day, who is buying and reading the book to our children? Exactly – it’s us, the parents.
While Mara describes to me the moment she started to write and the flow she was in, I recognize that energy. I experienced the same feelings while writing my own book.
M: “I knew what I wanted to say, I knew what the problems were, and I knew how to solve them” she said determinate.
After her first version was born, she gave it to her 12 year old daughter. To Mara’s surprise, she says:
“ Mum, I don’t speak bank” and then “ Mum, I really don’t see the problem: why would a girl earn less?”.
The first comment was easier to acknowledge and to fix: she needed to simplify the script. The second one, however, was way more profound.
M: “We all seem to be unaware of the problem. If our girls don’t see the problem, they wouldn’t ask for their rights. And boys need to know that it is not okay to be paid more only because they are boys. The responsibility to raise conscious children is on us- the parents.”
Mara’s words are crystal clear and make my mind go into full speed.
Looking at my little girl playing with a plastic spoon, I ask myself if when she is 30 years old, will she still discuss gender equality with her friends? Will she still need to be engaged and fight for women’s rights, or she will see this as an obsolete topic? Will she enter the workforce confident that the way her employer will treat her is the same as for her brother?
I realize that raising our children into becoming conscious global citizen is one of the keys for a world of equality. Every parent should have gender equality very high in their education agenda, as much as well-behaved, well-nourished and environmentally conscious kids.
Continuing our discussion, Mara tells me the future steps of her books. She wants to explore all dimensions around money and ethics for children, and her mission is to do it in a playful way with her books.
M: “Not only do I care about financial confidence in children, I strongly believe we need to teach our kids to spend their money consciously. The concepts of saving, investing and donating money are very important. Since money habits are shaped at the age of 7, we need to talk about those concepts very early in life.”
Before finishing our interview, Mara gives my little girl a lovely gift: a piggy bank! And not a random one, but a very conscious and lovely concept from Kinder-Cash. And she reminds me:
M: “Because money is not just a transmission of value, it’s a transmission of values.”
I leave our cafe meeting full of thoughts, reflections, and ideas for my blog, but only one mission in my mind: read Mara’s books to my children and start teaching them financial confidence.
Meet Mara Harvey, another working mother who wants to help parents to raise socially conscious children, thanks to her children’s books.