About the Author
Mara Catherine Harvey
I live in the beautiful city of Zurich, Switzerland, with my two children Timothy and Tyler.
I am passionately driven by two strong beliefs: that we cannot wait another 100+ years to see economic gender equality come to life, and that daily financial decisions are the most untapped source of positive social change.
These convictions are at the heart of my stories.
Over the past two decades, my work in the financial industry led me to explore the profound differences in the ways men and women approach wealth. Very often women feel less financially confident than men in managing money. Research shows that money messages are biased and this bias starts at very young age. Indeed, little girls tend to get less pocket money than little boys, so there is a gender pay gap already at a very early age. This needs to change. Little girls need to know that there is no reason they should earn less than a boy for the same job equally well done. So I decided to find a playful way to convey important money messages around equality, earning, saving, spending and sustainability to young children, and to girls in particular. And voilà, four stories on financial confidence for children came to life.
In a very simple yet compelling way, the stories explain important notions of equal pay, financial confidence, sustainability and impact. My hope is that the next generation of children will no longer associate money with power, competition and greed – but rather with positive notions of equality, ethics and environmental impact.
Because money is not just a transmission of value:
it’s a transmission of values.
How the books came to life
It was a comment by Shelley Zalis, CEO of The Female Quotient, during a live stream from the Equality Lounge in Davos at the World Economic Forum 2018, that sparked the beginning of my writing. Shelley said “Oh the places you’ll go…with financial confidence”, taking reference to the famous book by Dr. Seuss. I suddenly knew what I had to do: I needed fun rhymes for little girls to become financially confident.
So armed with passion, sudden inspiration and years of joyful experiences reading rhymed stories to my children (I think I enjoyed those books even more than they did!), I set out to put pen to paper – or rather thumbs to iPhone Notes. The stories came gushing out, as if they were just waiting to be unleashed. Each of the four stories is in rhyme, with approximately 1100 words (less than 10 minutes to read), across 32 pages with high quality watercolour illustrations by my wonderful partner, Mariajo Ilustrajo.
My daughter Tyler gave precious feedback along the way reminding me again and again that “she does not speak Bank”, and that any financial jargon had to be eliminated radically, so money messages would be understandable for children! She was a constant reminder of how the financial industry has alienated so many women and girls with its jargon, and how important it is to change this.
I am a senior manager at UBS Switzerland AG and have been with the bank for over 18 years. I head the Global Ultra High Net Worth wealth management businesses across Germany, Austria and Italy as well as the UK and Northern Europe teams in Switzerland. I speak four languages (English, Italian, French and German) fluently and I have held various positions in Switzerland and in Germany in wealth management, spanning risk transformation & capital management, strategy & organisational design, human resources, business development, sales management, client development and holistic advisory of UHNW clients.
Alongside my “day job”, I spent the last four years bringing to life and leading a groundbreaking global initiative to advance gender equality in finance and better serve female clients. This marked the beginning of my commitment to female economic and financial empowerment, by pledging to increase the financial confidence of women and girls everywhere across the globe. Together with my amazing team we quantified for the first time the impact of a gender pay gap on wealth creation over a life time. It was not a pretty picture: a 10% pay gap can result in a 40% wealth gap in retirement. Armed with this knowledge, we set out to develop new ways to increase female financial confidence and make gender equality investible. We successfully channelled over 100 million Swiss francs of investment and philanthropic capital to SDG 5 – the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. As board member of the UBS Optimus Foundation in Germany, I am also able to contribute to the improvement of health, education and protection for the world’s most vulnerable children.
My background is in economics and I hold a doctorate with highest honours in Political Economy from Fribourg University, and a degree in economic policy and econometrics.
I am an active advocate for female economic empowerment and equality, as well as multilingualism and integration, and I am a frequent speaker at international conferences.
In addition to my books on financial confidence for kids, I have authored a book on economic gender equality, “Women and Risk”, published in October 2018 by Nicolai Publishing & Intelligence, Berlin. It is part of a set of 6 books on Economies of the Future.
This book explains why being a woman in 2018 is still a disadvantage. Looking at global statistics, the hurdles are no longer voting rights, or access to property and to education. They are subtle and more complex, exposing women to wider risks than ever before. The essay focuses on the economic gender gap and explores one of the root causes for it’s stubborn persistence: women’s access to capital. What risks do women face in light of biased money messages which perpetuate the false perception that men are better at making money and managing money? To de-bias the male connotation of money, we must first overcome the masculine perception of risk. And running out of money before running out of life is a real risk for many women…