Category Archives for "News"

August 4, 2020

17 Sustainable Development Goals


For this post, I will be ​discussing a topic that goes beyond financial parenting, but which is so significant today that it impacts in many ways our efforts to educate children on money. I’d like to acquaint you, or for those who already know these...reacquaint you, with an important aspect of sustainability: the 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations.

Many people have heard about the goals and some might be quite familiar with them. Few, however, know them by heart. What are the 17 SDGs and why is it important to know them in detail? Their significance for the future of our planet and of humankind is tremendous. These SDGs were crafted to help preserve and conserve the planet for generations to come. So, in the end, it will be our children and our children’s children who will benefit from this. If we fail to achieve them, our very way of life is at threat. This is why I warmly encourage you to include the SDGs in your financial parenting and your child’s education. 

The summary below gives you a short overview and we encourage you to learn more, read more, and ultimately share these Goals with your kids so that they grow up sustainably minded. We have even published a poem on the SDGs, so kids can learn them by heart, like the alphabet. It’s easy and it’s fun:

Our big news? In September we are launching book 5 of the Smart Way To Start series, and will be all about the 17 SDGs.

What are the SDGs?

The SDGs are short for the Sustainable Development Goals. It is a 17 part blueprint adopted by all United Nations member states in 2015 as part of The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The SDGs divide global issues into 17 different goals that allow tackling one specific aspect of sustainability.

Here’s a list of all 17 Sustainable Development Goals and a quick explanation of what each Goal aims to accomplish.

  1. No Poverty - End poverty in all its forms everywhere
  2. Zero Hunger - End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture
  3. Good Health and Well-Being - Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
  4. Quality Education - Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
  5. Gender Equality - Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
  6. Clean Water and Sanitation - Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
  7. Affordable and Clean Energy - Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all
  8. Decent Work and Economic Growth - Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment, and decent work for all.
  9. Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure - Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization, and foster innovation.
  10. Reduced Inequalities - Reduce inequality within and among countries
  11. Sustainable Cities and Communities - Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable
  12. Responsible Consumption and Production - Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
  13. Climate Action - Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
  14. Life Below Water - Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas, and marine resources for sustainable development
  15. Life on Land - Protect, restore, and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss
  16. Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions - Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable, and inclusive institutions at all levels
  17. Partnerships for The Goals - Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development

*The descriptions of each SDG were taken directly from the UN’s page on Sustainable Development Goals:

Why Should We Care About The 17 Sustainable Development Goals?

Well, it’s simple. 

As humans living on this planet, we have a duty to take care of it. As humans co-living with other humans, we have a duty to help advance humanity as a whole. Humanity cannot advance as long as there are people left behind. We all have to work towards these goals, together.

As parents, we have to do our part in making sure that the planet our kids grow up into will continue to remain a beautiful one for many many years to come! Through the framework provided by SDGs, we are guided on how we can all continue -- in big or small ways -- to contribute to better ​the planet ​and humanity. As parents, it’s also our job to impart these Goals to our children so they can grow up to be planet-caring and sustainably-minded adults.

How Should You Start and What Do You Do After?

Well, the fact that you’ve read this far means you’ve already started! Arming yourself with the right knowledge is always a good start. Awareness is the first step. Talking about is the next one. And then find ways to put the learnings into action. 

Here are some small tips on what to do :

  1. Sharing your newfound knowledge

Become an advocate for the SDGs, with your children, your families and your friends.  Keep on learning and keep on reading and then share what you know with the people around you. Start with the adults first, as it is very engaging to have discussions and discourses with people who are equally passionate about our planet. I’ll discuss to you how you can teach the SDGs and Sustainability to kids further below.

  1. Practising what you learned 

You don’t have to go into extremes like opening your own nonprofit or donating huge sums of money to NGOs. Not everyone has the resources to do so. You can start small -- the sum of many little gestures can have a huge impact. For example, segregating your trash at home, choosing to patronise brands that support sustainable manufacturing processes, or choosing to support local produce thereby lessening the carbon footprint of your products. It can even be something as small as changing your search browser to ​Ecosia to help reforestation or donating a small amount of money to your favourite charity or organization. 

  1. Teaching the young

There’s no better way to practice sustainability than by teaching good practices to the young. After all, sustainability is also about being able to future proof the planet. What better way to do so than by teaching the next generation the best way to care for it?

The fourth book of my A Smart Way series called  A Smart Choice To Make. ​It’s all in rhymes, with wonderful illustrations that outline how nature is currently endangered by some companies’ bad practices. It’s important that children learn how every single money choice they make, whenever they buy something, can impact this world. And if we purchase mindfully, we can have a strong positive impact on the world! 

As mentioned above, I am also working on releasing book 5, that specifically discusses the 17 Sustainable Development Goals and breaks it down for kids in an easy-to-read language. In the meanwhile, we hope you enjoy our poem and taking your first steps in learning more about the SDGs.

If you’d like to know when the book would be released, I highly recommend that you subscribe to my Monthly Money Tips newsletter so that you can be updated with that’s going on in Marty’s World!

Teaching Kids Money: The Right Way

Two Girls Doing Schoolwork - A Smart Way To Start by Mara Catherine Harvey

I came across a recently published article by the Bank of England on how to teach kids financial education.

If you’d like to read the article, you can  click here.

Here are some important points that the article discusses:

  • According to research done, only about a quarter (27%) of kids in the UK enjoy learning about money at school.
  • Three things that kids said would make learning about money fun are jokes and funny stuff, games, and using “real” money in “real” situations.
  • Girls were less likely (19%)  to enjoy learning about money than boys (34%.)

So here are my opinions on this.

We should not relegate ​financial education to the schools -- it should start with us parents, and at home.

I applaud that schools are trying to include money and financial responsibility in their curriculum. It’s definitely an important topic to talk about, and it needs to be a conversation that spans the entire educational curriculum. However, we cannot expect that the full burden of educating our kids about money falls to them.

As we all know, a child’s first school is the home and the parents are the first teachers. We need to be proactive in educating our kids about proper money habits because these habits are largely set before children even start school. You don’t have to sit your kids down and give them a lecture on it. You can educate them by just continuing to do what you do: when you shop, when you make spending or saving choices, or when you go to the bank. The key is to make these actions visible and engage the children in money moments, carefully explaining to them why you do such things. To teach kids about financial education is also about making sure that money moments are visible.

If you’d like to learn how to start teaching your kids about money at home,  check my blog post here.

Jokes about money are not appropriate. Games that include instances where fake money is easy to accumulate do not teach kids the most valuable money skills.

To teach kids about financial education, I understand that we have to make learning about money more engaging for kids. Because if kids are bored or if they don’t enjoy things, they will never make an effort to understand what we are teaching them. However, I don’t agree with the idea that jokes about money would be desirable to help teach kids about it.

Money is a serious matter and if we start to make jokes about it, then its value will not be taken seriously. We have to be aware of the kind of values we impart with our kids when it comes to money. If we want our kids to take money seriously, then we should always take it seriously as well.

There are constructive and fun ways to discuss the importance of money without devaluing it. With that in mind, I also don’t recommend the use of fake money with fake jobs or digital games, because it dampens the idea that money is hard to earn. Kids need to grow up with the idea that earning money takes time and real effort.

I ​believe there are ways to make learning about money fun. You can gamify some of the nonessential household chores if kids want to earn extra money. In addition, you can turn family moments into money moments by asking kids for help in adding up the total, counting change, etc.

Money can be fun, but it’s not a joke.

We need to make an extra effort to encourage girls, in particular, to learn about money. This means that we have to make money something engaging and understandable for them.

We know from abundant research sources that there are too few girls in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). The same buses that make girls shy away from maths are the one that makes them shy away from finance. We need to change their overall mindset about math and money. It needs to be seen as something that girls are good at - and just as good at as the boys! 

Additionally, we need to want to talk about money with kids, and particularly with girls. Kids can get disengaged with money if adults brush them off when they ask about it. Adults sometimes shoo kids away from money and brand it as “adult-stuff”. This, in turn, alienates kids from any money moments and learning opportunities because they are tuned out.

We have to change that mindset.

We have to make topics on money and finances visible and inclusive to kids so that it becomes a part of their upbringing. As parents, we have to be the one to adjust to them and help them understand. We have to be patient as they begin to learn about important things how it fits into the world. We can’t delay the kids’ learning on money just because we think they’re too young for such things. Waiting for them to go to school to learn all about is simply too late.

Remember, the more we delay them learning about financial responsibility, the harder it will be to correct the misconceptions they carry as they grow up. We have to teach kids about financial education as easy as possible. Money habits are largely formed by the age of 7. So imagine how many good habits will be formed if you initiate them on money matters with A Smart Way To Start when they are younger.

Start Early to teach kids about Financial Education with A Smart Way To Start

This is where my books -- the A Smart Way series -- really can make a difference. You see, I wanted to make finances and money conversations inclusive, engaging and fun for all, parents and kids alike. So I turned difficult concepts like money, chores, allowances, savings, spending, and sustainability to simple words and fun rhymes!

I worked with an amazing illustrator, Mariajo, who helped me bring Marty’s money world to life. Her amazing watercolour illustrations helped bring more character, colour, and fun, into the books, too.

Have a sneak peek of the whole series and see how I’ve turned Marty’s world into a relatable, fun, and educational money story for kids!

 I’m giving away a copy of the first book for FREE! My goal is to educate as many little girls and boys on money matters as early as possible! Click here to get the digital copy or click here to sign up and get the physical copy.

And while we educate children about money, we educate  them about equality and sustainability, too. Because for us at Smart Way To Start, money is not just a transmission of value, it’s a transmission of values.

My Innovating Advice: Develop Women’s Financial Confidence

I was fortunate enough be invited as guest speaker on Kate Holmes’ Innovating Advice podcast. I got to talk about my advocacy for women's financial confidence and the risks women face in wealth and finance. 

My advocacy on gender and pay equality came to be when I realised that women face a lot of long term financial risks due to their specific life circumstance. On one of my previous blog posts, I discussed the inherent risks of being a woman and the lack of women's financial confidence.

A simulation of women’s wealth accumulation over a lifetime showed shocking numbers. A pay gap of only 10% ( all else equal) could lead to a wealth gap of approximately 40% between a man and a woman! 

To give you an idea of pay gaps in the EU, here are the numbers:

  • The country with the lowest pay gap as of 2019 is Romania at 3.5%.
  • The country with the highest pay gap as of 2019 is Estonia at 25.6%.
  • The EU average as of 2019 is at 16.0%.    

If you'd like to read more about this. You can access the fact sheet from the European Commission here.

Women ​Sell Themselves Short

Further research shows that 8 out of 10 women believe their financial capabilities and knowledge are lower than their partners'. 6 in 10 women shy away from long term financial responsibility due to lack of financial confidence. In short, Women underestimate themselves and their capabilities.There is a lack of women's financial confidence.

My reaction to his research is simple: unless your partner would have a degree in finance, there is little reason to believe that they are inherently more savvy in long term financial matters. This is a perception gap that we really have to close.

Women are perfectly capable of managing short term financial matters, monthly budgets and household expenses. Trust me when I say this part of finance is far more time and energy consuming than long term financial planning. So if you’re already doing the hard part, why would you not be good enough to do the easy part, too?

To this I would also add a (potentially controversial) comment: if long term financial planning had been a boring chore, I am sure that historically, men would have found reasons to delegate it to the women in the first place. So rest assured that it is the more fun and engaging part of managing money!

Empower Women and Encourage Them To Step Up -- Improve Women's Financial Confidence

If we want to reduce gender inequality, we have to empower fellow women to step up. We have to encourage them to learn and take responsibility when it comes to long term finances. We have to encourage and educate women about how we should perceive our worth, value our time, and plan for our financial futures. ​We need to help develop women's financial confidence so that they can fully take control of their finances and their future. 

The first step I recommend:

IGNORE THE INTIMIDATING FINANCIAL JARGON and the fact that you feel it is too complex to understand. Finance is complex, but the good news is: you don’t need to be an expert to put a robust, long term financial plan in place.

To make an analogy with the medical world: you don’t expect to be knowlegeable yourself in anatomy and medicine before seeking out a cardiologist if you have a heart problem. So why would you expect to have to be knowledgeable in finance before seeing out a trustworthy financial advisory?

All YOU need to focus on is: clarifying your short term, mid term and long term goals. Translating that into a robust financial plan is not so hard once you have found the right advisor. The latter is probably the bigger challenge, especially for many women. How can I find an advisor I can trust, who is not just pushing products at me or charging me for “financial wellness” coaching that I don’t really need to pay for at all? If you’d like to discuss that topic in depth, direct mail me and I’ll be happy to address it in a future newsletter.

Women Are Not "Just A Segment"

Too many banks, financial advisors and event online platforms still tend to treat women simply as a segment to market to.  We women are about 50% of the population and we cannot accept to be an afterthought in their sales processes, designed to meet the needs and expectations of men. We have the right to expect a value proposition that is tailored to our needs: to the language we feel comfortable with, to the level of information we seek, to the life circumstances we face, and to the time management challenges we face juggling families and carreers.

From the start, businesses and sales processes need to be developed with women in mind. Whenever they create something -- product, service, platform, etc. - financial services providers need to become more inclusive and ask "Will this appeal to women as much as it will appeal to men?"

On our side, we women need to learn to be more confident in speaking out our needs and wants. We need to put our foot down and know our worth - and if we don’t feel comfortable talking about finances with an advisor who throws jargon at us, WE ARE NOT THE PROBLEM: it is the advisor who needs to adapt to our needs, and not vice versa. Women are the clients. Women don’t need fixing. The system needs fixing, to fully embrace women’s needs and meet their expectations.

Start Early: Empower Girls...And Boys!

As the saying goes: prevention is better than cure.

With that in mind, I encourage that you start teaching your kids about pay equality and financial confidence. It does not matter if they're a boy or a girl! What's important is that you open up these topics and teach them while they are young.

If they grow up aware and practising equality, then they can also become a positive force of change amongst their friendship circles and later on as professionals. After all, it only takes one to start a movement. If you also couple it with a lot of positive reinforcement and examples, then they're sure to grow up fighting for equality!

Once again, fellow parents, this is why I wrote A Smart Way To Start. I realised that only fighting for gender equality in the professional world is not going to be enough. We need to eliminate biases our children unintentionally grow up with. So I tried to break down all those concepts in a way that's easy to understand and to remember -- through rhymes and illustrations.

I do hope you found this helpful as you journey on through parenthood. If you'd like to learn more and read more tips, please subscribe to my Monthly Money Tips newsletter!

My Webinar With SmartPurse: The Importance of Teaching Kids About Money

Last April 21, I had the pleasure of delivering an online webinar hosted by SmartPurse. I was invited to talk about "How To Teach Your Kids About Money" in their Weekly Money Hour session. In this webinar, I got to talk to fellow parents about about the importance of teaching your kids about money. 

I discussed why it's important to introduce kids to the concept of money and savings as early as possible. 

I've worked in finance long enough to see that we need better ways to talk about money, especially to little girls. To tackle the gender pay gaps we still experience in the professional world, we need to equip young girls with the skills to talk about money with confidence. I realised that if we only talk about earning, equality and knowing your worth to adult women and men, we are tackling the problem 20 years too late! 

How so? 

Here are three important research-based facts:

Why It's Important To Start Teaching Your Kids About Money Early

  • Confidence is shaped by the age of 5.

  • Adult money habits are set by the age of 7.

  • Girls can experience pay gaps of 10-30% by the age of 10.

This is why I push for early financial education with kids, girls and boys alike.

The earlier we discuss money and confidence, the earlier we can help children to understand the notions of time-value and equality, and to adopt good money behaviours. Learning relies a lot on concrete actions and routines, so it's essential to start them early. You can incorporate money conversations and negotiation training in their everyday. Negotiating the value of a chore is an important part of learning to know one's worth and speaking up confidently to claim that worth. You can integrate these lessons on everyday things like allowances and chores.

With your guidance, your kids will be able to grow up responsibly, conscious about value, fairness and equality.

After all, it's easier to raise kids with the right habits. Undoing any bad habits they grew up with is so much harder.

The Earlier We Tackle The Problem, The Earlier We Will Solve It

According to the World Economic Forum, it will take about 257 years before we can reach economic gender parity. We cannot wait another 7 generations to close the gap. 

This is why I created A Smart Way To Start.  I want to encourage parents to teach their kids about money, equality and sustainability. If we start these conversations with kids early on, they will grow up and come into the workforce already well-informed. 

Imagine if we multiply these efforts to thousands or hundreds of thousands of families. We will come to a new generation of workforce that is financially-savvy and equality-minded. 

Imagine how pay and workplace equality will be revolutionised when a generation of well-informed children come of age. Imagine how policies and regulations will change when a generation of values-driven youth enter the workforce.

Financial Responsibility Isn't Only About Money, It's Also About Sustainability

When we teach kids about financial responsibility, we are teaching them how their money impacts our world. How it impacts others (fairness and equality) and how impacts our planet (responsible consumption/production and sustainable choices.

Indeed, money is not only a transmission of value, it's a transmission of values. With issues like global warming, unjust work policies, unsustainable business practices, every money decision counts! Teaching your kids about ethical and eco-friendly options lets them know that they have a choice when spending their pennies. Each product they choose to spend their money on will show that kind of practice and policies they support! When we choose consciously, we can have a huge positive impact!

That's how powerful money is.

Be Good Examples

At the end of the day, despite whatever money and sustainability lessons we try to impart to our kids, they won't believe us if we don't practice what we preach. We have to set good examples to our kids.

Let's be more conscious with our with our purchase choices, especially when we're around our kids. And even with our savings and investments, we can chose to steer our money towards more positive impact. This might still be quite an abstract notion for little kids, but as they grow older they will grasp this notion too. In whichever form we give money to companies, whether buying their products or buying their shares, we are supporting the way they do business. 

If we want to raise our kids to be conscious and discerning adults, it has to start from us.

If you'd like to watch the whole webinar, check the video below:

March 17, 2020

My Experience at the World Economic Forum 2020

mara harvey at the world economic forum 2020

In January, I had the pleasure and privilege of becoming a resource speaker at the World Economic Forum in Davos. I participated in the event as an opening keynote speaker for "Primary Futures" in Davos Platz Primary School.  The event gave the children a chance to meet international role models and World Economic Forum delegates. They got to learn more about careers and sustainable development.

In my keynote, I tried to explain to children the importance of sustainable development and financial literacy. I shared with the children the rate at which the world is changing and growing.

The Importance of Sustainable Development

By 2050, there will almost be 10 billion people! That growth is roughly equal to 200,000 people every day. To give the numbers more meaning I explained that this growth means:

  • A new city of Zurich every 3 days (600,000 population)
  • A new city of Davos every 75 minutes (11,000 population)
  • An auditorium of 130 students every minute.

This staggering amount of population growth in a planet with finite resources causes alarm. I explained to the kids that by the time they finish school there will be:

  • A lot more people needing food and water but not having enough land to produce or freshwater available.
  • A lot more people needing clothes (which is the second most pollution producing business after oil.)
  • A lot more people needing healthcare. 
  • A lot more elders (needing specialised care)
  • A lot more people living in cities needing infrastructure
  • A lot more people needing and using up energy and resources
  • A lot more people producing waste!

The Repercussions of Overpopulation

It's important to break down the repercussions of the continuous rise in population. Kids don't understand macro-level world issues yet. So the number of people may seem very abstract because it's also hard to imagine that scale. But if you explain to them what the effects are and how the population rise will affect their entire future, then it becomes serious. You have to explain to them that there will be more people eating the same amount of pie.

If you cannot find a way to reduce the amount of people who will be eating the pie, then you have to find a way to make the pie be enough for the growing number of people wanting to eat it.

We have to make our kids aware because it is their future. As parents, we want them to grow equipped and prepared for the challenges ahead. They are inheriting a world that's over-consuming. As they grow up, they will realise that it is a world full of problems and challenges. They are inheriting an aging society. With medical advancement, life expectancy is rising -- people are living longer due to medical advancements.

But, this also means that the next generation is stepping into a world full of opportunities. The continuous rise of the population coupled with the problems of climate change and irresponsible capitalism is a hotbed for innovation. What's important is that we instill the principles of responsible resource management and smart choices from an early age: Sustainability and Financial Literacy.

A Smart Way to Manage Resources

Learning about Sustainability will help our kids learn how to manage finite (natural) resources. Financial literacy will help our kids smartly manage and allocate financial resources over their lifetime. In a world that is growing despite the finite resources, what's important is that kids learn smart resource management. We need kids to learn how to properly allocate their limited resources to maintain or create the best quality of life for them.

It's about mastering longevity and making sure that the resources they have will be enough for their lifetime. 

We need to empower our kids to start being smart about the way they look at resources early on. It's our responsibility to help them cultivate healthy habits that will allow them to lead a financially smart and consciously sustainable life.


March 8, 2020

Happy International Day of The Woman

international women's day_Smart_Way_to_start
I want to celebrate this International Day of The Woman by acknowledging what we have achieved and what we can still achieve as women. 

This International Day of The Woman, I am celebrating the strength, willpower, and resilience of women all around the world and all the women who came before us: all the advancements we have seen in gender equality in the workplace as well as all the progress we have seen in labour market participation, political participation, in STEM education, in health and in women’s rights across the globe. At the same time, I invite all women to continue to make bold moves and choices that will further empower themselves, their families, their children and their communities - and take more control and ownership over their financial futures.

We are strong, we are worthy and we are capable. We are more than capable of shaping the brighter, diverse, creative and rewarding future that we strive for. 


And together with all the men who are encouraging us, supporting us and teaming up with us along our way. Keep going strong! For ourselves, for all our families, for our daughters and for their daughters and for all the generations to come. 

And we all know that sometimes it’s hard, and some days we feel like giving up, some days we feel it’s unfair, and some days we don’t want to always have to fight. But most days...well, most days it’s GREAT. It’s fun, it’s empowering, it’s encouraging and it’s joyful. Know that we are in this together and that we are making huge strides forwards. Because we dare. 

We are the change-makers, we are the dreamers, we are the doers. We make equality advance. Every time a woman takes a bold step forward, we all rise. 

In order to empower more women to reach their potential, we have to start young. We have to start with the girls. A Smart Way To Start helps girls prepare to enter the workforce on equal terms by helping them to know their worth, empowering them to talk about their pay, and guiding them to becoming savvy in managing their spending and savings.

As they become more and more independent and confident with their money decisions, they’ll also learn that every money decision in life is an expression of values: an opportunity to impact our world positively. 

So let’s raise our glass to an equal future and to the rise of girls in every nation. They are our hope. They are our future: the next wave of women who will rock this world, and may the whole world dance to their music! 

Happy Women’s Day!

March 2, 2020

Women’s Disadvantages in the Workplace

dr. mara harvey

I had another interview with Vivamost where I talked about another issue close to my heart: the challenges faced by women at work. I know that there are already efforts to reduce gender inequality women’s disadvantages in the workplace. But I believe that we still have a long way to go.

Inequality and imbalance in the workplace often begin with imbalances between unpaid workloads at home. These unpaid workloads create ripple effects on women’s careers. Career and financial advancement in the workplace have traditionally put women in the backseat and much work is still needed to overcome these biases.

Here are several aspects where I feel women are at a disadvantage:

Women’s Disadvantage in the Workplace: Household Work

According to a Q&A conducted by Mary Brinton, a professor at Harvard University, the problem of gender equality in the workplace comes from when young adults try to balance work and family.

Women end up shouldering the lion’s share of care giving responsibilities in the household. This disadvantages them in the workplace. How so? Women are pressured into giving more hours for household activities. At the same time, they are expected to maintain the same working hours and work quality as men are. However, leaving the office early can still be stigmatizing — women are then perceived as either lazy or someone who doesn’t take work as seriously as men.

The Disadvantage On Maternity and Parenthood

Up until a few years ago, childbirth came with a compensation penalty for women and a premium for men. Because men didn’t have to go on months-long maternity leave, they were more valued in the organization. But their paternity and the responsibility of a family was often reason enough for a pay rise.

In fact, one of the biggest issues I find that women run into in their careers is finding advancement opportunities after maternity leave. While maternity leaves are not penalized in compensation anymore, it does still cause a delay in promotions for women. It is very seldom to see a woman who gets promoted during or immediately after maternity leave. Usually, the promotion falls through the cracks and it takes more months or years upon return to re-qualify for the promotion.

Another one of the biggest conflicts that women face in the workplace is feeling disenfranchised after maternity leave. Since they have been gone for a while, they feel like they have been replaced or that they only get the leftover tasks.

Gender Inequality On Promotions

Studies show that men are promoted based on potential while women are promoted based on performance. This means that women will need to work twice as hard to get the position that men will only need to show promise for – and this is particularly penalizing for women working part-time.

Even for the women working full time, career progression is often slower than for men. The number of women in C-level and board-level positions is astoundingly small.

Women’s Disadvantage On Compensation

Women are generally not trained to negotiate and demand higher compensation. My friend, Wies Bratby, the founder of “Women in Negotiation” said that “if the salary you are asking for is a figure that makes you sick to your stomach, then you’re probably close to what you should get.” This made me realise that men are generally bolder and more inclined towards negotiating their pay than women are. Men ask more and they get more because they do. I think it’s time women also learn to ask more and be more confident in how they ask for money.

Women tend to take on more responsibilities in the desire to prove themselves but this only ends up in them taking up more tasks without receiving more pay for it.

What Can We Do About It?

Women need more than just mentorship. They need sponsorship in organizations and more workplace support.

They don’t need more good advice, they need to be given concrete opportunities. They need senior people who will vouch for them and put their names forward for new jobs. They need seniors who will fight for their well-deserved promotions even if they are going on maternity leave. They need seniors who will re-empower them upon return by assigning and giving them responsibilities aligned with their abilities.

Brains are seldom affected by birth-giving. Flexible work time is only a question of availability and not of ability. We can actually work around this issue by treating maternity and maternity leaves as logistics issues versus compensation and qualification issues. With telecommuting becoming more and more ubiquitous in the workplace, then this is definitely something we can look at.

Another solution that’s a bit more long-term is the proposal that we should start early. By this I mean that we should start talking about things like pay equality and financial literacy to children. I created A Smart Way To Start for this purpose — I broke down difficult financial and banking concepts to make it easier for younger kids to dissect.

By no means is this article a comprehensive list of things that still need working on when it comes to gender equality and the workplace, but I hope it encourages conversations and brings awareness to what still needs to be done.

We have a long way to go until we reach a point where we can truly say there is gender equality. But we have to realise that concrete baby steps are still better than no progress.

January 24, 2020

Living Consciously Is An Everyday Consumer Decision

smart way to start books

I was interviewed by Anusha Swetha of Vivamost about my advocacy for financial literacy and sustainable development. I got to discuss how I believe that your everyday transactions reflect your values. Sustainable living isn’t just about reducing waste and speaking out; it’s also about the kind of companies you support.

Your Purchase Decision Can Be About Making A Stand

Ordinary people like us might think that, alone, we can’t really have a big impact. We might think that we don't have the power to create laws or the influence to sway policies that would make our world a better place. It also comes to a point where we feel insignificant, that our individual consumer choices just a drop of water in a very capitalist ocean.  

I beg to differ. Every single product or service we choose to buy sends a message about the kind of commercial and corporate practices we support. Sustainable living is about making a conscious effort to know who makes our products and where they come from.

People around the world are more aware than ever of environmental concerns. To send stronger messages to companies that we care about the environment, we have to support companies that do, too.

Conscious living and sustainable consumerism aren’t just about buying "bio" and "eco-friendly" products. It's also about making sure that the companies who make your products are dealing with ethical and sustainable business practices.

Live Consciously

You see, the sustainable lifestyle we choose is reflected in the products and services we support. It’s hard to make every choice 100% sustainable, but every little bit counts. Whenever you can, choose products and services that have more positive impact on our planet.  What's important is that we live each day more consciously and conscientiously.

We have to realise that sustainability and sustainable development are multi-generational efforts. For our children to begin living a more sustainable lifestyle, we have to set good examples and engage them in a dialogue about conscious choices.

What smart choices will you choose to make today?

January 16, 2020

A SMART WAY TO START DOING GOOD (Sustainable Development Goals – SDGs)


To celebrate WORLD EARTH DAY (22 April 2020) we are paying tribute to Greta Thunberg, who’s voice, heart and courage are exemplary to us all. 

These rhymes are dedicated to her, and to all the children and adults who are committed to saving our planet and making the world a better place.


You've heard Greta's message on climate, I'm sure:
our planet has problems we cannot ignore.
Can you save the planet if you’re just a kid?
I’d say: “Yes, indeed! It’s high time we all did!”

At school we learn all about our ABCs
so why don’t we also learn our SDGs?
The same way we need every letter to spell,
we need SDGs for the world to do well. 

Twenty-six letters to write every line:
they’re easy to learn when you read them in rhyme.
So just like the alphabet, let’s learn by heart
our 17 SDGs – come on, let’s start!  

All the world’s Nations United as one,
aiming to finally get the job done:
rethinking our actions and everyone’s roles. 

So here is rhyme that is easy and fun,
so everyone knows what we need to get done.
You can do your part, now that you know 
our planet needs all of us. Ready? Let’s go! 

The ABC of SDGs

No one ever should be poor
nor be hungry ever more,
nor be ill without good care:
so life is better everywhere!

Children need to go to school.
Equal treatment is the rule.
Everywhere you go you’d see
clean water and clean energy.

With decent jobs life’s more fun, 
so growth is good for everyone.
Infrastructure is the key 
to lower inequality

We must build sustainably
our cities and communities.
Choosing wisely when we buy,
means our planet will not die.

Save the oceans and the seas,
the animals and all the trees.
For the world to live in peace,
let’s all be good partners, please.

SDG 1: no poverty
SDG 2: zero hunger 
SDG 3: good health and well-being

SDG 4: quality education
SDG 5: gender equality
SDG 6: clean water and sanitation
SDG 7: affordable and clean energy

SDG 8: decent work and economic growth
SDG 9: industry, innovation, infrastructure 
SDG 10: reduced inequality

SDG 11: sustainable cities and communities  
SDG 12: responsible consumption and production
SDG 13: climate action 

SDG 14: life below water
SDG 15: life on land
SDG 16: peace and justice and strong institutions
SDG 17: partnerships to achieve the Goals

Copyright 2019, Mara Catherine Harvey

The United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
May every child grow up knowing about the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and learning that they, too, can START DOING GOOD at a very young age.
Book 4, A SMART CHOICE TO MAKE will be all about SDG 12, and how our choices can make a difference to this world, every day.

December 18, 2019

The Real Cost Of The Gender Pay Gap

Mara speaking in front of an audience

I had a brief, but a very eye-opening interview with IMEX America about the Women and Risk, where I talked about the real risk that women are facing: the compounding effects of the gender pay gap.

It was one simple question that started this all actually:

How does a pay gap affect a woman over the course of her lifetime and how does it affect her wealth creation?

To be honest, I didn’t realise that asking this question would open up a Pandora’s box that would lead me to as far as creating a children’s storybook that will help facilitate money and gender pay gap discussions.

When I first encountered the question on the pay gap, I asked our Chief Investment Office to simulate the wealth growth of a man and a woman after university, in setting out their professional journey, buying a house, etc. The result was so stunning that our team couldn’t believe the output when they ran it for the first time.

After a couple of days, they finally brought the model to me and told me, “Look, we tried and we calibrated and we checked everything. The model is right, but the figure is shocking.” 

It turns out that just a 10% pay gap (a very benign assumption) and all else equal between man and woman; resulted in a 40% wealth gap over a lifetime. Just to put this into perspective: a Eurostat report last 2017 reported that the highest recorded gender pay gap in the EU is in Estonia at 25.6%, and the lowest is in Romania at 3.5%.

On average (in the EU,) a woman’s gross hourly earnings 16% less than a man.  

In my home country, Switzerland, the gender pay gap is at 17%. At about 20% pay gap, with all else equal, the wealth discrepancy balloons to 85%. 

It’s a shocking, but oftentimes, heartbreaking reality for most of us.

That is why we constantly need to bring financial awareness into the conversation. I keep encountering women who say “I’m not really as involved in financial matters as I’d like to be.” Very often, women think that their partners or spouses are more competent than they are.

You see, we did a survey on several thousands of women internationally and it turns out that 82% of women believe that their partners are more knowledgeable about money. Unless your partner studied finance explicitly, then there should be no reason that your partner will be more financially knowledgeable about money than you are.

We have to work harder not just developing women's financial knowledge but also improving women’s financial confidence. We have to develop and grow financial awareness and trust more than financial expertise. 

How do we make women aware of the fact that abdicating financial decisions is not a good idea, especially when those (wealth discrepancy, pay gap, etc.) are the consequences that you could face?

The answer to that is to start early.

Research shows that confidence is shaped by the age of 5 and adult money habits by the age of 7. So if we’re not having this conversation with little kids, especially with little girls, then we will be guilty of helping perpetuate the shocking pay and wealth discrepancies between man and woman. 

We have to start talking to our little girls (and boys) early on so that they know their worth and that they are encouraged to negotiate their worth. If they are doing a chore, can they ask extra money for it? Negotiation and knowing your worth are two skills that are important, especially when you’re entering your professional careers.

We can’t let our children grow up unaware and thinking that the world is equal and fair because it is not. We have to equip them with the awareness and the truth so that they can continue to make choices that are towards a sustainable and equal future.