Barbara Sessa: “37% of women say they are not familiar with financial matters”

HomeinterviewBarbara Sessa: "37% of women say they are not familiar with financial...


Barbara Sessa is the Vice President of Mastercard, overseeing consumer products for Europe and supporting banks and fintechs in their business development. In an exclusive interview with The Women’s Voices, Barbara Sessa, as the head of the Women’s Leadership Network (WLN) at Mastercard, discusses women and finances.

Why are women still less familiar with financial matters ?

There are various reasons, including socio-economic and cultural networks. We are beginning to see more women taking an interest in financial matters. However, a 2022 study of 12,000 women in Europe revealed that 37% of them consider themselves very unfamiliar with financial matters. Among women aged 25 to 70, 55% face difficulties in this area, particularly regarding investment. Financial education has been uneven, with women in different countries having fewer opportunities to access instruments for training on these issues.

Another factor is the gender pay gap, which ranges from 14% to 16%. Therefore, if I earn less money, I am less inclined to engage with these subjects. The last element to consider is stereotypes. When investment is discussed in the media, it often portrays a white man, aged between 40 and 50, in 80% of cases. However, today we have information, tools, and platforms dedicated to financial education. We have the opportunity to educate ourselves on these important topics, especially when it comes to women and financial independence.

Are there specific online initiatives or institutions for learning about these topics ?

Banks have recognized the value behind the women’s segment and are increasingly dedicating tools to financial education. While the subject is not exclusive to women, it is crucial for them today. We talk about investing, whether it’s 50€, 100€, or 200€… It all depends on your financial goals, your salary, etc. Investment is a tool to achieve financial freedom. Why is it important to be financially free today, especially for women? Because it gives you the freedom to choose what you want to do in your professional life, to leave a situation that no longer suits you, and to participate more actively in social life.

What are the initial steps for a woman to start investing ?

The first step would be to research platforms. Personally, I would approach my company for a potential employee savings plan. It’s a very good investment. Then, set up an automatic transfer of 50€, 100€, every month. It’s money that will grow even while you sleep. After 2 or 3 years, you will see the results with the magical power of compound interest.

What are the dangers of not having financial savings?

We have a lot of data coming from the United States, where 50% of the population sleeps poorly due to financial stress. This means not having $300/$500 to cope with an unexpected situation. It has consequences on sleep and mental health. The same is true in Europe, as reflected in many studies conducted by other companies.

Saving money, building savings, is also part of the concept of well-being. It’s about taking care of yourself, similar to how you would when going to the hairdresser, for example.

As the head of WLN (Women Leadership Network), what are the missions of this network ?

It is Mastercard’s women’s network. I am very proud to work for a company that believes in diversity. The goal is to promote women within the company and promote the concepts of equal opportunities and gender equality within Mastercard. We organize training sessions for women. We are almost 30,000 members at present.

Why did you decide to join #5000VOICES ?

This network perfectly aligns with our vision of the future society. We partner with those who share the same vision for a more egalitarian society. I believe that #5000VOICES is moving in that direction. The name itself is fantastic because we are multiplying voices, and it’s not that women don’t have a voice; it’s that the voice of women is not heard! So through #5000VOICES, we want to make our voices and the voices of women at Mastercard heard. For us, it’s a natural partnership.

#5000VOICES is an initiative made possible by our partners Engie, Accor, La Fondation RAJA, Aurel Bgc, Veolia, and Mastercard.


Also discover