To describe stock market investments, the language tends to be masculine. A lot of the metaphors come from areas that have traditionally been considered the domain of men, such as sports and the military.
“Leveling the playing field” (soccer), “beating” the market (war, combat, physical fight), and “building” your portfolio are all examples of this (construction). Both websites geared toward novice investors, as well as national and financial news outlets, are affected by this.
Abstract concepts (like financial events and objects) are made more “imaginable” through the use of conceptual metaphors like this, which many people use unconsciously. Contextual metaphors use words and phrases from the concrete, physical world to describe abstract ideas.
It’s important to note that we don’t use metaphors at random; instead, we draw from a small set of well-known physical domains. For the language used in investing, this is exactly what we discovered.
“Building” your portfolio represents the process of putting together elements that will ensure your security and well-being in the future. So in theory you could equally well use phrases such as “growing”, “cooking”, “sewing” or “weaving” your portfolio. These activities also include an effort to put together the components that will make your future life safe and comfortable. “
“Knitting” isn’t something we use in our discussions or presentations about investing, and it’s likely to make the audience laugh out loud if used in that context. This demonstrates that these metaphors are not neutral in their meaning.
They highlight some aspects while concealing others. When it comes to investing, “beating the market” focuses on the competitive nature of the endeavor rather than the need for a sufficient retirement income.
According to marketing studies, consumers’ reactions to product and service descriptions are influenced by how closely they identify with the domain to which the words used in those descriptions belong or are associated.
A study on Diet Coke, for example, found that it didn’t appeal to men. Men did switch to Coke Zero from Diet Coke. The word “diet,” brought to mind an uncomfortable place: fitting clothes and looking in the mirror. In contrast, “zero” appealed to men because of its zero tolerance, all-or-nothing approach, and numerical rigor.
Thus, women are likely to be put off by metaphors that conjure up images of a world they are not typically associated with: war and combat, construction, and heavy physical activity. Such metaphors are unlikely to have a positive impact on women’s feelings, and they may even have the opposite effect.
It has been found that people who have positive feelings about a concept or product are more likely to invest and trade because they perceive lower risk and have higher expectations of returns. Due to “home bias” in finance, people tend to invest disproportionately in what is close to home because it is familiar.
Metaphors are a good example of how imagery influences familiarity, and this is why they are so effective. Men may be more likely than women to participate in the stock market and take risks as a result of investing metaphors having a positive impact on men and a negative impact on women.
Men and women may differ in their willingness to take financial risks because of this. In the Netherlands, for example, only one out of every seven investors is a woman.
Financial literacy and risk tolerance among women are commonly blamed for the so-called gender investing gap. This explanation, however, has two flaws.
Financial education appears to have little impact on a person’s financial decisions, according to the available research. Furthermore, research shows that men and women have the same attitude toward risk.
When it comes to explaining gender differences in investment attitudes and behavior, stressing the “need for creating financial awareness among women and girls” is not only demeaning to women, it also fails.
The financial industry and policymakers can begin by paying attention to the language they use when discussing financial matters, which reflects their traditional gendered culture. In addition to lowering women’s psychological barriers to investing in the stock market, changing the language used by men could reduce men’s tendency to trade too much and take on too much risk.