Crouching Masculinity, Hidden Risk: Female Investors (Re)Constructing and Negotiating Gendered Discourses about Investing

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School of Business | Master's thesis
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Investing has traditionally been a masculine domain. Even today, women have less knowledge about investing and lower motivation to learn about it. As investors, women are typically risk averse and conservative. However, themes of saving and investing are of growing interest for modern women. In this piece of research, I understand investing as a form of gendered consumption. My objective is to find out what kind of gendered meanings women attach to investing and how do they negotiate these meanings. Main methodology of this research is discourse analysis. My theoretical lenses are the poststructuralist feminism, according to which dominant gendered discourses mediate our experiences but these discourses can be reconstructed and challenged. I hence conceptualize that female investors operate within the limitations of dominantly masculine investing discourse, but they have agentic possibilities to reconstruct certain aspects of these discourses and create a bigger manoeuvering space by utilizing different goal-directed strategies. My data set consists of 10 in depth interviews of Finnish women who actively and independently manage their own investment portfolio. Theoretical contribution of the research is twofold. First, I identify four gendered discourses women utilize when talking about investing that are: (1) feminine pleasure with central themes of consumption, indulgence and communality (2) masculine pleasure with central themes of freedom and risk-taking, (3) feminine duty with central themes of diligence, altruism, submissiveness, and security and (4) masculine duty with central themes of independence and success. I contribute by showing how certain classic dualism is challenged in the investing discourse, such as rationalism as a masculine characteristic. It seems that women have appropriated certain traditionally masculine characteristics and by integrating them into feminine themes given them a meaning of their own. Second, I present central conflicts women experience between these discursive dimensions and discuss some coping strategies they utilize in order to negotiate the tensions. My findings show that women understand the discourse of feminine duty as a focal point against which they reflect other discursive dimensions. The main conflicts identified were between feminine duty and masculine/feminine pleasure. Women negotiate this tension by discursively backgrounding pleasure and by integrating discourses with the help of certain discursive practices, such as understanding risk-taking as studying or mental development. By keeping investing private, women escape both the social pressure of feminine and masculine world. Investing can hence be conceptualized as an emancipating discursive enclave. Finally, my research expands the idea of gender tourism by showing how women flexibly move between the roles of a gender tourist and a gender immigrant. By gender immigrant I refer to a situation where investing is not seen anymore as a masculine activity, but turned into feminine activity.
Thesis advisor
Toyoki, Sammy
Tillotson, Jack
consumer culture theory, gender, discourse analysis, investing, female investors
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