A Timeline of Women’s Financial Rights

It’s hard to imagine having no rights or ownership over your hard earned cash, isn’t it? Unbelievably, this used to be the case for women across the UK, along with many other limitations and unequal rights.

So, how does this compare with present day? We’ve examined our data to explore how women’s financial independence compares to the past restrictions, and how key law changes and movements provided women across Britain their financial freedom. 

1100 – Coverture – Men and Women are seen as one financial entity

Men and Women were seen as one financial entity. Women couldn't own property, run taverns/stores or sue in court. Women were seen as Men’s property.

Now: In 2015 11,600 women took out business insurance. By 2017 this has risen to almost 16,500, suggesting that the number of self-employed women is increasing. MoneySuperMarket’s data shows that of all business insurance policies taken out for pubs, 41% were by women and when looking at shops, women dominate with just over 50%.

1870 - Married Women’s Property Act

1870 –This saw the introduction of the Married Women’s Property Act, where women were entitled to be the legal owners of money earned.

1882 - Twelve years later, the act enabled women to inherit and own their properties, too. This would mean a woman would no longer have to hand over all her financial assets and property once married.

1893 - This final branch of the act gave married women the same property and financial rights as unmarried women.

Now: 78,987 women enquired for a mortgage in 2018. This makes up 43.9% of all mortgage enquiries suggesting that the gender gap within mortgages is closing. 

1918 – Women’s voting rights

1918 - Women over the age of 30 who met certain property requirements were given the right to vote.

1928 – The age women could vote was dropped to 21, and was based on the same terms as those of men.

Now: In the 2017 general election, there was a 69% female turnout of registered voters, the same percentage as men. 32% of MPs in the UK are now women, but this varies significantly between parties. For Labour the figure is 45% and for the Conservatives it’s 21%.    

1919 – Sex Discrimination Removal Act

Sex Discrimination Removal Act allows women to access the legal profession and accountancy.

Now: According to MoneySuperMarket data, 36% of those who took out business insurance for accountancy in 2017 were women. This has been a year-on-year increase since 2015, again, bringing a close to the gender gap.

When looking into the legal profession, this gap has closed completely - our data here shows a 50/50 split between women and men taking out business insurance for legal professions.

1922 – Law of Property Act

1922 – This law allows both women and men to inherit property equally.

1964 – The second stage allows women to keep half of any savings made from allowance given by their husbands.

Now: Based on MoneySuperMarket data, the most popular age bracket to enquire for a mortgage is 25-35 for both women and men. In 2018 to date, 40,000 of those aged between 25–35,  who enquired for a mortgage are men, with women coming in just above 30,000. Those aged 18–25 however, close the gap significantly in comparison, with women taking up 48% of enquiries.

Women are marginally more likely than men to hold a savings account in their own name (70% v 67%). Having said this, women have, on average, substantially less savings than men, with an average sum of £18,044 compared to men who have £26,280. 

1973: Stock Exchange admits women

in 1973 women were admitted to the London Stock Exchange for the first time in the institution's 200 year history.

Now: Today, 1/6th of people who bought business insurance within the stock exchange industry with MoneySuperMarket, are women.

1975 – Sex Discrimination Act

Until this act, banks could refuse to give women mortgages without a male guarantor.

Now: Of those surveyed, women are less likely than men to have a mortgage on their own (10% v 17%), however taking into account how recent it was made possible for women to have a single mortgage, the numbers aren’t worlds apart. Women are more likely to hold a mortgage with someone else (20% v 15%) and when asked about managing their household bills 47% of women said they were solely responsible for this. 

1980 - Women can apply for loans & credit in their own name

Until as late as 1980, women could be refused credit unless they had a male guarantor.

Now: Based on MoneySuperMarket data the average number of credit card enquiries by women, from 2013 to date, is 48%. This peaked at a 50/50 split between both men and women in November 2017.

25-34 is the most popular age to search for a credit card and women within this bracket dominate, by making up an average of 40% of all MSM credit card enquiries from 2013 to date.

Looking at an even younger generation (18-24) women take the lead with an average of 16% of all credit card enquires.

Generally speaking, it appears women below the age of 35 dominate the credit card market, despite not being able to apply for one as little as 43 years ago.

If we take into consideration relationship status, single women are the most likely to take out a credit card, with an average of 52,000 enquiries a month in 2017 peaking at almost 60,000 in January 2018, suggesting that financial independence is on the rise for women.

When looking at loan data, there is a 40/60 split with men leading the way for loan enquiries. But if we look at just the female category, single women dominate again when seeking a loan with 17%.

In the 18-24 category, women make up 18% of all loan enquiries whereas men of this age count for a 15% share. The data for 25-34 year olds shows that both genders make up an equal 38% of searches, making it an equal split, suggesting that gender equality within finance is becoming the norm within new generations. 

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1990 – Independent Taxation

Women are taxed separately from their husbands for the first time.

Now: Government statistics for income tax shows that the average man in the UK pays £6,875 in tax a year, whereas women pay almost half with their average coming to £3,473.

We believe shopping around is the best way to nab yourself a bargain. That’s why we host a variety of financial products and services, as well as an abundance of guides, allowing you to make informed decisions when managing your money.  

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Business insurance and occupation stats based on MoneySuperMarket business insurance sales 2015-2018.

Married women’s property act - https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/Vict/56-57/63/introduction

All mortgage data based on MoneySuperMarket mortgage enquiries & Opinium survey - 23rd February 2018 and 27th February 2018, 2,004 UK adults.

Women’s voting rights data - House of Commons library – General election 2017 results and analysis. 8 September 2017.

Sex discrimination removal act - https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1975/65

Law of property Act - https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1964/63/introduction

Savings data based on Opinium survey - 23rd February 2018 and 27th February 2018, 2,004 UK adults.

Women were admitted to the London Stock Exchange - http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/march/26/newsid_2531000/2531145.stm

Sex discrimination Act - https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1975/65/contents

All credit cards data based on MoneySuperMarket credit card enquiries from 2013 to February 2018

All loans data based on MoneySuperMarket loan enquiries-  Jan 2014 to February 2018

All tax data based on “Income and tax, by gender, region and country” gov.uk

Time line stats of laws - https://www.mmu.ac.uk/equality-and-diversity/doc/gender-equality-timeline.pdf