BACK TO All Work



MA 2023
Women, Finance, Shame, Embedded Finance, Network Effect, Next Generation

Resolving Financial Shame

VALOURi is a financial service system that spans current and future generations of women. The system includes preventative, remedial and crisis-level interventions to help women reverse engineer a financial shame cycle which then comes to fruition in an elegant new product offering for the next generation.

It's a culmination of behavioural awareness, community celebration, network effect, open banking and embedded finance that empowers the current generation of women to reroute their own financial planning journey.

It's designed to first address the financial shame inherent in women's lives today.  Next, their instinctive duty of care is leveraged, and given a financial outlet, setting the stage for the next generation of women to grow into a financial system and ultimately reframe their relationship with money.


I built a comprehensive and robust Partnership Panel recruiting 14 international female industry leaders, from fintech, financial services, tier 1 banks, academia, and inclusive design. I engaged with UN Women and was selected as an official delegate for CSW 67. 


My starting point was understanding whether society had any influence on the dynamic between women and finance. And it turns out, it has. Equal financial rights for women became law less than 50 years ago.

In developed countries, laws were passed in the mid 70's granting a woman equal financial rights. Before this, a woman was required to obtain her husband's permission in order to open a bank account.

Revealing the financial system was built on a foundation of systemic discrimination towards women. Dependency on a man was a requirement for a woman to gain access to the system.  Since women's financial rights are a relatively new concept, the challenges we face today, spawn from the first generation of women exiting this legacy system.

With a comprehensive understanding of the landscape, I set out to observe what real women had to say about their financial challenges, not individually, but as a collective – to identify themes. I looked for places where these conversations were happening naturally. I found them in forums. 

I read through countless posts. Women were actively seeking financial advice anonymously - from a group of women they didn't know and who weren't financial experts -  but who might be able to relate to their circumstances. Revealing women value community-based financial guidance based on common experiences, not financial expertise.

Money Management presented as a challenge thematically. The reason was interesting. It wasn't because women couldn't manage the responsibility, it was because they were earning less than men but contributing equal amounts. Revealing households lack a modern standard for financial contribution.

But, there was more. Women - both partnered and single - were spending more on unpaid work than men. This duty of care had immediate and long-term financial impacts. It limited employment opportunities because women needed flexible working hours which impacted their career trajectory and overall lifetime earnings. Revealing unpaid work financially impacts women long-term disproportionately. 

It was time to listen to some real people. I created a landing page and Instagram Account @MoreThanPink_UK to aid in recruiting subject matter experts and female-identifying interview participants. 

I set out to unpack money management with women across all age groups but with a particular interest in women aged 35-50. Two contrasting behaviours quickly emerged. Single, married and widowed women were comfortable, confident and proud to be managing the day-to-day finances of their respective households. However, when the discussion turned to financial planning for the future there was immediate discomfort. I had identified the first area of opportunity. 


There is no historical precedent for women to have experience in financial planning. This is a new societal norm and a new expectation. When we consider that women live an average of 8 years longer than men, they need to have funds saved to support themselves for nearly a decade longer; making it even more important for women to have sound long-term financial plans, given the cumulative impact of the gender pay gap and the unpaid work gap. 

I wanted to dig deeper. I focussed on one repeating behavioural characteristic - the aversion to financial planning. When I mapped out all the reasons, and coupled it with the fact that many women declined interviews - stating they were 'bad at money.' It hit me.

Shame. They were all ashamed of something.

I went back to the research to explore whether there was a behavioural relationship. I learned about shame, financial shame and shame spirals. It turns out that shame induces financial aversion which increases the probability of counterproductive financial decision making. With every 1-point increase in financial shame, there is a 0.49% increase in financial aversion.*  I then explored shame from a gendered perspective and confirmed that men and women experience and respond to shame differently.

* Joe J. Gladstone, Jon M. Jachimowicz, Adam Eric Greenberg, Adam D. Galinsky Financial shame spirals: How shame intensifies financial hardship


I aggregated these findings and designed a financial shame cycle which can be referenced in the illustration below. Systemic disadvantages lead to financial shame. which are compounded over time and lead to financial hardship resulting in financial aversion perpetuating complete financial disengagement. Illustrating this is a revolving cycle begging to be broken. And not from a social change perspective, but rather, from a gender empowerment perspective.

I reached back out to my interview panel to test my theory. Listen to what Jane had to say, in the video below.


How might we establish social belonging between women and financial experts so that we may enable conversations about financial circumstances in order to future-proof long-term financial independence?

My theory of change being, if we relieve the financial shame experienced by women then we can resolve financial aversion so that we create an alternative path of entry into the financial system and ignite long-term financial planning.  


Through my research 4 distinct personas surfaced. I decided to apply inclusive design methodologies and solve the most challenging use case, the Struggling Survivor

The key differentiator for these women is trauma. Something has happened that has broken the family unit such as death, divorce or separation. As a result, these women become financially responsible for their entire household, single-handedly. They most often suffer in silence and are at risk of entering into poverty in their senior years.


When solving this use case, I needed to look at an entire life cycle to understand the societal financial disadvantages and moments of financial shame experienced in a continuum, which can be referenced in the illustration below. 

During my analysis, it became clear, that gender-based income inequalities began as soon as a woman became financially independent.  As these financial inequities were introduced into a woman's life, they became inextricably shackled to them. 

These women are resourceful and pivot repeatedly in an attempt to maintain their independence. However, they ultimately exhaust all financial reserves and are left with no option but to become dependent on social financial aid.  

I realised a single service intervention would not solve the challenges these women face. Instead, a systems approach, integrated into an entire lifecycle, was required with preventative, remedial and crisis-level interventions. 

But there was something else. Each of the women revealed an interesting behavioural characteristic. The more dire their financial circumstances became, the more they began reallocating funds away from themselves to those in their care. It was this duty of care that activated financial engagement and compelled financial planning.

This duty of care was illustrated by Jenni, one of the Struggling Survivors interviewed. Have a listen to what she had to say in the video below.


It was time to move on to ideation. My project was selected to present at and participate in a day-long hackathon hosted by EY Seren in collaboration with the UN, Hope Feeds and Heart 17. Attendees included representatives from UN, EY Seren, Social Innovation Enterprises and the top design students from across the UK. 

For my second round of ideation, I ran an afternoon session at the Royal College of Art, where the best design students in the world were asked to create personas and a lifecycle in their very own scrapbook. Moments of celebration and moments of despair were delivered to each persona in personalised cards to be refactored into their journey.

This workshop helped identify alternative lifecycles, the importance of community, communication and celebration throughout life. 


Which brings me to my service proposition. I'll let our Struggling Survivor persona, Mia, tell you all about it.


So why widows? 

Currently, the world is experiencing its greatest transfer of wealth in history. The first recipient of that wealth is not the younger generation, but rather women - more specifically - widows. Upon death, husbands and partners transfer their wealth to their widows.

When we take this into consideration and calculate the total available market this equates to approximately 14.5 million women in the UK. When we factor in a few more variables we can conservatively estimate the serviceable obtainable market to be approximately 500,000 women.

When we take the serviceable obtainable market and multiply it by the average transfer of wealth of £350,000 we can safely estimate the value of assets under management to be transferred at over £60 Billion.

There are multiple revenue streams integrated throughout VALOURi. When calculating projected revenue for a pilot of 1,000 women and 50 financial experts, the community platform year 1 revenue is conservatively estimated at just over £823,000.

I validated my proposition with a Board Member of the London Stock Exchange and  Innovation and GTM Management at Temenos. Both experts responded with incredible feedback at identifying this hidden market and the systems approach to resolving the challenges faced.  

Given the positive reception, my service proposition is now being considered by 3 international financial partners.



I'd like to share a few remarks. I felt extremely grateful to have worked on this project. I reached a vast international network, spoke with some incredible minds and was guided along the way by inspiring and insightful Tutors. It's changed my perspective on service design, expanded my craft and shifted my thinking entirely. And to me, that's the definition of success. 

thank you

So many people offered up their time, expertise and shared their vast networks with me. I am grateful for every moment shared. I learned something new and connected dots I never could have found without the time spent together. I am sincerely grateful for the role you all played in helping me hone my craft.

Royal College of Art

Kam Chana, Tutor

John Makepeace, Tutor

Carolyn Runcie, Advisor


EY Seren

Heart 17

Helen Hamlin Centre for Design

Hope Feeds

London Stock Exchange



Norwegian University of Science and Technology

UN Women

Unconventional Ventures




So many women offered up their time and shared their most intimate details about their financial shame journey. It was your willingness to participate that brought this proposition to life. Thank you for being my inspiration.

No items found.