Happy Women’s History Month! This March, our blog will be focused on the women trailblazers of finance — those who inspire us, those who’ve innovated and pushed our industry forward, those in history who created opportunities for future generations. Read our first blog post in the series below.
When I was a child, I remember going to the grocery store with my mom and watching her add up the checkbook entries to ensure we had enough in the account for our milk and mac and cheese. No calculator needed, just a quick scan and some mental math. It was my first lesson in math, and arguably one of the most important.
My mom was a financial whiz, and she was one of the reasons why I entered the financial advisory field. She wasn’t a financial planner, but she was brilliant and definitely could have become one.
It’s unfortunate that there are so few women in financial planning. And it’s not because they don’t have the passion, expertise, and drive for it, because they certainly do — it’s because of the systemic problems, like gender discrimination and inequality, holding them back.
It’s time this changed. One blog post won’t fix everything, but we can at least start a dialogue on recognizing and celebrating women financial planners, and look at ways we can increase the number of women in our industry.
Stats about Women in the Workforce
December 2019 marked an historic occasion for working women. For the first time in nearly a decade, women held more U.S. jobs than men. But working women are still facing structural challenges, from pay inequality to being underrepresented in executive roles.
But specifically in the financial services industry, there’s been a puzzling lack of growth. While the overall number of CFP® professionals has grown considerably since the financial crisis of 2008, women have continued to only represent 23 percent of CFP® professionals over the same period.
The problem isn’t that women aren’t interested in learning about personal finance. In fact, Fidelity reports that an overwhelming number of women (92 percent) want to learn more about financial planning and get involved in their own finances over the next year (83 percent).
Ways to Support Female Financial Planners
What are some ways to fix this issue of lack of female representation in the financial services field?
1. Start Early with Educating Students about Financial Planning
Increase the awareness of financial planning as a valid profession. This doesn’t only apply to women, of course. When I began my job search in college, I had no idea that I could find such a rewarding career that married empathy, logic, and creativity into a single role.
2. Get Rid of Negative Stereotypes about Finance
We need to unshackle ourselves from the (admittedly, and unfortunately sometimes deserved) reputation as an industry of fast sales and uncouth culture. Let’s start educating those at the beginning of their careers about how financial planning can be a rewarding, stimulating, and challenging opportunity.
3. Recruit Female Financial Planners and Create an Environment That Supports Their Success
Professional organizations need to make a conscious effort to recruit women financial planners and ensure their concerns, feedback, and ideas are being heard. Two of the organizations I belong to, the CFA Institute and CFP® Board, have rolled out initiatives to celebrate and grow the number of women in the industry.
4. Reflect on Your Firm’s Values and Review Your Company Policies
Financial planning firms need to make an honest assessment (perhaps with the help of a third-party) of their policies and procedures regarding recruiting, training, mentoring, and promoting. It’s a slow moving tide, but it is moving, and if firms want to stay competitive not only for talent but also for clients, they will need to offer an environment of inclusion, opportunity- and pay-equality, and compassion for the individual challenges facing women in the workforce.
5. Be An Advocate and Ally
Men need to do a better job of being advocates and allies for women advisors. Men haven’t had to deal with the myriad of issues that women in the workforce face, and our opinions and views are skewed by our limited experiences. So listen versus speak, acknowledge versus opine, and collaborate versus direct.
Resources to Continue the Conversation
The opportunity is right in front of us to fix the industry’s gender inequality. It’s critical we act now. The boat is indeed turning, but we can all add an oar to the water to get us rowing in the right direction.
There are many wonderfully talented and passionate advisors, women and men alike, working every day to inform, advocate, and improve these issues:
- To better understand the sexual harassment issues that women advisors face, please read Sonya Dreizler’s Do Better blog series.
- To get involved with a national network dedicated to empowering female advisors, please read about and join the Female Advisor Network.
- To learn more about how CFP® Board and CFA Institute are supporting women advisors and investment professionals, click here (for CFP® Board) and here (for CFA Institute).