American College to Launch Center for Women and Financial Services

Donation from State Farm to fund academic center

The American College announced Thursday that it would be launching the Center for Women and Financial Services, thanks to a $2.8 million donation from State Farm Insurance.

The center is intended to be a “focal point of research, education and knowledge [that] will serve as the nation's leading authority on the economic issues and opportunities of American women, both as consumers and providers of financial products and services,” according to the College.

Professor Mary Quist-Newins, holder of the State Farm Chair in Women and Financial Services at the College, said that the center would become an advocate for American women’s economic security through research and the dissemination of information and education. She added that the center could also help financial organizations better understand women’s value as producers and leaders in the industry.

Larry Barton, Ph.D., president and CEO at the College, said in a statement that the resources of the center would “enable this institution to deepen our understanding of the issues associated with American women and money, including recruitment, retention and the advancement of women in the financial services industry.”

According to the College, American women are “one of the world’s most powerful forces,” making up as they do 45% of America’s millionaires. It is also projected that approximately 66% of American wealth will be controlled by women by 2030.

However, for most women the picture is not so rosy, with a gender earnings gap still in place and with women often earning less over their lifetimes than men. They also live longer, and are thus more likely to live alone and to experience more health problems that are both chronic and disabling. Many women are less financially literate than men, and, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, women in general are twice as likely to spend their retirement in poverty.

The industry has a long way to go to ingratiate itself with women. According to a State Farm survey conducted in 2008, two-thirds of women didn’t trust financial service professionals, and a Boston Consulting Group survey of 12,000 women learned that, out of 34 product/service categories, financial services ranked lowest in satisfaction.

The State Farm-established Chair in Women and Financial Services at the College, launched in 2007, allowed research that resulted in a study called “The American College Benchmark Producer Research 2009.” It revealed, according to the College, that “while earnings increase among financial advisors of both genders throughout their careers, they do so to a lesser degree for women.”

The new center, with its additional personnel and resources, will be devoted to understanding and meeting the financial challenges faced by women.

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