From the August 2011 issue of Investment Advisor • Subscribe!

July 28, 2011

Equal Time

In the news section of this month’s issue, you’ll see the listing of AdvisorOne’s 50 Top Women in Wealth. For the third year, a panel of industry luminaries, guided by AdvisorOne editors, chose the 50 women in the country who we judged to be the most influential people in and around wealth management.

We believe the 50 Top Women in Wealth are exemplars of the success women can have in wealth management, but the fact that we feel it important to recognize these successful people as women is a sign that much remains to change before wealth management and our society is truly gender-blind.

The irony is not lost on me that I, a man, am presenting the list of the 2011 AdvisorOne 50 Top Women in Wealth. One gentleman—Joseph Keefe, CEO of Pax World, served on the nominating committee, along with Gail Graham of Fidelity, Kim Wright-Violich of Schwab Charitable, Sheryl Garrett of The Garrett Planning Network, Deena Katz of Texas Tech and Evensky & Katz, and Jennifer Connelly of JCPR Inc. A number of the women on this year’s list and the two annual ones that preceded it noted the importance of male mentors in promoting their careers. So men have their value when it comes to fostering women’s career success in the wealth management business.

However, men have also made it more difficult for women to succeed in the business, both in outright hostility and more subtle forms of discrimination. Many men are uncomfortable with women being in positions of power. Especially in some areas of financial services where the testosterone is thick, women have been and no doubt are still being treated as second-class citizens who some men firmly believe don’t have the wherewithal to succeed in high-stress, high-producing positions. That’s just wrong. It’s also foolish. Why wouldn’t you want the best person for any job, regardless of gender (or race, creed, age, sexual orientation, etc.)?

Yes, there are signs that women are making significant strides in various areas of the business—and to me the spectrum of expertise represented by this year’s 50 Top Women is the clearest advertisement for the notion that women can succeed in nearly all areas of wealth. However, it’s still true that women make less money than men even when they have the same level of education and expertise and hold the same job.

Women are also much more likely to move in and out of the work force both to raise families and to be caregivers to aged parents as well as young children. Far fewer men feel compelled to choose between family and career; the expectations on men are different in this area. Men are often lauded for “helping” their wives with child-rearing or household chores. The notion that men are “helping” of course presumes that it’s really someone else’s primary job, and men actually don’t have real responsibility for what many men consider low-reward, unmanly jobs.

Yes, it would be great to live in a world where it didn’t matter what a person’s gender was, or race. It would be great to live in a world where we wouldn’t need a separate list of 50 top women. That world doesn’t exist yet. Maybe men could “help” with that.

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