From the October 2013 issue of Investment Advisor • Subscribe!

Remembering Lucretia Mott: Where Women in Financial Services Stand Now

Opportunities abound for American girls who dream of what they will do when they grow up, thanks to the courage of people like the 19th century activist Lucretia Mott

Alice Paul led the National Woman’s Party when it was founded in 1919 Here, Paul admires a bust of Lucretia Mott, who was in the forefront of a small group of women who started the fight for women’s rights over 100 years ago. Alice Paul led the National Woman’s Party when it was founded in 1919 Here, Paul admires a bust of Lucretia Mott, who was in the forefront of a small group of women who started the fight for women’s rights over 100 years ago.

Throughout my life, I have known strong women who did what they had to in order to survive and flourish, without asking permission of a man. My grandmother and great aunts, my business partners and my wife, my clients and friends  all stood up to discrimination. None would abide disrespect from men. With much courage and flair they proved to their fathers and brothers, husbands and sons, bosses and colleagues that they were, and are, very much equals.

These women all cited key influences in their lives, including groundbreakers who paved the way and special individuals who invested in their development. Let’s take a look back for a moment.

We’ve come a long way

In 1923, the suffragist leader Alice Paul drafted the Equal Rights Amendment, presenting it as the “Lucretia Mott Amendment” at the celebration of the 75th anniversary of the Seneca Falls Convention and the Declaration of Sentiments.

Mott was a Quaker minister who fought passionately to eradicate slavery and racism in America. At the time, a woman’s participation in the anti-slavery movement was perceived as a threat to society. Even many of her fellow abolitionists believed that women should not be involved in public activities, especially public speaking.

Mott’s success in promoting the rights of those who could not argue for themselves drew the attention of the women’s rights movement and she, together with Elizabeth Cady Stanton, organized the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848. At this first women’s rights assembly in the United States, activists advocated for equality in marriage, including women’s property rights and access to their own earnings.

America is still working to advance equal rights, but think of how far we’ve come in the last half century. In the 1950s, women needed a man to guarantee a mortgage; in the 1960s, a woman could not get a credit card in her own name; in the 1980s, the U.S. tax code required a wife’s income to be reflected on her husband’s tax form while she had no reciprocal right to be informed of her husband’s income.

Outside of the United States, misogyny and extreme bias continue to oppress women. Imagine living in a country where women are not permitted to drive; or where citizens burn down a girls’ school with the girls still in it; or where women are raped then convicted of adultery.

Opportunities abound for American girls who dream of what they will do when they grow up, thanks to the courage of people like Lucretia Mott.

What now?

While it’s true that women in America continue to be underestimated and underappreciated, those in the workplace—especially in financial services—are now in the unique position of calling the shots. It has been a long and painful journey, but it’s safe to say that it’s a woman’s world.

Think about these facts: Studies tell us that 70% of women would like to work solely with a female advisor; 31% of retail financial professionals are women and this number is growing; there are more than 9 million single women in the United States with more than $100,000 of investable assets; 8 million American businesses are woman-owned; woman-owned businesses have a total economic impact of $3 trillion annually, which is more than the GDP of France, Italy and the United Kingdom.

If I had a college-age daughter, I would encourage her to look at finance, especially the business of financial advice, as a great career choice. In this profession she could enjoy a degree of independence, earn considerable income, be intellectually stimulated and profoundly impact the lives of others. And—oh, yes—she could pay off her student loans.

If I owned an advisory firm, I would consciously recruit women as advisors and in other key positions—not to be “politically correct,” but as a clear-headed business decision based on both experience and data. According to McKinsey & Company, firms with more women achieve better organizational and financial performance. According to Ernst & Young, diverse groups almost always outperform homogeneous groups and, according to Carnegie Mellon University, “teams with more women score higher on collective intelligence than those with fewer women.” (For more details and information on the citations of these studies, go to Pershing.com/Women-Advisors and download our white paper, “The 30% Solution: Growing Your Business by Winning and Keeping Women Advisors.”)

If I were a consolidator or venture firm seeking to invest in a financial services business, I would seriously consider a strategy organized around a woman-owned or woman-led firm. In this business, the winners will not be those who only attract clients. The winners will be those who become the employer of choice for talented, motivated individuals and who create a culture of caring, intelligence, ethics and safety.

If I were a woman, I would partner with the growing number of woman-owned businesses, networking with the many female professionals who could help me manage, fund and grow my own enterprise. The independent RIA and independent contractor broker-dealer movement has shown that you don’t have to work for somebody else to be successful. In fact, one could argue that independent firms are doing much better than their larger and more capitalized bureaucratic competitors.

Women take note: If business ownership strains your risk parameters, employment opportunities abound. Pershing’s “Advisor of the Future II” report, published last year, stated that the RIA business alone must find 237,000 new advisors over the next decade. Add to these the large number of retiring advisors within banks and broker-dealers. The financial services profession will need an army of new talent to join its ranks. Women with a relevant college degree or a measure of related experience will be very appealing hiring prospects. Employment at a large institution may be a stepping-stone or a permanent commitment, but either way women now have the opportunity to build an enduring career in a very fulfilling profession. To download the full “Advisor of the Future II” report, visit Pershing.com/AOTF.

The Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution was first proposed 90 years ago—and it has never been ratified. But that hasn’t stopped women from progressing. The opportunity to make an impact in what used to be a man’s world has never been greater. Wise employers will continue to hire and advance female professionals because it is the right thing to do and because it makes good business sense. Financial services firms need talent. Women want women as advisors. Sounds like a formula for success.

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