It’s obvious to say that there are many more female financial professionals today than there were when Angelia Shay, a financial advisor with Eagle Strategies LLC, an RIA and a wholly owned subsidiary of New York Life Insurance Co., began her career in 1989.
Even so, recruiting and retaining more women in the profession is still a challenge and one that Shay — who’s also an agent with New York Life’s Richmond General Office and who was just named president of Women in Insurance & Financial Services (WIFS) — believes can be overcome if the realities of the industry are spelled out more clearly to women.
For one, the entry-level positions in the industry are often commission-based, so for women, who generally tend to favor security more than men do, not having a regular income combined with the fear of not producing enough (albeit there is significant income potential in this profession), is a real deterrent, Shay says.
To counter that impediment, Shay makes sure to compare the career of a financial advisor to other careers perceived to generate six-figure salaries, such as law or medicine.
“I tell young women I meet that those careers require an initial investment in education of six to eight years, and during that initial phase they are not receiving any income,” Shay says. “If they can then flip their switch and apply that same model mentally to getting started as a financial advisor, the difference is that an initial investment of six to eight years could possibly generate some revenue. In essence, you are investing in a career that implies significant income as opposed to student loans.”
This is a conversation that’s necessary, Shay believes, to bringing more young women into the profession, but one that she feels doesn’t take place enough, so having the conversations will be an important part of her mandate at the helm of WIFS, whose mission is to attract, develop and advance women in the financial services industry.
“Our industry is dominated by men, but I talk to a lot of men who have a deep desire to bring more women in, who know the demographics and where the money is going to go,” she says. “I tell them it’s important to be transparent and not paint a picture of this profession as bringing in big dollars at the beginning.”
It’s important, she says, for women to understand that being an advisor is as tough a job as any other, and that the benefits, including the flexibility it offers for family life, don’t come till later on.
However, she is also keen for women to understand how good a fit the advisory profession is for those who are naturally wired to want to help others. “Outside of ministry, I can’t imagine any other career with such a high calling,” she says.
She hopes to be able to bring all these different elements together during her tenure at WIFS. The organization was founded 75 years ago and today averages about 40 new members a month.
“We’re growing in leaps and bounds, and that offers a wonderful support network for women across the country,” she says.
Shay urges women who either are already in the industry or are thinking of entering the profession to make full use of the resources and networking opportunities that WIFS has to offer.
She also believes it’s important for women to be a part of a company “that is dedicated to developing its people, because the most successful women I’ve met are those who come from firms that believe in investing in their people.”