When you have the opportunity to do something that is both fundamentally right and potentially profitable, you know the stars have aligned. Such is the case with recruiting women to the male-dominated field of financial services and — very importantly — helping those women succeed.
As an industry, we need to help women recognize opportunities to let their talents flourish. At the same time, recruiting and retaining women is smart from a business perspective. Women make up an increasingly influential segment of our marketplace: They control and/or influence vast amounts of personal and business wealth.
This growing class of entrepreneurial and influential women represents an ideal market for financial services companies and professionals. Yet, for all their growing power, both as business owners and as individual consumers, an astounding 84% of women say they feel misunderstood by the financial services industry. Bringing more women into our ranks and helping them build their own books of business is one of the best ways we can begin to close this gap.
We know from experience that successful women like to work with other successful women. We also know that adopting some specific best practices now can make a huge impact in the near future. Five years ago, we began taking aggressive steps to recruit, retain and advance women agents.
In that time, we have doubled our number of women agents, who now account for approximately a third of our firm. More importantly, we have helped these talented and aspiring women succeed. Several women have been among our best producers in the past five years; one has been our very top producer for the past two years. Nearly half our women agents now qualify for the company’s internal recognition program for top performers. Five years ago, none did.
Here are some of the best practices that have made a difference for us.
Listen to successful professional women. Three years ago, we launched an advisory board made up of some of the leading women professionals in the tri-state area that we serve. They have been an invaluable source of referrals to new hires, new business and new approaches to women in the marketplace. These professional women have been eager to help well-intentioned firms, such as ours, provide opportunity to women, both in the form of careers and financial services expertise.
Look for the right type of person, not just the right type of resume. Some of our most successful women agents come from non-traditional backgrounds or from previous careers that did not provide them with opportunities to maximize their talent. One of our best-performing agents is a woman who had been relegated to administrative work at her former firm and denied opportunities for advancement. Another agent was a restaurant manager who has been able to apply her smarts, energy, leadership and entrepreneurial skills to her new and highly successful career in the financial services field.
Adopt women-friendly workplace policies. Women often are caregivers to their own families, their parents and others. Adopting policies such as flex time, flexible training and development schedules and flexible career paths will give them the room they need to balance their home and work lives. It’s not enough to recruit women; you have to help them stay and thrive in the business.