The concept of diversity encompasses acceptance and respect. It means understanding that each individual is unique, and recognizing those differences. It is about moving beyond simple tolerance to embrace and celebrate the rich dimensions of diversity contained within each of us. Senior Market Advisor has launched a series about how diverse groups are making inroads in our industry. We start this month with WOMEN ADVISORS, and we welcome your comments. Let us know what you think.
WOMEN IN INSURANCE
by Maria Wood
Why aren’t there more women advisors? Women make up 51 percent of the population
and half of the workforce. So why are there still so few women advisors?
Q&A WITH JO ANN FAVIA
by Maria Wood
A successful work/life balance. Jo Ann Favia has been a financial advisor for 25 years
and has never missed one of her children’s school events. Read how she does it.
ESTATE PLANNING FOR SENIOR WOMEN
by Ed McCarthy, Greg Betza Illustration
On her own. Estate planning for your single senior women clients requires special care.
Women In Insurance
Women make up 51% of the population and half of the workforce. So…why aren’t there more women advisors?
It’s a question that has no easy answers and one that is, quite frankly, fraught with sexism (perhaps on the part of both genders). Despite the efforts of large carriers and industry organizations, the insurance and financial advisory business remains a largely male-dominated field. Yes, women have made strides, but the percentage of female affiliated agents hovers around 20 percent (according to LIMRA), the same as it has for the better part of this decade.
Why is that so? Working advisors and recruitment executives paint a picture of an industry that still needs to do a better job of reaching out to women to bring them into the field, as well as training, mentoring and supporting them while they build a career in the industry.
Sarah J. Kaelberer, CFP, CLU, ChFC, vice president at Business & Estate Advisers, Inc., in Wayzata, Minn., says that while she does see more women entering the field, it’s not a significant influx. “It is still a male-dominated industry,” she declares.
Perhaps it stems from traditional male/female roles of breadwinner and homemaker. Men have always been able to pursue their careers because they had a support system at home, meaning the wife ran the household, Kaelberer points out. A woman with a family may not have the same opportunity. Therefore, their career path may not take a straight-up trajectory, but a more circuitous route.
Add to that equation a job that requires an advisor to sometimes be on call at all hours of the day, and women have an even harder time blending work and family. “In my experience, to be a top advisor in this field, it is not a 9-to-5 job,” Kaelberer says. “People need your assistance at other hours. Or you are called upon to do different things at different times, whether that’s in the business-building arena, doing networking at various events, or in the service arena dealing with a client who has had a spouse die.”
LIMRA tallied the percentage of affiliated female agents in 2004 and 2007 at 37 companies. Women accounted for 23 percent of the total in 2007, up a mere one percentage point from 2004. The organization is currently doing a more current count.
LIMRA further looked at recruitment efforts. In 2010, women affiliated with a carrier made up 28 percent of all recruits, pretty much the same percentage since 2004.
Current female members of the Million Dollar Round Table number roughly 13,500 out of a membership total of nearly 36,000. Percentage-wise, women make up about 38 percent, with U.S. women numbering 1,086. The number has ebbed and flowed in recent years, going from 12,000 in 2007 down to 10,000 in 2009, a drop the organization attributes partly to the recession.
Arthea (Charlie) Reed, Ph.D., CLTC, works as a financial rep for Northwestern Mutual and heads her own company, Long Term Care Insurance Connection, Inc., in Ashville, N.C. She also sits on the board of Women in Insurance & Financial Services (WIFS), an organization dedicated to attracting women to the industry and advancing their careers.
She agrees with Kaelberer that women are not entering the field in any great numbers. “I was just at an industry-wide meeting and looking around, there were no more women there then there were at meetings 10 years ago,” Reed says. “It was actually an African-American meeting, so diversity was obviously a major focus, and I would say probably under 20 percent of the participants were female.”
Support or special treatment?
So how can the industry as a whole and its companies get more women into the ranks? Several dynamics can foster a workplace where women want to work and where they can grow, say those in the field. Mentorship from management and flexibility were two key attributes.
Pat Brzozowski, national diversity director in agency distribution for Prudential, says that in focus groups with newly hired women, participants cited several factors that led them to take a job with the insurance giant. First, having a manager who supported them and actively worked to help them succeed was important. “They [the managers] were going to be personal mentors and they really bought in to making them successful,” she says.Next up was flexibility, especially for those with young children. “They wanted to know if they had to leave the office at three o’clock to pick up their son from school, that they had that flexibility,” Brzozowski says.
Brzozowski contends that more women are entering the field and that the number of female agents in Pru’s network is on the upswing and closely mirrors the numbers of other large companies in the industry.
As Reed sees it, if the leadership in the agency or company is considerate toward its female employees, they will succeed. In her Northwestern Mutual office, two of the top producers are female (she is one of the two). In fact, 40 percent of the staff is female.
Reed cites managers–whether male or female–for that success. “The difference between the office I’m in and the offices of some of my female colleagues is the leadership and how sensitive it has been to the needs of women,” she says. “I see a lot of places where for whatever reason, the leadership, which is largely male and even if it’s female, is not terribly sensitive to the needs of women.”
Yet there’s a thin line between helping women succeed and giving them special treatment. Kaelberer says that the industry as whole should focus on recruiting and training qualified advisors, whether male or female, and developing the tools and processes to make them more efficient so they can spend time on the most important facet of the job–interfacing with clients.
“Nobody gives me any opportunity. I take those opportunities,” Kaelberer says. “I have never succumbed to the vision [that] I don’t have the same opportunities because I’m a woman or I need special privileges because I’m a woman. Success and advancement are what I choose to make of it, not what somebody else puts out there for me. Now, I’m in an independent broker/dealer so therein lies a potential unique aspect that I have that may not exist in certain companies.”
A good field for women
As sexist as this may sound, women are said to possess certain skills and inherent traits that make them a good fit for this profession. They are natural relationship builders, can multi-task and—to echo probably the most time-worn clich?s about women–are sensitive and good listeners. All attributes that a good adviser–male or female–needs.
Kaelberer explains that whereas men tend to stick to a pre-determined script when talking to a client, a woman may pick up on something that is bothering client, such as a troublesome child. “We will stop and listen to that, knowing that our multi-tasking brain is going to bring us back to where we left off,” Kaelberer says. “That is something that clients or perspective clients very much tune into, [which] is ‘hey, they picked up on that and followed me over here.’ In addition, women tend to use many more words. Especially in dealing with seniors, [that] helps them recall and understand why” an advisor is making a recommendation.
Taking care of young children is perhaps the best training for this field, Reed asserts. “You have to be a good listener if you have little kids,” she says. “We have absolutely the right traits for what this field needs now, because every single study says that people don’t select their financial advisors because of the products that they sell or the companies they represent. They select their financial advisors because they trust them and they have a relationship with them. That is what women bring to this career and the women who have been incredibly successful in it that is exactly how they built it.”
Despite their relationship-building capabilities, women may need help in sharpening their networking skills. In February, Allianz kicked off a women’s employee resource group within the company. It’s already sponsored a number of events, which are open to both men and women.
Mary Currier, vice president of IT relationship management at Allianz in Minneapolis, heads the group, whose goal is to attract and retain qualified women and move them into leadership positions. During meetings, participants expressed a desire to boost their networking skills, Currier recalls. Consequently, the group has held a workshop on how to “build your brand.”
“Women don’t seem to network as well or as much as they should,” she says. “We are really busy with our own personal lives. We seem to be so busy that we don’t take the time to continuously network or promote ourselves.”
Loom large in LTCI
Anecdotally, all concur that women are more active in the long-term care insurance field. Pin it on their natural caregiver role that gives them first-hand insight into the need for this product.
That’s because if an aging parent requires care, it’s usually the wife or the daughter who delivers that assistance, Kaelberer says. “So as we talk to clients and prospects about the importance of long-term care it’s because we know we’re the caregivers. We’ve done it for our parents or we’ve watched our mom do it for grandma.”
Nevertheless, LTCI can serve as a gateway into other products, Brzozowski says. “You use long-term care as an entryway to build the relationship,” she says. “But then you do a holistic fact-finder to find out what is it that my client needs in total and how can I help my client meet all the challenges for a secure financial future.”
Build a support network
At the most basic level, if women want to succeed in this very competitive field, they need to build their own support network and frankly, ask for help, Kaelberer says.
“For me, one of the biggest hurdles was hiring a housekeeper because that meant I just couldn’t do it all,” she says. “I don’t even like housekeeping. So what difference did that make if it saved me four hours a week that I could now dedicate to my children or for that evening that I had to help a client whose spouse had died? Women cannot be afraid to ask for help in this industry. Men always did and got very successful. As soon as we learned to ask for that help and build that support network we now are seeing ourselves enjoy that same level of success.”
Even in light of all the efforts Prudential makes to attract more women, Brzozowski says the industry should be doing more. For its part, Prudential encourages its field managers to build alliances with local and national women’s organizations, such as the National Association of Women MBAs, so more women will become aware of the company as well as financial services as a career option.
“When you consider that women make up 51 percent of the population and almost 50 percent of the workforce, yet in our industry, on the agency side, women are only 20 percent,” Brzozowski says. “That is something we really need to put a lot of effort on.”
What makes a woman successful in the financial services and insurance industry? Women in Insurance & Financial Services (WIFS), an advocacy group for women in the field, wants to know. It’s undertaking a study to discover what characteristics high-achieving women have that makes them thrive in financial services, according to Arthea (Charlie) Reed, Ph.D., CLTC, a board member of WIFS. She is also a financial rep for Northwestern Mutual and head of her own company, Long Term Care Insurance Connection, Inc., in Ashville, N.C.
“We’re hoping we can find some things that we will be able to provide to those insurers and corporations that are hiring, training, developing and promoting women to get more [women] into the business and have them stay and flourish,” she says.
Meanwhile, Prudential looked at one of its branches in the Chicago area where five of the top 10 agents are women. It found that one of factors for that success was a women’s study group that allowed the female agents to bounce ideas off of each other. “If I’m a new woman in the industry and I might be having a challenge, I can go to a woman who has been in the industry for five or 10 years and ask, how did you did you overcome this challenge with your family or this challenge on the marketing side,” says Pat Brzozowski, national diversity director in agency distribution for Prudential. “That study group is very important.”
Q&A with Jo Ann Favia
A work/life balance
Jo Ann Favia has been a financial advisor for 25 years and has never missed one of her children’s school events. Here’s how she does it.
Jo Ann E. Favia, CLU, ChFC, AIF(R), started in the financial planning business 25 years ago–a time when there were so few women in the field that meeting venues switched the ladies lounges to men’s rooms because there were so few women in attendance at industry conferences.