We’re in a relationship business and women are good at relationships; so it should come as no surprise that, when given the opportunity, women succeed at all levels of the financial services industry.

As we work to meet the needs of women investors, our industry can greatly benefit from having well-trained, experienced women financial advisors.

In 2010, women made up less than one-third of personal financial advisors, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Meanwhile, the 2010 Catalyst Census of Women Executive Officers found that women comprise less than a quarter of all senior officers in the financial services and insurance industries. A study published by American Express stated that in 2011, just 20% of finance and insurance firms are owned by women.

On the other hand, small businesses owned by women are expected to create many new jobs in the United States over the next few years. In December 2009, a report from The Guardian Life Small Business Research Institute estimated that women small business owners will be responsible for creating between 5 million and 5.5 million new jobs across the United States by 2018. This amounts to over half of the 9.72 million new small business jobs and about one-third of the 15.3 million total new jobs the Bureau of Labor Statistics believes will be generated by that year.

The Institute also praised the more inclusive, less hierarchal management style generally practiced by women small business owners because it is helping transform workplaces across the country. According to the Institute, women managers and business owners tend to be more committed to creating opportunities for others, more receptive to internal and external input and more engaged in various facets of their businesses, among other qualities.

Clearly, the industry must develop new strategies that attract and support women professionals at every level. To do so, we must accomplish a variety of tasks:

  • Increase the number of experienced women financial advisors via mentoring, succession planning and leadership opportunities
  • Nurture internal associates and mentor them to help them grow into higher-profile roles
  • Work hard to retain the women who are already part of our corporate family
  • Recruit the next generation of industry leaders
  • Continue to grow our female client base by focusing on the needs of women investors

Giving women the resources to climb the corporate ladder has been a challenge for many financial firms, but it is critical. I know several successful women advisors who are so passionate about serving their clients that they feel a promotion would take them away from that responsibility. This is admirable, of course, but their decisions mean fewer women have opportunities to make positive, firm-wide changes to financial services companies.

Financial firms should seek to create inclusive corporate cultures that consider the individual needs of their employees while working to connect them with the larger workplace. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to achieving diversity in the work force. However, companies that make the effort are rewarded with innovative thinking, wiser business decisions, a greater pool of talented professionals and a stronger company—one that can deliver better service to a wider variety of clients.

Mary Zimmer
Head of International Wealth
RBC U.S. Wealth Management