There’s an unfortunate tendency among journalists to become inured to issues long before their readers. That’s because day in and day out we’re immersed in those issues, judging whether we’ve written too much about a topic or too little. At our daily editorial meetings, one of us frequently will test the validity of a “pitched” story idea by asking, “How does this advance the story?” If we think we can better serve our readers by writing yet another story about the Fed or social media or how to get referrals, we do so.
Our cover story this month is a good example of such a topic: women.
Mark Tibergien rails against the notion that women can be considered a niche for advisors. “How can you call a group a niche when they constitute more than 51% of the population?” he asked incredulously at the second annual Junxure conference in mid-September. Why should advisors pay more attention to the wife of a client couple?
One reason is that women increasingly control more money. Surveys show that widows or divorcees are highly likely to fire their (ex- or deceased) husband’s advisor.
In the same talk, Tibergien reiterated his well-honed point that there’s a talent shortage in the industry, and that engaging more young people and women to enter the profession may be the wisest way to relieve the talent shortage.
So in our cover story, Executive Managing Editor Danielle Andrus, Washington Bureau Chief Melanie Waddell and I sought answers to why the number of female advisors has been stalled somewhere in the 15%-25% range for what seems like forever.
In particular, I wanted to know if being a woman and a successful entrepreneur were compatible. After all, “being a woman” consists of much more than physical attributes. Studies consistently show that even when a woman has a time-sucking career, even when she brings in more money than her spouse and has a higher level of education, she remains the primary caregiver to the couple’s children. She’s the one responsible for paying bills and balancing the checkbook. She’s doing the cooking and the cleaning, even when she puts in long days at the office. She, not her brother(s), is also primarily responsible for caregiving for her parents, the data shows.
A personal opinion: Most men don’t do the caregiving or the cleaning or balancing the checkbook, even when they have the time, because they think those jobs are, well, beneath them. Professions dominated by women—teaching and nursing come to mind—tend to pay less and carry less prestige than the male-dominated professions in education and medicine: administrators and physicians. As with areas like, say, racial prejudice, laws banning certain behavior can predate by years or decades a change in that behavior, especially when that behavior is evinced by a group that has been dominant for, well, forever.
So the answers on our can-women-really-be-entrepreneurs question? Our cover story sampling said the answer was a crystal-clear “Yes.” In fact, they argued that women’s propensity for juggling multiple responsibilities and tasks gave them excellent training for founding and running a business, for judging priorities, for knowing when to outsource and for inspiring and motivating employees.
So women can and should be part of the answer to the looming advisor shortage. I must warn you, however, that it may come at a steep price. Our cover story experts were unanimous on another point: The advisory profession is a good choice for women because it can provide a much better life-work balance than other careers (such a balance, surveys show, is a primary driver for members of the millennial generation, who tend to embrace a “life first; work second” mentality).
Wouldn’t that be a wonderful thing if advisors became known as the most well-balanced profession, in addition to being considered ethical and well-paid and providing wonderful service and guidance to clients? Hmm, that might help more young people consider joining the profession in what would be a virtuous cycle for all. So tell me: pipe dream or realistic goal?