Early in my job search, I was fortunate to find a career that gave me passion and purpose, a job that lets me build the life I wanted.
How many careers give you the satisfaction of helping people and the chance to do well by doing good? Starting out in sales provided these benefits and more. Truthfully, though, I found the career by chance, not by actively seeking it. And like me, too few women see a career path in sales as an option. A job as a financial professional provides control. Advisors set their goals and schedule based on personal desires. Having that autonomy to achieve what I was motivated to do with the support of a larger firm piqued my interest. When I began my career many people did not know what it meant to be a financial professional and, unfortunately, 20 years later the industry is still plagued with obscurity.
Fewer than one-third of all financial professionals are women, according to a recent Forbes article. Knowing that, it’s also no surprise that few women report having an advisor. Our industry needs to appeal to more women as consumers but also, maybe even more importantly, as a vibrant career option. We need to do a better job introducing the career and helping new agents and advisors succeed.
First, we need to figure out what keeps women from exploring sales opportunities. The recent Guardian study, “Closing the Gender Gap in Sales,” brought to light the fact that the industry has been considering this issue with tunnel vision: It’s not that women are not interested in a career in financial services, it’s that women are not sold on a career in sales, regardless of the industry.
The study identified certain areas the industry needs to address in order for women to consider a career pivot into sales.
Confidence Women often fear they don’t have the ego-driven personality they need to succeed in sales. In fact, 77 percent of women surveyed think they’re not pushy enough for the job. We need to help women realize that they have great skills to offer this career. Top advisors of both genders are driven by a desire to help others and solve problems. The idea of a pushy salesperson being the protocol is outdated and doesn’t reflect who our advisors are or what consumers want. We need financial professionals that listen to clients’ fears and offer financial guidance, propose solutions and alternatives based on each individual situation. In short, what is needed are financial professionals with a natural ability to listen to peoples’ needs and solve problems. According to 2014 research on women leaders by Caliper, “These dynamics favor a results-and actionoriented approach, a straightforward and persuasive communication style, and strength in recognizing patterns in data and solving problems.” Ideal qualities for financial professionals and also innate abilities for many men and women. As we reach out to new female recruits, we should reinforce that this is no longer an industry centered on cold calls, but one that has evolved to nurturing relationships and problem-solving. They can come as they are and be successful.