The financial service business has been talking about doing more to add and support female advisors for a number of years, but, frankly, despite all the chatter, we’re not making enough progress. Women still account for less than 20% of all independent financial advisors.
It’s time to get serious.
Not only is it good to have the makeup of independent firms reflect the broader national demographics but also it is a strategic imperative. Instead of empty platitudes, therefore, firms must begin to put words into action when it comes to both bringing more women into the industry and actively supporting their growth.
We also need to remedy the problem that women already working as advisors encounter all too often: getting bogged down in empty conversations as they attempt to make meaningful professional connections and expand their referral network.
By both building on our existing initiatives and creating new opportunities — in no small part by making investments into successful programs and industry groups that make a difference — independent broker-dealers and RIAs can boost professional development and growth for female advisors.
Road Map to Change
Specifically, there are a few things we could be doing better to initiate positive change in these areas. The first is creating forums that allow women to feel comfortable sharing their gender-related professional concerns. Female advisors, especially those who are in the growth phase of their careers, need to be able to talk to peers about the challenges they face.
Often, though, they aren’t afforded that opportunity, with many uneasy about speaking openly in male-dominated settings, which are the norm given the current demographics of the industry. We must better facilitate the free exchange of ideas, not only among other female advisors but with other professional women as well, regardless of the industry.
Indeed, whether someone is in financial services is frequently not as important as whether they can share relatable and useful insights that others can leverage to their advantage. This could include anything from tips for running a small business in a male-dominated field or clues for how to maintain a meaningful work-life balance while trying to raise a family and juggle a demanding career.
Whatever the case, many women advisors are not getting the opportunity to network in this fashion. Firms need to find a way to provide it to them, even if it means partnering with an outside resource.
Second, we need to do a better job of communicating the benefits of being a financial advisor. Many young people coming out of college, for instance, do not consider financial services as a career option because they have the mistaken impression that they’ll sit in a cubicle and be tied to a desk nine hours a day.