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Practice Management > Building Your Business > Recruiting

New Decade, New Chance to Close the Gender Gap

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What You Need to Know

  • Women are expected to hold $30 trillion in assets by end of the decade.
  • Advisor firms need to be creative in hiring and developing female advisors.
  • Providing a flexible career path can help keep female employees engaged and productive.

Women are expected to hold $30 trillion in assets by the end of the decade. They represent more than half the U.S. population and live longer.

Further, younger women are more likely than men to have earned a bachelor’s degree. Yet only about 31% of financial advisors are women, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

It is clear that the financial services industry needs to get serious about attracting and retaining women if it wants to build future-proof businesses.

While there’s no one-size-fits-all strategy here, there are a few foundational actions all firms can take to start breaking down some of the most common barriers.

Look for talent in new and unexpected places.

It is time we challenge the status quo and get out of our comfort zones to hire candidates that don’t look like us, think like us, act like us.

This means expanding our recruiting channels to include new and unexpected sources such as online and offline groups dedicated to grooming next-generation female leaders, or professional groups for women in financial services or women in technology or connecting to colleges and universities with large, diverse populations.

It also means reevaluating job descriptions to ensure that the language used is applicable to a diverse group of candidates. Also, it requires ensuring a level playground for all applicants. For example, blind-screening resumes — by removing name and personal and educational information — as a way to remove any biases.

Hire for potential, not just technical skills.

We know that less than a quarter of CFPs are women. And more often than not women’s career paths differ distinctively from men’s — looking more like a zigzag than a hockey stick.

Evaluating candidates purely on experience and technical skills risks leaving many highly qualified candidates out of the recruiting process. Further, it significantly hinders diversity of thought.

Given the right support and training, candidates with the right attitude and a desire to learn quickly make up for any gap in skills and experience.

Further, employees with positive attitudes — team spirit, optimism — create a halo effect, inspiring those around them. While we are seeing some firms move in this direction, there’s still a lot of progress to be made to broaden the lens through which we evaluate candidates.

Build a culture that matters to all and welcomes all.

Women value teamwork, empathy and supportive work environments. They want their work to have meaning and offer healthy work-life balance.

These factors have arguably become more pronounced in the aftermath of the pandemic, where burnout and mental health issues have affected not just women but all employees.

A workplace culture that puts the well-being of employees first, offers them not just a job but a purpose and an environment where everyone is empowered to succeed — and find their unique path — is the only way to build a successful talent strategy and a diverse workforce.

Power career development, yet understand that everyone has a different path.

Firms that want to build a diverse workforce and leadership have to embrace the different ways men and women approach and progress in their careers. Therefore, they need to:

  • Create more flexible career paths and growth opportunities so they can keep women engaged and productive.
  • Look at performance more holistically — not as a one-time or once-a-year scenario, but over the course of an employees’ tenure, as well as within the context of external circumstances.
  • Be more resourceful about providing the support women — and all employees — need in times of stress, be it through corporate wellness programs, group activities (virtual and, eventually, in person) that foster a sense of belonging, camaraderie and purpose.

The pandemic magnified the challenges faced by working women, causing many to leave the workforce and reversing decades of progress. If we miss the opportunity to reengage women, the damage will be irreparable and felt by all those involved.

The financial advisory profession has a huge stake in how it grapples with the rising financial power of women who are potential future clients on one hand and their largely homogeneous and aging workforce on the other.

Christina Townsend is head of relationship management, consulting and platform strategy for advisor solutions at BNY Mellon| Pershing.