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How Can Our Industry Help Narrow the Gender Gap?

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What You Need to Know

  • About 41% of men say their retirement readiness has improved in the past year.
  • Just 18% of women surveyed report an improvement in retirement readiness.
  • One solution might be for women to work with people like you — or to do what you do.

The new AIG Life & Retirement research Americans Moving Forward explores how people are thinking more critically about future events and the impact on their finances.

One of the notable findings is that women appear less likely than men to have experienced financial improvements over the previous year. In fact, only 1 in 4 women (26%) said their household’s financial situation has improved, compared with 41% of men. The greatest disparity was in retirement readiness, where only 18% of women report an improvement, compared with 41% of men.

These survey findings provide yet another reason why our industry must do more to help women achieve financial and retirement security. With the start of the new year, this is the perfect moment to focus in on ways we can work together to narrow the gender gap.

Financial Professionals Will Play a Critical Role

One of the most important steps to narrow this gender gap is for more women to work with financial professionals.

The guidance and tools that financial professionals provide can be a powerful resource for building retirement security. With a financial professional at their side, women will be better able to strengthen their financial well-being, reduce stress and stay on track for retirement goals.

More than that, a trusted financial professional can develop a personalized plan that accounts for the expected and the unexpected. Whether it’s handling financial distress, a new career path or family changes, women can ensure their retirement plan has flexibility so they can manage the repercussions of significant life changes.

A Two-Way Street

Let’s not forget, though, that it’s a two-way street. It is equally as important for our industry to make women a significant part of our business strategy, whether that’s bringing more women in as clients or creating services and solutions that match the financial realities of their lives.

One way to achieve this goal will be for us to recruit more women for careers in financial services and insurance. The financial lives of women are often much different than they are for men. With more women leading the meetings that define strategy, create product and manage implementation, the financial concerns and needs of women will be better reflected in our work.

How far have we gone to incorporate women’s financial needs into our operations? Does our work sufficiently recognize that women generally live longer than men and will need to fund more years of retirement? Do our strategies fully incorporate the possibility that women may want to work on a range of financial goals before saving for retirement? Does our approach recognize that women often spend fewer years in the workplace, whether that is a result of stepping away to raise children, serving as family caregivers or something else?

Setting the Tone

We also need more female leaders in our industry. It’s been a persistent challenge to unblock the system at the most senior levels and, while progress is being made, we must do more.

We are seeing more companies establish programs that make elevating women to management positions a business priority. For these efforts to take full effect, the tone must be set from the top. Leadership must communicate clearly and consistently why this is vital to the success of their organization. In addition, companies need not to just have these programs in place, but also regularly evaluate their progress and adjust as necessary.

As one example, I worked with several of my colleagues to create a Women in Distribution networking group at AIG Life & Retirement. It’s been such a helpful setting for my female colleagues to build relationships and help one another enhance our careers. More than that, the formation of this group sent a signal across our organization that the advancement of women is important, and we are taking it seriously.

Let’s Use This Moment to Narrow the Gender Gap

The last two years have been incredibly complex and extraordinarily challenging.

It is only natural to want things back the way they were, but we should not lose sight of the fact that much needed to change before 2020 — and still needs to change. Let’s use the new year to improve financial and retirement security for women and to take steps within our organizations to make that outcome more likely.

Terri FiedlerTerri Fiedler is president and chief executive officer of AIG Financial Distributors.




(Image: David Sacks/Shutterstock)