Overcoming the Fear of Starting an Independent Advisory Firm

With October being Women’s Small Business Month (WSBM), we couldn’t help but feel inspired by these stats:

  • An average of 1,821 new women-owned businesses opened every day in 2018.
  • Women-owned businesses grew in number by 58% over the last 10 years — a full five times faster than the average growth rate in the U.S.
  • Globally, 2018 continued a decade-long trend of narrowing the gap between male and female entrepreneurs — an improvement of a whopping 36% over the last 10 years.
  • Women of color opened 78% of new women-owned businesses.
  • After a banner 2018, women of color now make up 47% of all female founders.
  • In total, there are more than 5.8 million businesses owned by women of color. They employ 2.23 million people and yield $386.6 billion in revenue.

As USA Today columnist Rhonda Abrams writes in this article, “Women business owners will save America.”

Yet, despite these encouraging statistics, many women are still hesitant to start their own companies.

Over the years, we have heard so many female financial planners say how they’d like to start their own firm, only to qualify that statement with, “But I could never do it.” And when we ask them what’s holding them back, it always boils down to one thing: fear. The fear of the unknown, the fear of failure, the fear of being judged, the fear of not being taken seriously…

These fears are warranted, but as two entrepreneurs who are still standing after founding our own companies, we’d like to say that it’s worth it, and you can do it. Forbes listed four great ways on how to handle this well-justified fear:

1. Accept that it’s okay to have a reasonable amount of fear.

Bear with us for a second. It may seem nonsensical, but fear — fear of failure, the fear of irrelevance, or the fear of simply not fulfilling your dreams — is an important motivator. In the words of Liz Elting, a prominent entrepreneur, business leader, and philanthropist: “These are healthy fears that encourage both responsibility and risk-taking, keeping you perpetually on your toes instead of getting complacent or resting on your laurels.” The right kind and amount of fear can inspire you to find new opportunities, seek out new strategies, and keep striving for more.

2. Know what to expect.

Yes, you’ve heard those Cinderella stories of young businesses that transform into overnight successes. But the reality is that most successful firms take time to grow. Having a clear and realistic idea of what your first five years will look like will help you be more efficient and productive, and be more satisfied with the amount of work you accomplish. Having a realistic vision will also help you avoid burnout, which can be the biggest barrier to growth for new entrepreneurs.

3. Set goals for today and tomorrow.

Establish daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly goals for your business and give yourself tangible, achievable steps. There are a wide variety of goal-setting frameworks that can help you with this exercise; Elting recommends the SMART Goals framework, which ensures your goals conform to a rigorous set of criteria (Smart, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely). Don’t fall into the trap of letting your future dreams and ambitions drive your decisions without any sense of balance or a path to making your vision a reality.

4. Find your tribe.

You can avoid or manage stress overload by making sure you have a network of colleagues, centers of influence (COIs), friends, and family you can connect with and turn to when the going gets tough (and when things are going well!).

Equita provides a supportive network for female financial planners.

The conversations that we have had with smart, ambitious, yet (rightfully so) cautious businesswomen are part of the reason why we founded Equita Financial Network.

We went through the same challenges and faced the same doubts. But we knew the positives — being our own boss, having a flexible schedule, pursuing our passion, having more control over our future career, and charging what we’re worth (the top five reasons women start their own business) — outweighed the fears.

We founded Equita Financial Network in 2018 because we wanted to create a supportive network for female financial advisors so they could get the outsourced resources, framework, and connections needed to branch out on their own.

If you’re interested in joining our network, contact us today.

“The Western Woman Will Change the World”: Harnessing Our Collective Power to Ignite Change

The Dalai Lama, in all of his great wisdom, once proclaimed that, “The western woman is going to change the world.”

As women, there is such tremendous strength in our ability to collaborate, and in our empathy, compassion, drive, and intelligence. But moving the needle on this change requires more than just talking about it — it requires action. I’d like to share my story behind launching Equita Financial Network with my fellow co-founder, Katie Burke, and how we hope it can truly make a difference to women-led planning firms across the country (and to the many clients these planners serve).

Bridget’s Story

Several years ago, I launched WealthChoice, a financial life planning firm for women executives and their families. I should start by saying that I never intended on starting my own firm when I entered the financial planning industry.

But I was tired of the many years I spent working countless hours for a traditional RIA every week. I was tired of getting paid a fraction of what male planners were being paid at the firm and hearing from other firms that I was “too old” to consider a lateral move. I was tired of being told I was too ambitious by my boss, or that my efforts to bring women together were a waste of time. All of these feelings converged and, with unbelievable anxiety and stress, I launched my own financial planning firm in 2016, guided by a vision and passion and my clients’ trust.

This is where Equita comes in.

In order to provide the highest level of guidance to my clients, my firm, WealthChoice, needs the best business resources. As a small, woman-led business, I found it easier to outsource these resources rather than curate them myself, mostly for fear of missing key pieces or making mistakes. I also wanted to have more time to focus on client service, which was possible by outsourcing many business resources.

As financial planners, our role is to help women, who are working so very hard, live life on their terms. Financial planning is an absolute passion of mine, but so is having my own firm. We are intentional in who we serve, and how we serve our clients. My firm is an extension of myself, and it is a personal passion. It brings me tremendous fulfillment. But as my firm grew, it also caused me to step back to see how we could structure our business better so that we could do more of what we do best: serve our clients.

The Power of Collaboration

In the course of business, I met and collaborated with another financial planner on some client cases to great success: Katie Burke, President of Method Financial Planning. Together, we realized the great power that came with collaborating in our respective businesses. Clients benefit, we benefit. Katie and I started to share best practices in business and planning on a more frequent basis. We saw terrific results and knew that other women could benefit from the same type of relationship.

So, we started to brainstorm: What would allow us to become even better planners? How could we make that available for other independent, women-led planning firms?

We wanted solutions that would allow us to spend more time on what is most important to our firms — and that is great financial planning solutions for our clients. We both realized that by having outstanding business resources behind us, we would be capable of doing better work and running our businesses more efficiently. We could have more time and resources to grow our businesses intentionally. We could streamline the operational tasks that come with running our businesses, but often bog us down on the road to growth. And most importantly, we envisioned a platform for collaboration, for sharing curated resources, for succession planning, and for helping other women led firms be successful. To do this, we needed to create a suite of the best industry resources, which we spent the next seven months assembling.

Equita’s first two member firms were WealthChoice and Method Financial Planning — and since then, we have welcomed other women-led firms into our community, and look forward to bringing even more into the fold over the coming months.

We’re on a mission to make a difference to clients and women business owners on a scale we have not yet seen in our industry.

There is power in connecting smart, driven, like-minded women in business. Together, we will change the future for our clients, and for the female financial planners who make real, positive change in their lives every day.

Study Shows Women Financial Advisors Are Much Happier at Solo Practices Rather than Large Firms — Why Is This?

We all know that the percentage of women entering finance is dismal: The CFP Board reported that, for the years 2017, 2015, and 2013, the number of women with Certified Financial Planner™ (CFP®) certification was stagnant at about 23 percent.

But the recent paper “Success and satisfaction of women in financial planning,” published in the academic research journal Financial Planning Review, sought to find out how women currently in the industry feel.

“Is financial planning an attractive profession for the women who are already in it? Do female financial planners feel successful and satisfied in their profession?” the authors Jim Pasztor, CFP®, Aman Sunder, and Rebecca Henderson asked.

After surveying 224 experienced, professional financial planners on their feelings of satisfaction and success, the authors came to a conclusion that we also have found true from personal experience:

“The women in our sample were equivalent or better than men with regard to education, experience, personality (the Big Five personality traits), and CFP® certification. However, we found that professional career satisfaction was surprisingly higher for women if they worked for a solo practice rather than for a large firm where they felt significantly more successful.”

Why Are Women So Much Happier at Solo Practices?

Why is this? What is offered at a solo firm that isn’t available at a big firm? The authors concluded, “The findings of this study support our hypothesis that women might be countering the lack of objective success at the large firms with subjective components of success at smaller firms.”

In other words, because women are not getting a higher salary or promotions (extrinsic components of career success) at bigger firms, they are finding personal happiness and growth (intrinsic components of success) at small firms.

One of the reasons women launch solo firms is to get paid what they are worth. Equita co-founder Bridget Grimes launched her firm, WealthChoice, partially because of the pay issue. She knew she wasn’t getting paid what male financial planners were, even though she had advocated for herself. In the end, she knew the only way to fix that was to launch her own firm and pay herself what she was worth.

While the study may have indicated that the only reasons women prefer to be solo is to find personal happiness and growth, it’s important to note that a very large — and important — reason why women take this path is the pay disparity issue in our industry, which is a non-issue when you pay yourself.

Why Do Women Enter the Financial Planning Profession in the First Place?

The authors of the Financial Planning Review study said, “Women in our sample became financial planners primarily because they want to help people, enjoy being in the profession, want to grow professionally, and want the opportunity to work independently. Our qualitative analysis also shows that more women than men are drawn to financial planning because they wanted to be independent, and they were dissatisfied with the corporate environment.”

This study further confirmed what Bridget and I (Katie Burke) discovered by breaking away from large firms and starting our own firms (I founded Method Financial Planning in Pennsylvania and Bridget founded WealthChoice in California): that starting your own firm is worth it, both professionally and personally. And that’s why we also founded Equita Financial Network — so we could help other women do the same.

Why Do Women Benefit When They Start Their Own Practices?

Instead of having to rely on a firm (that makes you miserable and pays you less than your male co-workers) to create a career path for you, you can forge your own path. Women represent one in four female planners — and together, we can create a culture that lifts each other up.

Bridget and I are passionate about helping women forge their own paths. By working with a community like Equita, you can get the support and tangible business resources you need to succeed, without relying on larger firms where you may be dealing with unfair biases, pay inequality, and other issues. Our focus is on empowering women to build the firms they want, with tools designed to help women succeed in business, and with a network of other like-minded women planners who are also business owners. While other networks also offer similar resources, many are still male-dominated, meaning they don’t have tools specific to helping women business owners succeed and don’t have a network of like-minded women to rely on for support.

As the study concluded, the industry needs to prioritize career development, professional recognition, and equal compensation for women financial planners if they want to fix the gender imbalance. Equita has been addressing this glaring problem by creating a platform for collaboration, sharing curated resources, and helping other women-led firms be successful. We encourage other industry associations and initiatives to also offer services that provide more guidance and clearly defined career paths for women.

Take the Fear Out of Starting Your Own Path

Bridget and I have been hearing from women how afraid they are of launching their own firm. This fear factor means they tend to make lateral moves, or just leave the industry altogether. But, because Bridget and I have both been through this ourselves, we created a process that helps take the fear out, and helps firms grow and be successful.

If you’d like to be part of a community of women financial professionals who are passionate about supporting each other in this industry, contact us today. It’s time to take the fear out of starting our own paths and controlling our own narrative.

How to Reduce the Mental Load That Women Carry

In the 2017 viral comic, “The Mental Load: A Feminist Comic,” French illustrator Emma wrote, “When a man expects his partner to ask him to do things, he’s viewing her as the manager of household chores. The problem is that planning and organizing things is already a full-time job. When we ask women to take on this task of organization and at the same time to execute a large portion, in the end it represents 75% of the work.”

Inspired by this relatable comic, Boston Consulting Group (BCG) recently looked into this problem within their own company by surveying 6,500 employees in 14 countries across industries. They found that women often handle time sensitive, daily tasks — like leaving work on time to make dinner for the family and also cleaning up afterward. “This is the daily grind, and women tend to shoulder the primary responsibility for it,” they wrote.

Men, on the other hand, take on the less frequent tasks, which are not as time sensitive and are more easily outsourced, such as finances and yard work. “These men get more time to focus on their careers — to stay late at the office, meet colleagues for drinks or dinner after work, take on stretch assignments, or travel for business — and more time to decompress from the workday.”

BCG gave recommendations on how individuals and companies can fix this problem. “If companies are serious about getting more women into the ranks of leadership,” they said, “they need to address the burden of domestic responsibility and its contribution to the mental load that women carry.”

So, what can companies do?

1. Introduce More Flexible Work Arrangements

This can include allowing remote work or a shift in working hours. Companies can also be more flexible about needs that will inevitably come up, like employees having to leave work early for their child’s concert or their doctor’s appointment.

Thanks to the advent of technology, companies can also use tools like videoconferencing, virtual collaboration devices, telehealth services for parents with sick children, and online networks for employees to share advice about the challenges they face.

2. Place Emphasis on Dual-Career Couples and Promote Role Models

To get rid of the stigma associated with greater participation in domestic and childcare duties, men need to actively take advantage of flexible work programs and share real-life examples and stories about how they balance the mental load at home. Paternity leave is a great example, the BCG authors note.

3. Give More Support to All Working Parents

Companies can boost support by creating a parents’ network for both moms and dads, or offering onsite day care, backup childcare with locations near work, babysitting referral services, eldercare support, financial planners, and wellness providers.

In addition, companies can also go the extra mile to ease the mental load by providing online resources that vet and list popular outsourcing options — housecleaning, laundry, grocery delivery, and personal assistants — and provide discounted corporate rates for those services.

4. Reframe the Public Conversation

Companies can tailor their advertising and consumer messaging to remove problematic, outdated stereotypes. For example, the United Nations launched the Unstereotype Alliance to eradicate all harmful gender-based stereotypes from advertising, such as commercials that show women doing all the housework.

Not only is this helpful for breaking stereotypes, but it’s also good for business. In India, Procter & Gamble launched an ad campaign for its laundry detergent brand Ariel Matic, encouraging dads to help with laundry. The ads were a runaway success, generating a 42% boost in brand awareness and $12.3 million in “earned media coverage” and social media engagement.

Another example: Italian appliance manufacturer Indesit launched a 2017 campaign targeted at encouraging men to help with household chores. In its first three weeks, the campaign brought in more than 30 million views.

Katie Burke and I (Bridget Grimes) both founded our own financial advisory companies, and also co-founded Equita Financial Network together, because we firsthand experienced — and still experience — this mental load. Whether it’s having to go home early from work because your babysitter canceled or having to take an emergency personal call at work, women in finance should not be reprimanded for having to prioritize family.

As the BCG authors note, “If you ask working women with families why they step off the leadership track, it’s often not just because of what happens at the office. Rather, it’s because of the combined effect of their daytime job together with their second job of managing the incessant responsibilities of household and family care: what needs to be done, who needs to be where, how to make it all happen at once.” It’s time for this to change.

To learn more about our network of female financial advisors and our career-building opportunities and events, contact us today.

The Truth About the Pay Gap Between Male and Female Financial Advisors

Do men and women advisors get paid equally for doing the same work?

The working paper, “Examining the Gender Pay Gap Among Financial Professionals: A Blinder-Oaxaca Decomposition,” mentioned in a recent FA magazine article, argues that yes, women get equal pay for equal work.

But we’d like to say that, no, that’s not the case — and based on our personal experiences as women in the industry, we assert that the findings in the study are absolutely incorrect.

“Explainable” reasons

Derek T. Tharp, one of the study’s authors, says that “unequal pay for equal work” is not a major contributor to the gender pay gap among financial planners.

Instead, the study points to “explainable” reasons for the gender pay gap, saying 91 percent is explainable and only 1.8 percent is not.

“Explainable” reasons include job role, experience, team structure, hours worked, revenue produced, professional designation status, marital status, and psychological factors such as degree of motivation by income potential, performance pay, work-life balance, and stable pay.

While this study provides an interesting look at the gender pay gap, reducing the issue to “explainable” reasons is missing the point.

“Statistically significant factors related to income”

The study says that the “statistically significant factors related to income” were experience, role, team structure, work hours, revenue, and psychological motivators.

“Having 20 to 30 years of experience was positive. Being an associate advisor or an executive (both compared with a lead advisor) was a negative. Working in an ensemble firm, when compared to working as a solo advisor with support, was positively associated with income. Higher work hours and higher revenue also led to more income. Being less motivated by work-life balance also led to more income.”

How can you have “20 to 30 years of experience” when there isn’t a solid career re-entry program in place for mothers? How can you be “less motivated by work-life balance” when you’re the one expected to take care of the kids? How can you expect to work more hours and have higher income when you have to manage children, aging parents, and career with an inflexible work culture?

And for the many of us who did work the extra hours at the expense of giving up quality family time, we still face gender discrimination: we’re drastically underpaid compared to our male peers.

The study absolutely misses the point. If women financial planners want to be compensated fairly, they need roles that allow them the flexibility to manage life and career, they need to be paid what they are worth (it’s not happening), and they need to have the female leaders/mentors to help them succeed, which is NOT happening at the traditional male-led firms.

Career path “choice”

The study says men often choose more “variable-compensation-based paths,” while women choose “stable-income/salary-based paths.”

And because women don’t take “variable-compensation-based paths,” that’s why they have unequal pay later down the line. As the study puts it: “The difference in compensation of men and women in the later years may be more a function of that choice about compensation path than unequal pay for genders that choose the same type/path.”

But is this “compensation path” that women end up on — the path to less income — really a choice?

Women advisors are expected to take the stable, salary-based path. The title of this Newsweek article, “Women aren’t risk-averse — society teaches them to be that way, study says,” sums it up perfectly. In our society, women are often told to be risk-averse, while men are told to be daring.

The Newsweek article concludes, “Exploring risk aversion could provide clues as to why men and women sometimes opt for different careers, and why women suffer from a gender pay gap, the authors wrote.”

Yet in the study referenced in FA magazine, one of the authors says, “It’s not clear why men appear somewhat more likely to choose one path and women another, and why men tend to have more years of experience building their client base.”

It’s pretty clear why.

Aspiring women financial advisors

The authors say that this news — that women and men are paid equally for equal work — should be a relief to women wanting to become financial advisors.

“Speaking only for myself, I do hope that these findings may be encouraging to women who may have been discouraged from pursuing a career in financial planning due to the large gender pay gap among financial advisors commonly referenced in the media,” Tharp said. “I can certainly understand why anyone would feel discouraged from entering a profession if they felt that they would not receive equal pay for equal work.”

Another author of the study, Katherine S. Mielitz, also echoed these sentiments. “I was very excited when I first read through our preliminary results. The idea that a gender pay gap does not appear to be a result of unequal pay for equal work is very encouraging. Women are very important to the growth and sustainment of our field. That equal pay for equal work seems to be available should be one of many things that encourages women to seek out this profession.”

But this study’s clinical view of the gender pay gap isn’t something to celebrate, and it isn’t a way to encourage more women to enter the industry. There are still deeper issues our industry needs to address — from the nonexistent recruitment efforts throughout the school years, limited mentorship and sponsorship opportunities, women being excluded from networking opportunities, to the lack of women in leadership roles in finance.

Equita Financial Network

Financial advisors are not robots. Yes, we have careers — but we also have lives, family, emotions, unexpected changes, and everything else.

Both Bridget Grimes and I (Katie Burke) know that the gender pay gap issue can’t be dismissed because of “explainable” reasons,” “statistically significant factors related to income,” and “compensation paths.” It is why we have dedicated our professional lives to empowering female financial planners to create the careers they have always envisioned for themselves — careers in which they feel valued and are appropriately compensated for their vast contributions.

If you want to become an Equita member firm and join a supportive and experienced network of women financial advisors, reach out to us today.

How to Build a Business on Your Own Terms

Throughout our careers, both Katie Burke and I (Bridget Grimes) have dealt with toxic business environments and have faced gender discrimination and ageism. We have heard it all: too aggressive, too ambitious, too idealistic.

And our experiences aren’t unique — they mirror what women across our industry face. At traditionally run, male-dominated financial planning firms, women lack mentors, role models, and opportunities for growth.
These frustrations led both Katie and I to launch our own financial planning practices before we knew each other — Katie’s being Method Financial Planning in Pennsylvania and mine being WealthChoice in California. We found that if we wanted to change the outlook for female financial planners, we had to do it ourselves. The system was broken.

When Katie and I met each other later and found that we had similar values and goals, we created Equita Financial Network, a registered investment advisor (RIA) network for women-led firms, in May 2018. Having celebrated our one-year business anniversary earlier this summer, here are some tips we’ve learned along the way on how to build a business on your own terms.

Define your mission

Katie and I founded Equita Financial Network because we wanted to empower women financial planners and change the industry.

When defining our mission, we decided on three main pillars: 1. Offer community, 2. Close the wage gap through our platform, and 3. Enhance the quality of people’s lives. This mission has been our north star as we’ve built our business.

Achieve what you want

It can be challenging fighting expectations and creating your own definition of success. But don’t get distracted by other people’s opinions.

As Maren Hogan of Red Branch Media noted in The Muse, everyone will have unsolicited advice: “No one told me just how opinionated others would be about my business. People will come out of the woodwork with what they believe to be sage advice, when they’ve never even been in my shoes. People who have had corporate jobs all their lives will tell you exactly what you should be doing to run your business. Just nod and smile.”

Business goals aren’t the only thing to consider when starting a company. What do you want to achieve personally? Do you want the ability to spend more time with family, travel, work from anywhere? Your personal goals are just as important.

Be flexible

While running your own business can be fulfilling and freeing, it can also be unpredictable. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy, only about 50 percent of small businesses survive five years or longer.

As notes, “Make sure to take some time each week to think about the long-term health of your business. Think about the goals you’ve set and how you’ll get there. Do you need to invest in marketing or employee development and training, for instance? Planning for the future will help ensure that your business is around for a long time.”

Equita Financial Network has created a network for female financial planners to grow and connect, and for clients to get trusted and experienced financial advice. If you’re interested in becoming an Equita member firm or working with one of our firms’ financial advisors, contact us today.

What You Can Do to Retain More Women in Financial Services

With #MeToo and #TimesUp, we’ve made big strides in highlighting and challenging the biases and discrimination women face in all facets of business — but we still have a long way to go. In investment banking, for instance, women account for less than 17 percent of senior leaders; in private equity, 9 percent of senior executives and 18 percent of total employees; and at hedge funds and private debt firms, 11 percent of leadership roles. As Cate Luzio notes in her opinion piece “Why women keep leaving banking” for American Banker, “Women leave for many reasons, but young women look up and either see too few people like them in senior roles or, worse, too few opportunities. In my view, if you can’t see it, you can’t be it.”

To further illustrate the gaps, take a look at the findings from a CNBC and LinkedIn survey about working in the financial services industry:

  • Nearly two-thirds of women polled say females are less likely than males to reach leadership roles.
  • Women (8 percent) are about four times as likely as men (2 percent) to believe women are excluded from networking and social opportunities, such as after-work drinks or golf outings.
  • Only 40 percent of women and 75 percent of men agree that the genders working at the same level are paid equally at their companies.
  • Nineteen percent of women and 12 percent of men say the biggest obstacle is a lack of female leadership.
  • Fourteen percent of women say their biggest obstacle is a lack of mentorship or sponsorship.

So, how can companies retain more women in financial services? Here are a few suggestions:

1. Rebrand the financial services industry to make it clearer that women can succeed in this field

As Céline Dufétel, CFO at T. Rowe Price, notes,  “Very few women seek those careers out of school. I remember when I was interviewing for an internship way back when, the banks felt intimidating to me.” Companies needs to make it clear that women can thrive in this industry, that they’re taking this issue seriously, and that they’re actually doing something about fixing gender inequality. As Margo Cook from Nuveen Advisory Services states, “Making these issues a standard, let alone accepted, topic for all leaders to talk about — male or female — is what will break down the walls.”

2. Provide opportunities for professional growth and career development through mentorship and sponsorship

We need more and better access to sponsors; firms can accomplish this by expanding offerings for formal sponsorship programs. According to a McKinsey & Company survey, less than half of financial services companies have such programs, and only 58 percent have formal mentorship programs. McKinsey notes that while female role models are crucial, both men and women should serve as sponsors and mentors to ensure that women build the diverse networks they need throughout their careers.

Beyond formal programs, McKinsey also suggests that companies should monitor the quality of and access to sponsorship for both junior and senior-level women. “For example, a best practice is to send out an annual sponsorship survey to identify sponsors and candidates for sponsorship so that gaps can be identified and addressed early.”

3. Create flexibility, work-life balance, and job stability

While flexibility programs are common across the financial industry (about 90 percent of financial services companies offer extended maternity and/or paternity leave, and 92 percent offer flexible work policies), many women fear that using these flexibility programs might hinder their advancement and job stability. Having experienced just how detrimental lack of flexibility can be for career growth, we think the call-to-action is clear: Companies need to show their acceptance and usage of flexible working policies in order to keep more women in the field.

4. Offer a re-entry path

A survey of MBA alumni by the Graduate Management Admission Council found that 41 percent of women and only 12 percent of men report leaving the workforce at some time to take care of children. The financial industry must create a solid path for employees to leave and re-enter the workplace more easily. They can do this through sponsoring returnship programs, skills-update training, or creating more long-term, flex-work solutions.

5. Get rid of bias in reviews and promotions

While 79 percent of financial services companies offer unconscious-bias training, only 18 percent require it. A commitment to addressing unconscious bias needs to come from leadership. And this training needs to not only cover recognizing bias, but also how to address bias head-on in hiring, performance, and promotion discussions.

6. Create a culture that prioritizes — and values — diversity and inclusion

Companies need to do more than talk about diversity and equality; they need to take visible steps to make it happen. While 95 percent of financial services companies track gender representation across all levels, far fewer companies have clearly defined goals for this data. Financial services companies need to set targets for female representation and promotion rates, and keep leaders accountable.

When Katie Burke and Bridget Grimes co-founded Equita Financial Network, they wanted to fix the biases and systemic issues that had permeated their world for far too long. Today, Katie and Bridget are changing the financial services industry by creating an empowering network for female planners that provides them with the support and resources needed to run their businesses effectively. We know that women make exceptional financial advisors; now it’s time to show them how much we value their contributions.

Are you interested in joining Equita Financial Network? Contact us today

Why Female Mentorship Is More Important Than Ever

The financial planning industry has a gender issue — despite the fact that 70 percent of women seeking financial advice say they would prefer a female advisor to a male. Despite the fact that, for women who currently have an advisor, 73 percent report they are not happy with the one they have, and 87 percent say they don’t “connect” with their advisor. Despite the fact that 71 percent of women say Wall Street is not in touch with their financial needs.

Yep…there’s still a huge gender imbalance in finance. Allow us to offer up some more stats: In 2013, less than a third of financial planners were women, and only 23 percent had the gold-standard CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ designation. That number hasn’t changed in more than a decade, even though the CFP Board launched its Women’s Initiative (WIN) to address the “feminine famine” in financial planning. And today, the number of female financial advisors still rests below 20 percent.

In a Forbes article titled “Where Are All The Female Financial Advisers?”, financial advisor Eleanor Blayney said, “We do not have the professional culture yet that nurtures and supports women networks, mentorship and professional development.”

Mentorship Matters — and It Starts at the Top

We need to create a culture where female mentorship programs work. With the right mentor, women can see it’s possible to succeed in this industry. We need female mentors to help female financial planners navigate this male-dominated space, break stereotypes, develop a strong network, and gain leadership roles. Most of the financial planning leadership roles are still held by men, who are failing to hire female talent. A 2014 Center for American Progress report found that “women make up 54 percent of the financial-services labor force but only 12 percent of its executive officers and 18 percent of its directors.”

But as important as female mentorship is, change also needs to come from the top.

Sallie Krawcheck — co-founder and CEO of Ellevest, a digital financial advisor for women — voiced her frustrations about ineffective diversity groups and mentoring programs. At Fortune magazine’s inaugural Brainstorm Finance conference in June 2019, she said, “Guys, we’ve been doing that for years and years and years. If it was gonna work, it would’ve worked.” Instead, CEOs need to “break the wheel,” meaning they need to take dramatic, seismic action to address the finance industry’s gender and diversity problem. “One way to reduce the volatility on Wall Street, the research tells us, is to have more women,” Krawcheck said in a CNN Business interview.

Zaneilia Harris’s recent Financial Planning column titled “I am a black woman advisor. Am I valued by this industry?” highlighted how male-dominated the industry still is. “It feels like our industry measures who we are as minority and women advisors based on standards set by white men,” wrote Harris, the president of Harris & Harris Wealth Management Group. “As I’ve grown my independent financial advisory firm, there have been few mentors, let alone sponsors, willing to counsel me along my journey.

“When I talk to industry people, I notice the same look and feeling during our interactions. It’s distant, often distracted, and I can detect that they’d prefer to be chatting with other people — particularly the white men — in the room.”

The Power of the Tribe

When we (Katie Burke and Bridget Grimes) were just starting Equita, we reached out to other women financial planners to find out what they would value most in a business platform. By far, the number-one resource women wanted was a collaborative network of their female industry peers, who they could reach out to for business and client solutions. They wanted to share best practices and receive support and encouragement from women who faced the same challenges they did.

Today, we provide women with the collaborative network they need to succeed, at every age and stage of their careers. Equita is a platform for sharing best practices in business and for client solutions, but it is also creating organic outlets for mentorship, which helps women build successful careers in financial planning and keeps them in the field.

Change happens when you are willing to challenge the status quo. Let’s lift each other up, share stories, learn from other experiences, and empower future generations of women to new levels of success.

If you’re interested in connecting with other like-minded female financial advisors, contact us today.