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.