My daughter will soon be graduating high school and is in that stage of life where she’s puzzling over which career path to take. Being in the financial services industry, I asked if she’d considered becoming a financial advisor1. Her response?
Oh no, that’s a lot of math! Research shows this is one of many reasons women instinctively avoid the financial services industry. However, there are probably plenty of others who’ve entertained the idea at least for a short period of time…curious about whether they could excel in the career.
And women might want to do more than just imagine the possibility and instead, fully pursue it. Because in spite of what we might believe, we are uniquely positioned for success.
The makings of a fulfilling career can be found in financial services, but few women have any interest in making it work. Not because they lack the drive to succeed or technical abilities… far from it, but instead because of outside factors involved. Some of these may be true … but others are likely misconceptions.
In a 2013 survey, Women and Financial Advising Career: Perspectives and Priorities, few women were very familiar (13%) with the financial advising profession. This lack of awareness and of interest around a career in financial services could likely be because the industry has long been male-dominated. It’s meant fewer role models for women to look up to who might encourage them in this line of business.
But in this blog post, we want to shine some light on the profession so more women can see the benefits in it.
The desired skills for financial advisors are often attributed to women
Just like my daughter believed, reports like Making More Room for Women in the Financial Planning Profession, confirm that “women who are outsiders to the profession do not see financial planning as primarily about communication, relationships and holistic advice. Instead they see it as about investment and mathematical expertise.” But there are many other dominant skills and traits that financial advisors have. To name a few:
- Fostering relationships
Sound like any women you know? It does to me!
This career can offer work-life integration that fits women’s wants and needs
Men can appreciate work-life balance too, but more and more women are naming that as one of their top concerns when searching for an ideal career. According to a 2015 study of female Millennials by PwC, the phrase is something that matters to younger women more than ever. A whopping 97% of those surveyed said that work-life balance was important to them. Although achieving a “perfect balance” may not be feasible, the flexibility is key.
The financial advisor role provides the freedom that other careers can’t. Yes, you’re at the mercy of your clients to some extent, but the flexibility can increase as time goes on— especially if you transition from visiting clients in their homes during evening hours to conducting appointments in your office.
This career is perfect for the entrepreneurial-minded among us
The world we live in is becoming more entrepreneurial-minded — in this Forbes article, they reference a survey released by Bentley University which states that millennials sense career success will require them to be more nimble, independent and entrepreneurial than past generations. With that, comes more control over income potential and no ceiling to how much you can make. And with the industry making moves from a commission-based salary to a fee-compensated, consultative approach in a financial advisory business —it could make this prospective career even more appealing to women.
Helping others is at the forefront of the financial services industry
One of the most important aspects to a career as a financial advisor is the opportunity to help others achieve their financial goals. Women often cite this as a primary reason they’d enjoy being in financial services. As a financial advisor, we can find that often-elusive career satisfaction by helping others gain security and confidence around their financial futures.
It makes sense that women would help others. We’ve shown ourselves to be great managers of our own wealth. An article on MarketWatch said “women’s wallets and net worth are growing — in 2015, women passed the halfway mark for controlled personal wealth in the U.S., according to the Bank of Montreal’s Wealth Institute, and by 2020, they’re expected to hold $22 trillion.”
But what needs to change first?
Despite plenty of reasons to get more women into the profession, it’s going to require the efforts of many to break down the barriers to entry (either real or perceived) and offer:
- Mentoring and coaching programs
- Ideas on how to get clients besides pestering your friends or family and cold-calling strangers
- Ways to expedite the time it takes to get started and build a client base
- Financial security, even in the beginning
- Access to on-the-job or online training at a discount
- Opportunities for upward mobility into executive-level positions
- Flexibility and work-life balance
One such group we came across online who says they’re working to build support for women in financial services is Females and Finance who support more women being recruited, trained, advanced and retained in the profession. Both men and women can learn how they can support this movement by going to femalesandfinance.com.
Final thoughts …
To women with lingering doubts about a career as a financial advisor, this Barron’s article highlights that many top women advisors say their gender has been more of a benefit than a detriment in terms of attracting and serving clients.
A career as a financial professional can be rewarding for men and women, but when it’s not presented in a way that makes it seem like an interesting and attractive option for women, we all lose.
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