Long Trek to Equal­ity

Our busi­ness has evolved, but we still see the old stereo­type that in­vest­ing is a man’s game dom­i­nated by Wall Street firms.

Financial Planning - - Contents - BY KIM­BERLY FOSS

Our busi­ness has evolved, but we still en­counter old stereo­types that in­vest­ing is a man’s game dom­i­nated by Wall Street firms.

One of the ma­jor chal­lenges fac­ing our in­dus­try is root­ing out sex­ual ha­rass­ment and sex­ual dis­crim­i­na­tion.

In­deed, I’ve writ­ten about the need to en­sure that the top ranks of man­age­ment are open to the many qual­i­fied women who have al­ready proven their lead­er­ship abil­i­ties.

But sim­ply get­ting more women into po­si­tions of lead­er­ship and in­flu­ence is not enough. We need to do more to en­cour­age young women to en­ter the pro­fes­sion in the first place.

Af­ter all, these young plan­ners are the best source for the en­ergy, in­no­va­tive ideas, and fu­ture think­ing that our pro­fes­sion — or any pro­fes­sion — needs to sur­vive and thrive.

The more young women we can en­cour­age to en­ter the fi­nan­cial plan­ning work­force — and nur­ture their growth once they are on­board — the bet­ter po­si­tioned our in­dus­try will be to meet the de­mands of the fu­ture.

There are some en­cour­ag­ing signs that more op­por­tu­ni­ties are open­ing for young women con­sid­er­ing ca­reers in fi­nan­cial plan­ning. First, though only about 18% of Char­tered Fi­nan­cial An­a­lysts are women, ac­cord­ing to a re­cent re­port by the CFA In­sti­tute, the or­ga­ni­za­tion is cur­rently in the midst of a ma­jor re­cruit­ment push called the Women in In­vest­ment Man­age­ment Ini­tia­tive.

Sim­i­larly, the CFP Board is rolling out its own ef­fort to raise the ra­tio of women CFPS from 23%, where it has stag­nated for much of the past decade. Its WIN-TO-WIN pro­gram aims to pro­vide men­tor­ship and sup­port to women en­ter­ing the pro­fes­sion and seek­ing CFP cer­ti­fi­ca­tion.

Such ef­forts are timely in sev­eral ways. First of all, women earned nearly 60% of all bach­e­lor’s de­grees granted in 2016, in­clud­ing about half of all busi­ness de­grees, ac­cord­ing to data from the De­part­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion and Col­lege Fac­tual, a higher ed­u­ca­tion re­search firm.

Young women com­ing out of col­lege are not only seek­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties, they are highly qual­i­fied for them.

Mean­while, the fi­nan­cial plan­ning in­dus­try is po­si­tion­ing it­self for vis­i­bil­ity — an es­sen­tial pre­req­ui­site for at­tract­ing the most promis­ing can­di­dates.

Sec­ond, re­search points to the day that women will sur­pass men as hold­ers of wealth in the United States. This will hap­pen some­time dur­ing this decade, ac­cord­ing to re­ports by Nielsen and other or­ga­ni­za­tions.

With more and more wealth be­ing con­cen­trated in the hands of women, it makes more sense than ever for our in­dus­try to fo­cus on at­tract­ing the best and bright­est young women who are both deeply grounded in pro­fes­sional acu­men and acutely at­tuned to the needs of the women who will in­creas­ingly make up our clien­tele in the com­ing years.

I have found deep ful­fill­ment in pro­vid­ing a more nur­tur­ing en­vi­ron­ment than the one I en­coun­tered when I was started out sev­eral decades ago.

A 2013 study by the In­sured Re­tire­ment In­sti­tute found that 70% of women seek­ing an ad­vi­sor pre­ferred to work with an­other wo­man. But as re­cently as 2017, only 16% of fi­nan­cial plan­ners are fe­male, ac­cord­ing to a sur­vey by Cerulli As­so­ci­ates.

That means that it is re­ally tough for women in­vestors — a grow­ing de­mo­graphic — to find a qual­i­fied fi­nan­cial plan­ner who is a wo­man.

It seems ev­i­dent that there is a big gap in our ranks that needs to be filled if we in­tend to re­main rel­e­vant, com­pet­i­tive, and at­trac­tive to those who will most need our ser­vices.

Fi­nally, many women tend to ex­cel in the soft skills that will be in­creas­ingly im­por­tant to our clien­tele: lis­ten­ing, em­pa­thy, and ac­tive en­gage­ment with clients to es­tab­lish goals and pri­or­i­ties.


We can’t af­ford to al­low our ef­forts to stop with re­cruit­ment, of course.

We need to pro­vide men­tor­ing, coach­ing, and above all, a clear and at­trac­tive ca­reer path for the young women en­ter­ing our pro­fes­sion.

We need to help them see the long-term pos­si­bil­i­ties for en­joy­ing ca­reers that are uniquely suited to both their pro­fes­sional and per­sonal as­pi­ra­tions.

Many women are look­ing for ways to build mean­ing­ful ca­reers that do not re­quire them to sac­ri­fice other life goals that are equally im­por­tant.

Our in­dus­try is well-po­si­tioned to pro­vide such op­por­tu­ni­ties for young women with the tal­ent, com­mit­ment, and vi­sion to reach for them. For ex­am­ple, lead­ing my own wealth man­age­ment firm af­fords me the flex­i­bil­ity to go to my son’s base­ball games, at­tend school events, and in­volve my­self in other ways with my fam­ily and com­mu­nity with­out the ne­ces­sity of com­pro­mis­ing my com­mit­ment to my prac­tice.

Other women re­port achiev­ing sim­i­lar sat­is­fac­tion in work/life bal­ance while con­tribut­ing piv­otally as as­set man­agers, fi­nan­cial plan­ners, or in­vest­ment ad­vi­sors.

I can also say, from first-hand ex­pe­ri­ence, that one of the most sat­is­fy­ing things for me over the past sev­eral years, as a sea­soned fi­nan­cial plan­ner and head of my own firm, has been to fos­ter the growth and suc­cess of sev­eral out­stand­ing young women in this pro­fes­sion that I have grown to love.

Given my back­ground and my own ex­pe­ri­ences as a wo­man in the in­dus­try, I have found deep ful­fill­ment in pro­vid­ing a more nur­tur­ing en­vi­ron­ment than the one that greeted me when I was start­ing out sev­eral decades ago.

I would strongly en­cour­age my se­nior col­leagues, both male and fe­male, to com­mit to “pay­ing it for­ward” for the fi­nan­cial plan­ning in­dus­try by help­ing to cre­ate a bet­ter, more wel­com­ing en­vi­ron­ment, es­pe­cially for the young women who are so vi­tal to our fu­ture.

The re­sults will reach far be­yond the im­me­di­ate ben­e­fits for those young pro­fes­sion­als en­ter­ing the busi­ness.

Our pro­fes­sion will be much the stronger. Those of us who put in the time and ef­fort in nur­tur­ing them will re­ceive div­i­dends — in giv­ing back to the in­dus­try, in per­sonal sat­is­fac­tion, and, I be­lieve, in the growth and suc­cess of our own firms — that far out­weigh our in­vest­ment.


It is es­sen­tial for us to get the word out that our busi­ness isn’t just about the big bro­ker­age firms any­more. Over the last 10 years, we have seen tremen­dous growth in the va­ri­ety of op­por­tu­ni­ties. For ex­am­ple, en­tire busi­ness mod­els are be­ing built around the rise of bou­tique in­vest­ment firms (like mine).

Nev­er­the­less, we are still suf­fer­ing in our ef­forts to re­cruit women be­cause of the long-es­tab­lished stereo­type that in­vest­ment is a men’s game, dom­i­nated by the name-brand Wall Street firms.

The more that we can ex­em­plify and model the suc­cess that is avail­able to women in our in­dus­try, and the more we can point to the di­verse ways women are achiev­ing that suc­cess, the bet­ter our chances of not only re­cruit­ing but also re­tain­ing more young women as fi­nan­cial ad­vi­sors and plan­ners.

Our abil­ity to do that is more than just a good idea; it’s es­sen­tial to main­tain­ing the rel­e­vance of fi­nan­cial plan­ning in the com­ing years.

The CFP Board is rolling out an ef­fort to raise the ra­tio of women CFPS from 23%, where it has been for much of the past decade.

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