There is a significant gender gap between demographic trends and the financial advisory industry. While women continue to increase their share of income and wealth, both in the U.S. and globally, they remain woefully underrepresented within the ranks of financial planners.
According to BMO Wealth Institute’s 2017 report, “Financial Concerns of Women,” we control 51% of the personal wealth. In addition, a 2018 poll by NBC and the Wall Street Journal found that 49% of women who work reported that they are the main breadwinner in their household. Given these figures, the actual number of female advisors is baffling.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics says 32% of personal financial advisors are women. However, according to the CFP Board, as of September 2018 just 23% of Certified Financial Planner licensees are women – a figure that hasn’t changed in years. In early 2016, women represented only 12.9% of the Million Dollar Round Table’s (MDRT) membership list.
We all fundamentally want to believe that gender doesn’t play in role in how we select vendors, business relationships, etc. However, I would argue that in hiring a financial advisor it most definitely does.
A 2012 study from the Family Wealth Advisors Council, “Women of Wealth: Why Does the Financial Services Industry Still Not Hear Them?”, reports that among married and single women respondents, more than 90% did “not have a preference about the gender of their advisor.” That finding changed among divorced and widowed respondents, with about 25% of those groups citing a strong advisor-gender preference, most frequently for women.
That preference is both believable and reasonable when viewed through the lens of emotional intelligence. Like doctors and lawyers, financial advisors provide a service that touches on intimate details of our lives – aspects that may be fraught with fear, our sense of self-worth and deeply rooted feelings of vulnerability. That’s especially true for women.
Assuming an equal level of competence between two candidates you were interviewing as prospective financial advisors, you’d tend to do business with the one that you connect with at a deeper level organically. It’s akin to selecting a therapist, really, since most people are hesitant and embarrassed to talk about money and their personal finances.
There is an emotional intimacy to the role your advisor plays in your life that simply isn’t present with plumbers, auto mechanics and countless other types of service providers.
Over the years, when I have lost clients it has invariably been based on a lack of connection rather than a lack of competence. Because this need to connect and feel understood is so strong in financial advisory, women’s preference for female advisors makes sense.
And yet, most women end up working with a male advisor simply because there are so few women in the profession. It’s time to change that. Besides the obvious need for more female financial advisors to meet demand, a career in my field offers benefits that are particularly valuable for women.
Some of the aspects that first drew me to the industry as a young graduate were the potential to positively impact people’s lives on a real and personal level, the opportunity (and requirement!) for lifelong learning, and the ability to create a business and work schedule that meshed with the demands of motherhood and family life. It’s highly challenging, while providing a greater degree of flexibility than many other intellectually demanding pursuits.
Is it an easy career path? Definitely not! There are long hours, hard decisions, and constant challenges. But along with that come a quasi-entrepreneurial business model, a chance to structure a work-life balance that works around my life, and an awareness that I’m helping real people I come to know and care about.
Women are breaking the glass ceiling every day as they rise to the top in nearly every industry. In my view, it’s high time for women to break the “green” ceiling by making a serious entry into the world of financial advisory.
Meredith Moore is a 20-year veteran of the financial advisory industry who specializes in bringing a customized approach to support the highly personal dynamics that govern her clients’ relationship with money and success. She is the recipient of numerous industry awards and a noted speaker and writer focusing on the intersection of power, money, and gender within relationships. Ms. Moore can be reached at www.moorewealthmgmt.com.
Meredith C. Moore, Registered Representative, offering securities through NYLIFE Securities LLC, Member FINRA/SIPC, A Licensed Insurance Agency. 1125 Cambridge Square, Suite C, Alpharetta, GA 30009 (770) 587-0281. Financial Adviser offering investment advisory services through Eagle Strategies LLC, A Registered Investment Adviser. Moore and Associates Wealth Management is not owned or operated by NYLIFE Securities LLC or its affiliates. Moore and Associates Wealth Management, as well as NYLIFE Securities LLC and its affiliates, do not provide tax, legal or accounting advice.