As a 24-year-old woman, when I tell people I’m a financial advisor, I sometimes get some squints and questioning looks. Or even a face that suggests “aw, how sweet.” Little do these people know, females are a massive presence in the finance space. Yet, according to Cerulli.com, 18.1% of financial advisors are women.
Do those statistics represent what you see when you look around your community? Of course not. So why is the financial field so heavily dominated by white men? Well, this may come as a shock to you, but much of the world is as well. Women couldn’t vote until relatively recent years (1920 in the U.S.). I consider myself lucky to have grown up in a more modern and progressive era than some of my colleagues, but that doesn’t mean I’ve been able to avoid prejudice and bias. I work at a firm that is 50% female, and our entire team is warm and inviting. I was not hired to be the sole female advisor at Berkshire Money Management. I was hired as an educated, motivated individual.
When I step outside of this office, and look at bigger firms and wire houses, the problem is crystal clear. Not until very recently was there a push for diversity in the financial space. I remember going to my first large industry conference, and my eyes literally widening at the number of white men attendees, mostly towards the latter end of their careers. If women and lesser-represented groups can see themselves in this sort of career, then they’re much more likely to strive for that in their own future.
I love going against the grain and surprising people. I trained with a local CrossFit gym and started boxing with a coworker, mostly because they were outside of my comfort zone. I did NOT, however, enter the financial industry thinking, “Ha! I’m going to show them! I’ll smash all the glass ceilings and crush those boys!” Not at all. It was more like, “Whoa, this is fascinating. I can use my skills with numbers to help bring people clarity and peace? Where do I sign up?” Now, as a financial advisor and planner, I can’t see it being any other way.
Women are stereotypically “seen” as more empathetic, sensitive, and risk-averse in comparison to their male counterparts. When you step into my shoes as an advisor, you’ll quickly come to find that 1) empathy comes into play in a massive way (there is an emerging field for Financial Therapists), and 2) you can chuck the above stereotypes out the door. If a couple comes in – let’s say a husband and wife, the “old-fashioned” way to handle things was to speak directly to the husband. He’s the man, so he makes the big bucks, right? Wrong! In my observations as an advisor, it’s pretty darn close to 50/50 as to which gender makes the household financial decisions. And most couples talk about these things jointly.
A recent study showed that financial advisors were much more likely to look at and refer to the male spouse in a meeting with a couple; More than 60% of the time (over a 30-minute meeting). The second assumption that goes along with this is that women are not as willing to accept greater risk (mostly regarding “risky” investments). Any of you that are parents to daughters can probably speak to that being false. So, fellow advisors: there is no need to “dumb things down” for us ladies, nor do we need to get the man’s approval before speaking to the wife.
The trend lately has been that women are inheriting a lot of U.S. wealth, and building it (https://www.investopedia.com/financial-advisor/women-and-great-wealth-transfer/). “The Great Wealth Transfer” is something often discussed – Baby Boomers passing their wealth down to their heirs – and women are expected to receive a sizable portion of that. Women need the same assistance as any other individual or group, and they deserve it more than ever, after so many times being pushed to the side and ignored. It’s time to step up and invite everybody in to get the financial help they so desperately need. Don’t assume you’ll be looked down upon just because of your looks or gender. Don’t let people assume that about you! Be honest, be blunt, don’t stop asking questions, and stay true to yourself. Don’t forget that you deserve it.
*This article focuses on the historically ‘traditional’ couple – husband & wife. Of course, we can only hope that over the years, this industry will become even more diversified, including various genders and identifiers.