Building a Diverse & Inclusive Industry Starts with Us
Despite efforts for equal gender representation in the workplace, less than 28% of all financial advisors are women. Gender equality is an oft-discussed issue, but it’s time for financial service companies to go beyond table stakes. We need meaningful action to increase female representation, according to Assetbook’s CEO, Marwa Zakharia, who recently spoke about this topic at the NAPFA Fall 2022 National Conference.
“For too long, our industry has looked the same,” she said. “Change has to start with us.”
Ensuring equal representation is more than a worthwhile cause—it’s a critical move for the industry.
More Women = More Clients
Over the next 10 to 30 years, trillions of dollars are expected to shift into the hands of women for a number of reasons. According to a study by TD Ameritrade, about half of married women either match or outearn their husbands. Women will inherit 70% of the wealth passed down from baby boomers to Generation X and Millennial children. The majority of married women now or will control their household finances. Plus, divorce and the passing of spouses means most women will end up managing their own finances, whether they planned to or not.
That adds up to a lot of female clients who need advising—almost 70% of whom prefer to work with female financial advisors. Along with that, a new report by Cerulli Associates shows that in 10 years nearly 40% of financial advisors are expected to retire.
There’s an opportunity to bridge the gender diversity gap, but as Zakharia points out, “we need to start early.”
How the Financial Services Industry Can Attract Women
Since Zakharia took over as CEO of AssetBook in 2020, she’s been dually focused on building a brand and a product alongside building a women-led team that empowers both clients and employees. As a female leader in the industry, she posits that the solution to the industry-wide gender gap depends on the will of its members—specifically its female members—to act.
Zakharia asks female advisors to think proactively about the biases they faced, the challenges they overcame, and the barriers they broke through. “What can you do to change that for those who will come after you?”
Here are some steps she suggests be taken to resolve the gender imbalance.
Plant Seeds Early
The Girl Scouts offer financial literacy badges, from a “Money Explorer” badge for little Daisies to a “Financial Planner” badge for Senior scouts. Female leaders in finance can offer classes to promote the basic skills of financial planning, such as budgeting, debt management, and investing to similar girls-only groups or clubs.
Another opportunity for bringing financial services as a potential career path to the surface is volunteering for career days at local middle and high schools. This is a chance to present financial planning not just as a career for those proficient in math, but as a holistic discipline that requires good communication and relationship skills.
You could inspire a student who is thinking about their future, perhaps with plans to attend college for business or communications, and encourage them to consider a path they may not have thought of.
Offer up the financial planning profession at business school career fairs. Present it as an attractive alternative to more traditional careers in investment banking, investment management or product sales.
Proactively Recruit Women
Zakharia’s personal favorite suggestion is to “make an effort to recruit women, especially women of color, for your internships and entry-level positions.”
If not enough women apply for these positions, hiring professionals should call local schools and women’s organizations, and engage with female professionals in their network to find and encourage female applicants.
If those in positions of leadership make a concerted effort to engage the next generation of girls, and recruit, mentor and promote women, the future of financial services will see not only gender equality in the workplace, but it will ensure the support of female clients. Let’s do this together.