Back in 2014, a study entitled Making More Room for Women in the Financial Planning Profession
, published by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, revealed that less than a third of financial advisors are women and fewer than 16,000 have a CFP designation compared to nearly 53,000 men.
Two years on, Wealth Professional
asked two women who have enjoyed considerable success in the financial advice arena here in Canada about their perspective on the barriers they have faced.
“There have been occasions when I have been approached to be involved in an initiative or board, only to find out that my credentials or background was not reviewed beforehand,” commented Melissa Harrell, Associate Advisor at Howe Harrell & Associates. “This made it clear to me that some companies are focusing too much on the gender gap at the peril of quality candidates.”
Harrell also believes that female advisors need to search carefully for the right employer and should be cautious of being placed “in a token role to fill a gender requirement”.
For Heidi Kurien, President of PANGEA Realty Services, however, the barriers that women face are not so much about the attitude of companies as they are about changing perceptions among investors.
“Investors in general feel more comfortable with a male advisor especially if the investors are couples,” she said. “While women advisors may achieve success with single female investors, it may still be an obstacle to obtain business from couples or male investors who’ve grown up in a generation where they’ve seen that financial advisors are more traditionally men in the industry - getting over that hurdle can be a bit difficult but we’re working on it.”
Women do appear to have a natural advantage, however, when it comes to dealing with female investors.
“Professional women can generally relate to other professional women,” continued Kurien. “The woman advisor may have already tackled some of the goals of her female clients and so understands first-hand the obstacles that the female client must go through to achieve success. The strengths that women advisors can offer that men cannot is having first-hand intimate knowledge of a female investor’s financial goals, personal aspirations and professional-life challenges.
“Women advisors also understand that female investors have broader life goals that may be equally important to their financial goals i.e. career goals, relationship goals or family goals… financial decisions are just part of the whole picture.”
Harrell agrees that female advisors have a natural advantage when it comes to dealing with investors of the same sex.
“Men and women think and communicate differently,” she said. “As such, it would be beneficial for clients to have both genders on their financial advice team. Women are natural caregivers, they may find it easier to build trust and communicate with clients in a patient and understanding way. I would not say a man cannot offer this - it is more that it comes naturally to a woman, their default programming.
“You can build a quicker connection female to female than you can cross gender, the communication is more efficient. When a woman is explaining her goals to me, she knows that I can relate: that I have been in her shoes.”
Are you a female financial advisor or do you employ a female advisor? What strengths do they offer and what barriers do they face? Leave a comment below with your thoughts.