The Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported that women make up 31 percent of U.S. financial advisors. That is still higher than the 23 percent for women CFP® (Certified Financial Planner) professionals. According to an article in Investment News, only 12% of Barron’s top 100 advisers are women. This is even though according to the U.S. Census Bureau; females make up 50.5% of the population.
Why are more women needed in the financial industry? Well, according to a report by BCG Global Wealth, 37% of wealth in the United States is controlled by women and that rate is expected to continue to grow. McKinsey & Company, a global management consulting firm, stated that women in the U.S. will control roughly $30 trillion by 2030. A study by the Insured Retirement Institute in 2013 found that 70% of women looking for a financial advisor preferred working with a female.
So, why are those numbers not adding up and what can be done to attract more females to a career in financial advising?
Julianne Cruz, CFP®, CRPC®, Director of Advisory Services for Retirement Planners of America, explains how she believes there are four main issues that may have led to the low percentage of women in the industry. Those four issues, according to Cruz, include the idea that females are bad at math, the perception that the financial industry is boring, struggling to be able to put the work in that is required or finding good work/life balance, and lack of female mentors.
Cruz says, “I think these issues can improve over time, but I think those four fundamental issues are not something that you can fix overnight. I’d start with a large part of our industry is built on math. Growing up I always heard that women are terrible at math. Girls aren’t good at math. And I believed that lie.”
Cruz began her career in 1983, when there were a lot fewer women in the industry. She explains that over the years she has seen the industry evolve and grow with diversification.
“In the early days of my career when I was on the trading floor at Bank of America, it was very much a boys club and I was one of two women in a sea of maybe 60 or 70 men down there on the trading floor,” explains Cruz. When she took her first job out of college in the financial industry, she knew nothing about stocks or bonds, but she worked hard and learned, and excelled in the industry.
The idea that the financial industry is boring. According to some, numbers are boring, so it’s not as appealing as some other careers. The next issue is the amount of work it takes to be successful.
Cruz says, “It really takes a lot of work. There’s no doubt about it, and I think it’s very hard to have a family life and be super successful in our industry. Unless you set up the right support systems for yourself. I was very fortunate that my mom was a school principal, so I kind of lived with a working mom. I was fortunate enough to prepare my family life for that. I had that help at home. Otherwise I never would have been able to do it.”
She explains how many hours it takes in the financial industry, including taking tests and how many nights and weekends it takes to get the work done. She believes support at home is absolutely necessary.
According to Cruz, mentorship is essential. “Unless you have a good mentorship relationship, I think you can improve, but you can’t improve this quickly with those relationships. I think sometimes when it’s male/female, it could get uncomfortable and sometimes and it’s perceived as something other than just a professional work relationship. So, we need the women in our field to be mentors, women who really care about the next generation of our sisters being successful in this industry.”
So, what can be done to bring in more females into the financial industry and help them be successful? Cruz believes it begins fundamentally, maybe with the education system, figuring out creative ways to get girls more interested, more involved in programs like STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics).
Another way to help, according to Cruz, is to develop mentorship programs. Cruz says, “I think also having mentoring programs and formal mentoring programs where you are encouraging young people who have an interest, especially young women, is important.”
Some of the things Cruz has done over the years includes talking to classes at the all-girls’ schools her daughters attended.
Cruz explains, “I would speak with my daughter’s high school classes about my career and what I do and try to encourage them to get into our industry because I love our industry. I love what I do day in and day out.” Cruz wants to continue to stress that message to females today.
She believes hard work is necessary in the financial industry as with others. “I think in our industry you just have to be willing to put in the time and go the extra mile to get the work done and you, I believe, can be successful.”
“I think it is so important to give back. In the past few months, I have had the honor of having two of my daughter’s friends, college sophomores, call me to have a conversation about career options as they begin to think about embarking on their careers. My best advice to them? Actively engage mentors who are in a position to guide and champion your brand. We all need champions!”
Cruz is actively working to bring more females to the industry. She explains, “I recently had the privilege to hire Michelle Roberts in our Houston office. While her background was in law and owning a small business, her unique background and passion for building a secure retirement made her an excellent fit. Several weeks ago, a client transferred to Michelle commented on how happy she was to be working with a female advisor, as she too advocates for women in business. I am so glad I had the opportunity to augment the diversity of RPOA’s retirement planner team.”
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