Bridging the gender gap in financial planning

A report on SBS  from 2015 shows us that ‘of all financial planners in Australia, only 20 percent are women.’ Unfortunately, that percentage hasn’t grown much. Since then, the industry has been saturated with male professionals for a long while. Therefore, women have fewer exemplars – they are unable to truly see themselves travelling this career path. The underrepresentation of women is one of the leading factors for women’s lack of desire to enter into financial planning.

Largely, the issue seems to be with attraction rather than retention. Women are more than capable to not only excel in this profession but to also make a difference to the clients she takes on. A financial background in mathematics, business or accounting is necessary but there are other aspects of financial planning. A 2016 study showed women ‘outperform men on nearly all emotional intelligence measures.’ Emotional intelligence and compassion are factors that will add more value to the financial planning industry. Increasing the number of women in the industry may appeal to more women looking for either a profession or the service that financial planning is all about.

Let’s look at what we can do to transform this industry into an age of equality.

The key to creating a more attractive career prospect out of financial planning is to raise awareness.

It’s important that the industry starts to present the benefits of a financial planning career to young women. It’s possible and would make more of a difference to communicate these benefits as early as senior high school and university. A curriculum is not easily changed by non-academic sources however the promotion of financial planning can be directed at career counsellors, teachers and professors so that they are encouraged to discuss this opportunity with students. There are great opportunities at career seminars or expo’s where women should have representation at a stand. In fact, having more than one woman at a stand will help invite young women to see what financial planning is about.

It would be great to upsurge the financial planning presence on university campuses too, but not just within finance or economics majors. We need to show talented young women who may be majoring in the humanities that their skills and desire to help others means they could be highly successful in a financial planning degree.

After university, firms should continually promote their company as someone who employs more than 20% of women (if they do). If they don’t, it should be Human Resources focus to find the right qualified female candidates. We should be promoting events such as the Women in Financial Services Awards that took place in October 2017. Stories of women who have recently been placed in financial planning roles, and stories of women who have established themselves as financial planners should be written about and promoted on social networks. After all, social is the place to be for young candidates (or any candidates in this technological era).

But raising awareness is not where it stops. We also have to create opportunity.

When advertising a role, it should talk about things that are especially important to hard-working women. According to Seeks data lab, the top drivers of attraction within this industry are salary/compensation, career development and work-life balance. Not only should we mention these aspects in ads, we should make sure that there is a female on every recruiting panel. It doesn’t mean every woman will get the job just because she’s a woman. After all, the best person for the job still needs to be put forward. But it will open a doorway for women - they’ll no longer find the concept of financial planning as a career to be improbable. It will restore a sense of balance and bring focus into the financial planning sector around how we are trying to improve and create equality, rather than how we have been imbalanced in the past.

In fact, progress has been made in this sector already and the consultants at Porterallen find they are placing more and more women in this field. It just goes to show that the more we talk about it we continue to boost awareness and are reaching more women who can improve the financial planning industry.