By Kristin Doucet
The Feminine Side of Finance
The fact that women advisors make up less than 20 per cent of the advisor population in Canada is not surprising. Here are a few of the possible reasons why women aren’t attracted to this industry: 1. industry recruiters have done a lousy job marketing the profession to women; 2. there is a perception that working in financial services means long hours in an ultra-competitive environment with little regard for work-life balance; and 3. there’s a lack of financial literacy initiatives directed specifically toward women.
Let’s explore the first two possible reasons, which are related. Research shows that women are more likely than men to seek out jobs where they feel they are making the world a better place. Of course women want to feel they are being fairly compensated for the job, but money is often not a main driver. For women, there are also the competing demands of raising children, maintaining the home and caring for aging parents.
For women with an entrepreneurial drive, a career in this industry can provide the flexibility and opportunity they’re looking for. For the most part, financial services recruiters have done a poor job in getting this message across. If we want to see more women advisors, recruiters will need to give them what they want and need, both from a personal and professional perspective.
A third reason women may not be gravitating to this industry could have something to do with how women learn about money. Recent research by Barbara Stewart, CFA, a portfolio manager at Cumberland Private Wealth Management in Toronto, explores the most effective ways women are educated about finances. What she discovered through her interviews with 50 successful women around the globe is that women don’t learn about it through books, newspapers or financial situations; they learn about money and success through real stories from real people — including mentors, role models, families and friends — even through negative examples like watching a parent struggle with debt.
“Most of what I see in educational material are tables, charts and discussions of the importance of compound interest. My own research tells me that those interested in making girls and women more financially literate — while well-intentioned — are not ‘speaking their language,’” writes Stewart in the introduction to Rich Thinking: A Global Study — A Guide to Building Financial Confidence in Girls and Women.
The paper, which can be found on www.barbarastewart.ca, concludes with a call to action for adults to address this gap and make an educational contribution to the financial confidence of the next generation of girls and women.
Providing women with the knowledge and tools they need to take control of their finances could also be an important step in bringing more women into the profession. Companies, educators and other industry stakeholders need to work together to create a more female-friendly industry for clients and the advisors who serve them.