Women in the RIA profession hear it all the time: “We work in a male-dominated industry.” The average adviser is a middle-aged man. But do we? Is it?
What many women don’t realize is we are almost equal. Wait, what? Well, though women may not have strong representation at the very top, in terms of overall employees numbers, women represent: 46% of this profession are women vs. 54% men.
So women in the RIA profession are getting there in terms of numbers, but not yet equal in terms of development, roles, opportunity and pay. Or even how we’ve been talking about them.
So how do we make this year’s International Women’s Day theme of #EachforEqual become each is equal?
To start, let’s look at how we count who makes up the profession. When we usually discuss the gender makeup of our profession – only 13% female RIAs, 15% female advisers overall, 23% female CFPs — we are only talking about advisers.
What about all the other professionals who make up the firm? The operations, marketing, trading, compliance, client service, technology – professional management positions that are imperative to running a business. Many in these positions are women. Why don’t we count them? Including these positions along with women advisers make up the 46%.
We need to change how we talk about our profession. For women considering entering the world of financial advice, knowing that 46%, almost half, of the profession is women, provides a different sense of belonging. There is camaraderie, there are female mentors, you can see what you want to be.
The 46% also make a strong talent pipeline. We have a shortage of talent in the financial planning profession. I am often asked to help find more female advisers for firms. I tell advisers to turn around and look within their own firm. Over half of paraplanners are women, which drops to 33% for associate advisers, and 21% for lead advisers. Limiting career growth limits pay and ownership potential for women. Take a look at your firm’s development paths and pay structure. Are you losing women along the way?
Additionally, do you have a career track for non-advisory roles? 44% of management roles are held by women, but just 9% of advisory firm CEOs are women. As professionals become more comfortable in their roles, knowing they could have a development plan to help them become advisers encourages loyalty. And firms that create clear career paths do better than firms that don’t.
We see standout firms – those that do an exceptional job with revenue growth and income generation – tend to hire support and administrative staff and develop these employees into revenue roles over time. And if those women in administrative and management roles don’t want a revenue-producing role, that’s OK.
Building a successful business requires more than business development. The professional roles become as important as you look to structure long-term growth and firm sustainability, and create a compelling client experience.
Now that we know women are here, how are we recognizing them? It’s time talk differently to create increased awareness of how many successful women there are in the financial advice profession. We can start with recognition lists – let’s talk about successful firms and all the people that make them up – not just advisers. How many COO/CMO/CTOs get on a ranked list?
Our conferences need to become more inclusive of the entire firm, with more focus on non-advisory roles. Firm success has many facets and we need to showcase them all as we look to increase the number – and power – of women in financial advice.
Women can be truly equal in this profession. We just need to understand there can be diversity in the pathway to success in this profession. Because each for equal can become each is equal when everyone has the opportunity to be successful – and counted.
Kate Healy is the managing director for Generation Next at TD Ameritrade Institutional.