Women are a necessity for the financial community

05 May 2021 by Angela D’Angelo
Photo of a woman walking up a large modern staircase with a binder in hand

By Angela D’Angelo, Vice President, Training & Client Experience, National Bank Financial

Women have made enormous professional advances over the past decade—in business, politics, law, medicine, sciences, sports—entering virtually every arena, yet their numbers still lag in the financial industry. 

Why should we care? Because creating an industry that reflects our overall society is not just “the right thing to do,” but economically expedient for a sector that defines itself as a “people business.” So what needs to happen to change the narrative?

Getting ahead of shifting social orders 

First and foremost, we have to recognize and accept the huge changes taking place in society. For one, before COVID, women were predicted to control $93 trillion in wealth globally by 20231.  With education levels for women continuing to rise, women today have more economic power than ever—and, arguably, this makes them a broader clientele seeking advice and best practices to manage their wealth. 

The fact that women entering the market are looking for help to manage their money2 means that the demographics of female clients is growing—and we need to reflect these changes and increase the number of female advisors in our ranks.

The good news here is that female advisors are already well suited to meet the needs of all clients. In part it’s because, as women, they tend to intuitively understand the issues that face other women. As well, delivering service in a way that resonates with female investors, who tend to look for a more personal relationship with their advisor, comes naturally to them. 

Actions speak louder than words

Ultimately, everyone must be part of the solution. However, it is particularly important for the women already in leadership roles within organizations to actively support those entering it. And it means that executives need to lead by example, embracing change, creating compelling career opportunities for women, and making women an important component of their own success.

In my opinion, what’s needed is real action in order to manage industry perceptions and to attract and keep more women advisors. Good intentions aren’t enough anymore to effect change. In fact, what we are seeing as a positive trend is the creation of more inclusive teams, and that needs to continue.

Change must start early 

While schools and parents play a role in shaping the views of girls and women on financial matters, as an industry we play an important social and economic role in society. We are uniquely well positioned to take on the task of promoting financial professions to young women in university, and even earlier. 

It is up to us to influence how women see their roles in finance, and I believe we can appeal to a broader group of young women entertaining a career in the field by emphasizing the importance of “emotional intelligence” beyond just math and sales.

Turning up the volume 

Making the financial industry more attractive to women can’t end with education—we have to provide viable opportunities for women:

  • Create broader career paths within the industry to attract women. 
  • Build recruitment campaigns for advisors that mirror the diversity of society.
  • Focus hiring practices to look for candidates based on the abilities required for specific careers. 
  • Expand mentorship and apprenticeship programs to support those considering advice. 
  • Promote women to C-suite positions to create greater diversity.
  • Change workplace policies to include all employees regardless of gender, so that flexibility to start a family and act as caregivers is available for everyone. 

It will take all of us to double down on our efforts and to get behind the types of actions that are required to effect sustainable change.

Getting it right is our collective responsibility

We have made some progress and I am proud of the success we have achieved, but there’s still plenty to do—we need to be courageous in our actions.

Fortunately, there are many amazing men and women in our industry already working on making a difference and who understand that this isn’t just a woman’s issue—it’s a business transformation challenge.

Adding female advisors, experts, and associates to our front lines is not only good for our clients, but also good for our industry as a more realistic reflection of the broader society we live in. 

Diversification is not just for portfolios. We need to make a collective effort to open up the industry we love to more diversity. Let’s make sure young women are welcomed and find a community willing to value and nurture their skills as they become more important in our business and to our clients. 

What could you do to step up and make a difference?

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