On the evening of March 7, 2017, one day before International Women's Day, a Fearless Girl was installed directly in front of the Charging Bull in the financial district of New York.
The artist, Kristen Visbal, describes the Fearless Girl as inherently feminine: "I made sure to keep her features soft; she's not defiant, she's brave, proud and strong, not belligerent."
The Fearless Girl represents the struggle of under-representation that women face in the business world and Visbal’s description reminds me of many of the women I know in financial services.
The ability of these women to listen and empathise, is what makes them successful.
A study by RMIT on Women and Money in Australia found that money is an emotional topic for many women and their financial lives are linked closely to their emotional lives. A female financial planner is uniquely placed to understand the emotion of death, divorce and debt.
"There is much scope for the industry to assist women with a wider variety of career options and pathways, as AMP is pursuing."
Research from State Street Global Advisors supports this view. In their paper “Women in Advice: Inspiring the Next Generation of Financial Advisers” SSGA found that that 55 per cent of women aged between 25 and 34 prefer working with female financial advisers, while 70 per cent will leave their financial professional within a year of being widowed.
The population of women in Australia is 50.4 per cent of the total. However, a search of the FPA’s “Find a Financial Planner” in Sydney gave 201 results, of which only 18.9 per cent were female.
So if women make great financial planners and they are in demand from female clients, why aren’t there more female planners? While not all women prefer female advisers, the availability of female planners can be a road block to seeking financial planning for those who do.
According to the research paper Women in Advice by SSGA, there are several reasons.
- There is a HR bias for hiring men into financial services roles.
- While there are women in junior roles, they are not promoted as quickly or to the level of their male counterparts.
- Women have longer tenure in service and support roles, but are not seeing career progression.
- Women want a balance between career and profession.
- There are fewer female role models.
- There’s a lack of gender diversity in the industry.
The problem seems to be a catch 22. There aren’t enough women in the industry and there isn’t scope for advancement. So women leave, creating the male-dominated industry that we currently have
The Fearless Girl is now fighting for her right to continue her existence in New York. In this way, it would seem she has something in common with females in the financial planning industry. Is it all a load of bull or is she a powerful symbol of a new era?
I remain optimistic. There is much scope for the industry to assist women with a wider variety of career options and pathways, as AMP is pursuing in its financial advice network.
More importantly, through the networking functions I host for women in financial services, I see the wealth of talent they bring to the table and their desire to succeed.
Mary Barker is the principal of Mary Barker Financial Planning in Sydney.
Image credit: Anthony Quintano via Creative Commons