How Women Can Break Through In Financial Planning, Other Fields

Jalene Hahn |

One of the highlights every year is attending the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors conference. This year, the conference was virtual. I missed networking with other advisers. Several of the sessions I attended focused on the needs of women. These sessions were not only about women clients, but also focused on the experiences of women in the profession.

There is no denying that the financial planning and investment management field is male-dominated. Like other male- dominated professions, it struggles to attract and retain qualified female and minority candidates. Twenty-three percent of certified financial planner designations are held by women.

Less than 4% of CFP designations are held by Blacks and Latinos. NAPFA is a little more diverse in that membership is about 31% female. Several organizations have started diversity and inclusion programs. Inclusion is an important addition, because, while you might be able to recruit talented advisers, they are less likely to stay if the atmosphere is not welcoming.

I was fortunate in my career path. I intended to start my own firm working part time while my boys were young. Instead, I found a very supportive individual looking for some assistance and possibly a successor. That was in 2005. We agreed that my family came first. I was able to balance being available for my children while making meaningful contributions at work. At other conferences over the years, I have had many conversations with other female advisers as we compared our working situations and brainstormed ideas to help one another move forward.

Our challenges are similar to those of women who work in other male-dominated professions. Several of my friends are female engineers for Cummins Inc. Diversity and inclusion have been part of the Cummins’ core values for 40 years, and the company has won numerous awards for their initiatives. Unfortunately, most organizations are generally unaware of the implicit bias that is part of their corporate culture. While it might not be possible for you to singlehandedly change the corporate culture, there are things you have control over. Here are some steps women in any field can take to advance their career:

◗Be proactive in asking for what you need. If you aren’t getting the visible assignments, ask for them. Your manager might think you are not interested in additional responsibilities.

◗Speak up. Don’t be afraid to voice your opinion or viewpoint in meetings. One of the positives of having a diverse team is diverse perspectives.

◗Improve your communication style so that you speak with confidence. If you have difficulty speaking in public, an organization like Toastmasters could help improve your skills and boost your confidence.

◗Be an expert and then keep learning. Many women find they must be stellar performers in order to just keep even. “I did everything he did, but backwards and in high heels,” Ginger Rogers said of dancing with Fred Astaire.

◗Find a mentor (or two) and a sponsor. According to, “A mentor advises the mentee; sponsors advocate for their proteges. A mentor can be anyone in a position of experience, while a sponsor is a senior-level executive.”

Everybody’s path is different, but we are all working toward building a profession where everyone’s contributions are recognized and valued. In order to attract and retain diversified talent, many male-dominated industries and organizations will need to change.

As we raise awareness of implicit bias, firms are changing and working toward creating environments that work for all employees.

It was inspiring to hear stories from other women advisers, the challenges they faced and their solutions. I came away with a deeper appreciation for the women pioneers in our industry and hope for the future.