ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Despite aggressive recruiting efforts across the industry, women still only make up about 15% of financial advisors. During her first year in her new role, recruiting more women to the industry is a top priority for Michelle Lynch, director of Raymond James' Network for Women Advisors.

"We can shuffle women from one firm to the next all day long, but we're still going to be at that 15 %," says Lynch. "We have to do more to get women into this industry."

Lynch, an 11-year Raymond James veteran, has been leading the firm's women's network for the past five months. This is her first year at the helm of the firm's Women's Symposium, now in its 21st year. 

Lynch cites two primary goals for the Network: First, to support and retain existing Raymond James women advisors. Second, to help introduce women to the idea of becoming financial advisors who may not have otherwise considered a career in financial services.

"A lot of women have the appropriate skill sets for this business, they just don't think of this business as that next opportunity," Lynch says. "We have to let them know that it is."

While the low number of women advisors is an industry-wide problem, Lynch says Raymond James is a particularly supportive firm for them due to its culture and support system.

"It's truly organic here. My position and my teams exist to support women. That's the only reason we are here," Lynch says. "All the initiatives we put in place are to support women -- whether that's growing their business, connecting them with other advisors or mentors, or meeting new clients, that's why we exist. I think that's what makes us unique in that regard and more successful. "

During an awards dinner at the Women's Symposium, Lynch's fellow Network council member Kalita Blessing announced the launch of a women focused donor-advised fund to raise money to bring women of limited means into the financial services industry. While the specifics of the fund have yet to be hashed out, the idea is that money will be allocated towards scholarships and other opportunities for women that "might need a leg up," says Lynch.

CAREER CHANGERS

Lynch says that she hopes to investigate better ways to specifically bring in career changers in the coming year. She says the firm will attempt to put together a program within the firm that better targets women who are either looking for a change in careers or who might have taken some time off from being in the workforce.

"It's going to be a grassroots effort. It's not going to happen overnight," she says. "Once we have their interest and can introduce them to our training program, and to the other support we have available for them, I think they're going to be blown away by the flexibility that this career can offer."

Lynch also stresses that many women shy away from careers in financial services because they are worried they don't have the appropriate skills to succeed. She emphasizes that crunching numbers is not the only trait that makes a good advisor.

"They think you have to be a numbers person…you have to know what standard deviation is, what alphas and betas are. And that's not really it," says Lynch. "There are people who can help with that. This business is about relationships. It's about building new relationships and maintaining new relationships with those clients."

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