Women in the United States account for about 47% of the workforce, compared to roughly 29.6% in 1950, according to data from the U.S. Labor Force. No doubt about it, female influence in the workforce is growing. Yet, the gender divide among advisors at the some of the largest firms is pretty striking.

Just check out this graphic obtained from our 2013 FP50 list, showcasing the gender divide among the nation’s largest independent broker-dealers.


Marissa Fox-Foley, senior managing director of marketing at First Allied Securities (and former executive vice president of advisor marketing at LPL Financial), says the reasons behind the stark difference between the genders within advisory firms stems from societal, philosophical and biological elements. "It's very clear that men and women approach financial planning differently. The differences also come down to how men and women approach the concepts of wealth accumulation versus financial peace of mind," she says.

Research has shown that for women, financial peace of mind is more important than wealth accumulation. Men, however, place greater value on wealth accumulation.

"I think that difference is fundamental in how men and women approach financial planning and which advisors they seek out," she says.

Some of the biggest reasons for the gender divide, she explains, come largely from the financial industry being historically male-dominated along with women being less eager to seek out advice in the first place. Advice-seeking, therefore, has largely come from males in the family -- who have connected more with advisors of the same "wealth-accumulation" mindset.

It's a sort of Catch-22. With more men historically being in control of finances, men are often more likely to seek out similarly minded men to manage their finances, Fox-Foley explains, and there have simply been more male advisors to choose from. But that divide will slowly be lessening as more women not only gain control of their finances and increasingly seek out advice, but also aspire to advisory positions.


So, we know that a large gender divide exists. Now, the question is: "How will the industry overcome it?"

"It's incumbent upon any firm within independent financial services to up the ante on educating to advisors and the general public," Fox-Foley says. She notes that Raymond James has been a leader in terms of offering such education with its Network for Women Advisors -- which provides opportunities and resources for female advisors around the country.

“Our commitment to support the women advisors who are currently with our firm is what we believe will attract both experienced advisors and provide the best opportunity for new advisors to find success,” says Nicole Spinelli, Raymond James’ director of the firm’s Network for Women Advisors.

Despite great strides in lowering the gender divide, Fox-Foley adds that the financial industry historically hasn't been overwhelmingly welcoming for women. A lot of the training for example that took place 20-30 years ago when advisors entered the industry was geared toward male candidates. And offering maternity leave was often not a priority for firms."

Here's what Fox-Foley recommends to lower the gender disparity to have not only a more equitable advisory industry but a more equitable workplace in general.


1. Female advisors: Be more visible. Have your voice heard more. "Female advisors don't do a good enough job marketing their success stories and building their brand," she says. 

2. Actively market. Broker-dealers, wirehouses, and RIA firms must actively market and target female advisors.

3. Education. Advisors must get out in the community and work with local institutions, such as church groups and schools. Financial literacy starts with children.

4. Social media: Many advisors overlook this communication platform. Use it to connect and tell your story on local levels.

Read More: Gender Divide in Financial Planning


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