Working moms are still fighting plenty of old stereotypes, but some are finding solace in the advisory industry. In fact, some women are becoming advisors in their mid-career years, specifically for perks like better work-life balance and the ability to spend more time with their kids.
Quote“My daughter saw a lot of the leadership development that I’ve done at the firm … which I find priceless,” says Edward Jones advisor Christina Price.
To be sure, old stigmas linger despite academic evidence that being a mother in the workforce doesn’t have a negative outcome on children. One study by Harvard University shows that there are actually benefits for children of working mothers — especially for daughters — that include completing more years of education, earning higher incomes and working in leadership roles.
Meanwhile, the opposite sentiment surfaces in website message boards. “Mothers should stay home and raise their own children,” reads one of many similar comments on social forum Debate.org. “Mothers who place their babies, especially newborn babies, in day care and leave them there 40 to 50 hours per week are causing irreparable damage to the development of the baby.”
This emotional tug-of-war is played out across the economy, as women make up 47% of the work force, and 70% of women with children under the age of 18 participate in the labor force, according to the Department of Labor.
Women advisors certainly feel this angst, but the industry also has some strong positives in its favor, according to anecdotal evidence. Greater flexibility and time management are cited as key reasons why it’s a great job for moms. On the flip side, a lack of gender diversity and a wide pay gap are still major issues within wealth management.
“I strongly believe that I am in one of the best industries possible for working mothers,” says advisor Robin Giles of Apex Wealth Management. “When my kids were small, I didn’t have a lot of income, but I had a lot of time when I really wanted it with my kids … My clients get a lot of personalized attention, and I can easily rearrange my home/work balance when one needs me more than the other.”
Giles says she averaged about 15 working hours per week when her children were under the age of three.
Others agreed. “It’s a very good job for a woman to have,” says Lauren Konstantin, who, along with her mother Gail Konstantin is an advisor with UBS’s Hudson River Wealth Management.
“Yes, you need to be available, but it’s something you can do where if a client calls, you can pick up the phone as you’re picking up your kid from school, so it’s definitely more flexible than some other jobs out there.”
For her part, Lauren didn’t start out as an advisor, but after five years in global markets at Deutsche Bank, she decided to become a planner. And one of the deciding factors was her desire to become a mom someday.
“I remember as a child, my mom had that flexibility being a financial advisor allowed,” she says. “That’s one of the reasons I considered changing careers.”
Gail says she worked about 40 hours per week as a new mom.
Indeed, Lauren isn’t alone in that regard. Others were drawn to the industry in mid-career for the latitude in time. “When I changed careers from an institutional equity trader to become a certified financial planner and certified divorce financial planner, my primary goal was to live a more balanced life,” says Cindy Turkington of Fair Trust Financial, an advisor with two children. She says her previous career took too much time away from her kids.
“After spending 12 years as an institutional equity trader and having little time at home to spend with my children, I wanted to have more control over my schedule so I could be part of my kids’ lives as they grew up,” she says.
Setting an example: Some in the industry have real-life experience that exemplifies the Harvard study on the benefits of a working mom.
“I felt like I was setting a great example for my kids from a work ethic standpoint,” says Edward Jones advisor Christina Price. “My daughter saw a lot of the leadership development that I’ve done at the firm, and seeing that and experiencing a mom working hard really set a good example for my daughter, which I find priceless.”
Another positive for advisor moms is the maternity leave policies of some firms. Unlike the rest of the developed world, paid family leave is a not a given in the U.S., according to the OECD Family Database.
Case-in-point, teachers in New York may take up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave for the birth of a child, according to their union the United Federation of Teachers.
There aren’t broad statistics on maternity leave in the industry, but some large financial firms have been slowly improving their parental leave policies, Bloomberg notes, offering weeks of paid time off to employees acting as a child’s primary caregiver.
At UBS, U.S. employees may take 20 weeks of paid child care leave if they are the primary caregiver, a company spokeswoman told Financial Planning.
At Edward Jones, the policy is 16 weeks of paid leave for home office and branch office administrators, a company spokesman says. For advisors, it works slightly differently with planners receiving parental leave pay only when the amount is greater than their actual commissions generated for the month. If commissions are greater than the leave pay amount, advisors will continue to receive their commissions.
“I don’t feel a lot of guilt or stigma for being a working mom because I can still make it to most school activities, and when I need to, I can catch up on work during nights and weekends,” Apex’s Giles says. “I don’t know of a lot of other professional industries that you can have a successful career while being a working mom who can work around school and activities schedules.”