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Small in number, women advisors face challenges

What is it like to be a woman executive in the planning industry?

While some headway has been made, it's still a male-dominated world. Only 14% of advisors are women, according to the latest data from Cerulli Associates.

For many female planners, that presents added hurdles. More than 80% of women executives say they find the old boys' network somewhat or very challenging to their professional ascension, according to an exclusive SourceMedia Research survey.

"I never thought of myself as a minority as a woman in business until I started in financial services," one respondent wrote. She said the male-dominated culture "makes advancement difficult and emotionally draining even if you are successful."

However, she did not think that the playing field meant it was impossible for women to achieve: "Women have the potential to be very successful and have the flexibility they crave in this industry."

The survey posed questions on a range of topics including professional happiness and satisfaction, career trajectory and workplace challenges. It yielded responses from 91 female executives across the independent, employee and bank channels. Many of the questions were posed to both the female respondents and a control group of male advisors for comparison.


Women are struggling to find as much satisfaction in the industry as men.

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On average, respondents rated their job satisfaction lower than men: 7.5 compared to 8.1 on a 10-point scale. That said, women and men had very similar needs for improving satisfaction: both groups called for increased compensation and better executive leadership.

Despite the difference in happiness, both men and women said they shared the same day-to-day challenges: acquiring new business, keeping up with regulatory requirements and dealing with clients/client demands.

However, there were some notable differences: 16% of women said a less demanding schedule would improve their job satisfaction, compared to 10% of men. Women found it harder to juggle work/life balance: 80% said they occasionally or often struggled with it, while only 62% of men did.

"The firm has a culture of work/life balance," wrote one respondent. "But it may not be reinforced well because people in management positions don't practice the work/life balance well themselves."

Some respondents said they felt they were held back based on perception: 46% of women said they often felt limited by a perceived lack of management experience and skills.

One respondent wrote: "As an experienced female, I know that I bring a different perspective to working with clients — especially other women. However, I also know that as a woman I have to work extra hard for my suggestions to be approved or acknowledged."

Independence may provide women advisors with a solution to these problems: Several respondents cited previous difficulties with management, saying they were happier once they started on their own. One advisor wrote: "In order to do what I do best I went out on my own. I got tired of the' boys club' and being forced to sell company products I never believed in."

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