NEW YORK – Balanced leadership isn’t just about gender equality; it’s also about the bottom line.

If you want your firm to stay competitive, closing the leadership gender gap won’t be optional for long, warned executives at a Pershing event here this week as they released a new study on the subject.

In the advisory industry, the leadership gender gap is complex and requires immediate attention, says Kim Dellarocca, the head of segment marketing and practice management for Pershing, a BNY Mellon company. "We have to start taking action today," she says.

Sixty percent of women say they would rather work with women advisors, according to the study of over 2,000 Americans. For women 65 and up , it’s an even higher 79%.

Yet although women investors prefer women advisors, they aren't finding them, says Dellarocca -- in part because women make up just 31% of the advisor population, according to 2012 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

That percentage parallels the gender gap in leadership positions in the financial services industry and beyond. Women make up just 16% of corporate boards among Fortune 500 companies and just 20% of the Senate, Dellarocca says.


But Dellarocca says the breakdown along gender lines when it comes investors’ advisor preference speaks to another issue as well: Advisors aren't doing a good enough job serving female clients. “Women investors demand an advisor who gets them,” she says. “If there were more advisors who get it, we wouldn’t see this black and white, ‘I want a woman advisor.’”

If firms want to reach female clients, they need more diverse leadership that reflects the clients they hope to serve, Dellarocca argues. Firm leaders should ask themselves, “Who are my people? What do they need?”

And if you're not considering women for leadership roles, you aren't tapping 100% of the talent pool for those positions, says BNY Mellon Capital Markets COO Regi Meredith-Carpeni.


With the advisory industry facing a talent shortage, firms must work even harder to attract and retain new hires -- especially women. The panel's advice: Create a culture that supports and encourages women -- particularly when it comes to taking risk -- and provide opportunities for women to practice their management skills.

“You have to give people stretch assignments,” says Meredith-Carpeni. She argues that women need to take more risks and companies need to help make it possible. “How are you positioning your organization to put women in a place to able to take a risk?"

Firms that don't address these issues will have a hard time remaining relevant, says clinical psychologist Dr. Vanessa Weaver of consulting firm Alignment Strategies in Washington D.C.

There’s a new generation of women coming that simply won’t tolerate it, Weaver says. “Younger women are not accepting this,” she says. “Firms will find quickly that this is not optional.”

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