Too often, a powerful woman finds herself the only woman in the room. Even worse, a powerful woman may be mistaken as the assistant to the men in the room.
Before I embarked on being cofounder and chief financial officer at Emotomy, a wealth technology platform for financial advisors, I worked in finance at several major financial institutions. When I was a managing director on a trading floor teeming with over 100 professionals, I was one of three women M.D.s. Other than the unfortunate junior newcomer who told me to order his business cards (he quickly learned a painful lesson), everyone was cordial.
Still, that was a long way from making me feel like I belonged. But, as technology continues to reshape the financial world, I believe conditions should improve for women in wealth management — especially for entrepreneurial women.
WHY WOMEN OVERACHIEVE
Women held only 16% of the executive seats in financial services committees in 2016, according to the consulting firm Oliver Wyman. If their numbers grow at today’s pace, women should hold 30% of those seats by 2048.
That’s not encouraging.
It’s in part because women tend to communicate differently. Much of our early lives we are taught to be sweet, quiet and above all, modest. As professionals, we tend to slay with competence and achievement, rather than aggression. We beat deadlines; we multitask. We study and become very, very knowledgeable.
The upside is women tend to be highly qualified and efficient. But there’s a bigger downside: our abilities often go unrecognized, unrewarded and lead to disillusion.
A FIRM OF ONE’S OWN
Even in our ultracompetitive corporate world, it can be difficult for women to simply “lean in.” For instance, many women self-promote only when meaningful accomplishments justify the action. A 2017 LinkedIn study comparing female to male profiles found that, among profiles of equal seniority and experience levels, women listed 11% fewer skills, on average. We need more executives at the top who understand this and recognize that women don’t need to act like men to be acknowledged for their accomplishments.
Despite the lagging numbers, many talented women do thrive in finance and tech, and often helm their own firms. As we build more companies that feel right for us, we attract other women and men who think alike. Perhaps, surprisingly, women are actually more likely than men to run financial planning practices, as opposed to more conventional financial practices, according to Aite Group. Thirty-one percent of women in the financial services profession are planners, while only 21% are men. Furthermore, women now make up 40% of new entrepreneurs in the U.S., according to the Kauffman Foundation. It’s an exciting time in our profession, with rising female stars.
From my experience, women advisors who go independent often find that clients like them for simple reasons — they listen, they use less jargon, they show empathy, and build rapport. They break down the wall of superiority that Wall Street has set up. It’s easier to ask questions. Clients and prospects feel confident and comfortable.
Cloud-based platforms will help women succeed in wealth management industry. Digital advice platforms will free all advisors from our desks and make personal relationships even more central to our mission. We will be able to work from home — or from anywhere in the world — to help our clients and ourselves achieve financial and emotional autonomy. Instead of the traditional, male-dominated workplace, women will be quietly excellent and build our reputations with substance.
Or, so I hope.
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