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Adviser Workshop: How to achieve gender equality at your firm

Simon Webster, Lee Robertson and Gretchen Betts discuss how they tackle the task of ensuring a gender balance in their office.

Adviser Workshop: How to achieve gender equality at your firm

Simon Webster (pictured above), Lee Robertson and Gretchen Betts discuss how they tackle the task of ensuring a gender balance in their office.

Simon Webster

Managing director, Facts & Figures

We have eight advisers at our firm. Four of them are women and four of them are men, so we already have gender diversity.

We have it in our support team as well.

Understand differences

When you run a business you have to employ the best person for the job, irrespective of gender.

However, men and women are perceived differently. If I meet someone at a social event, as an old, fat bloke nobody wants to talk to me. I have to work quite hard. For women it is the opposite.

But if we are in a meeting, I have no problem getting credibility but a female colleague often has to work twice as hard to earn what she ought to have as a right.

Find the balance

There will always be some women who would rather see a female adviser, but 50% of my client base is female and I have only once had a client say she would rather speak to a woman.

I have never had a male client say they would prefer to speak to a man.

Any working environment would benefit from an appropriate gender balance because that is what life is: 50% male and 50% female.

Women think differently and bring different things to the party to men. So I find it helpful having female colleagues who bring a perspective I often do not see.

For me the bigger issue is the broader lack of talent in advice. I am recruiting at the moment and I see this as a massive problem.

Lee Robertson

Chief executive, Investment Quorum

My business partner is a woman (Petronella West, director of private clients) but we did not consider it in terms of gender diversity. We just went into business together when I invited her to join the firm.

Male dominated profession

Women make really, really good financial planners.

They tend to have quite a lot of empathy and are often much more engaged in the details. But they are massively outnumbered by the blokes in the profession. So it is hard to get a balance at an advice firm because there are fewer female advisers to choose from.

There should be more female financial planners and wealth managers. We need to move away from having a pale, male and stale profession. However, this needs to be addressed more at the sector level to create more of a pool of women advisers.

Improve the environment

I have never subscribed to the view that only female advisers understand female clients. But women advisers bring a lot of skills and qualities to the sector and we need more of them.

Most advice firms will have women employees but it would be nice to have them represented at adviser and board level more.

We need to make the profession look more attractive to women and men. But we need to be more mindful of maternity breaks and childcare issues that still predominantly fall on the female and not the male. We have to make the working environment more appealing to the female.

Gretchen Betts

Managing director, Magenta Financial Planning

We did not intend to be an all-female firm but that is how it ended up.

We recently achieved the Chwarae Teg exemplar employer award, which recognises our efforts to go above and beyond legal compliance to create a flexible workplace and provide equal opportunities. The award acknowledged our contribution to gender diversity in the broader profession.

Monitor applications

We recently discussed who is responding to job adverts. If you have a 95% response rate from women and only 5% from men, or vice versa, your job description and your candidate specification may not be written in the right way.

You are allowed to ask if they are male or female and a few other diversity questions. If diversity concerned you, at least you could address it if you make an assessment about it.

I was always under the impression you could not collect data about gender, because you would risk being discriminatory. But as long as you keep questions basic and allow applicants to choose not to complete it if they do not want to, you can ask.

Look at the positives

The firm has not received much feedback about having female advisers but as advisers we have seen an increased amount of female clients since we started Magenta.

There are real positives to having women at all levels in this profession, but a balance is better than just having one or the other.

THREE TOP TIPS

  • Simon Webster: Appreciate that women bring something different to an advice firm than men do.
  • Lee Robertson: We need to work to make the sector more appealing to women.
  • Gretchen Betts: Collect and assess diversity data on job applicants.

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