The advice career must be marketed to women, with firms signing up to a charter.
It is well known that women advisers are in the minority. You only need to look around at most financial services events to see this.
In financial services in general, women comprised just 14% of executive committees in 2016, even though 66% of new recruits are women. Last year in UK businesses across professions, the proportion of women in senior roles fell from 21% to 19%.
But why is this the case? It is not to do with the type of work involved. Personally, I have found being an adviser has given me more flexibility with balancing work and home than many of my friends have had. Although taking maternity leave certainly was not easy.
Perhaps it is because advice has traditionally been a profession dominated by men, who often recruit people similar to themselves. Or perhaps it is because the profession is not being marketed to women as an attractive career path.
Diversify and prosper
Whatever the reason, most people agree more women are needed in the advice profession. Many studies have shown diversity increases productivity. So what, as a sector, are we doing about it?
With the introduction of the Women in Finance Charter, the government is trying to support women working in the finance sector. The aim of the charter is to get companies to pledge to set internal targets for women in senior management positions and publish progress reports.
As of 10 November 2017 there were 162 signatories, but from what I can see there are many big names missing, and there are a limited number of financial advice firms.
A Treasury committee has been put together to look into this. It seems that although women in financial services, as in many typically male-dominated professions, are well-represented at entry levels, many do not progress beyond middle management. And female representation at senior levels remains historically low.
Time for action
Within the profession, we should have our own women adviser targets under the charter. Surely now is the time for people to stop saying we need more women in the sector and start doing something about it.
Insurance, investment and professional bodies should join forces with a panel of women advisers to see if we can set our own targets under the charter and help encourage more women to join our profession.
On a personal level, I run a group for women advisers and brokers, the Women Adviser and Broker Group.
The group supports women in our sector. But I am finding it increasingly difficult to get companies to support this.
From my experience, I think people are worried providing a room and refreshments for a group could be seen as breach of regulations and deemed inducement.
Nevertheless, our next event will be held on 28 February at Child & Co. on Fleet Street. If you would like to come along, just send me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reaching out to the big players
Most IFA companies are small. It would be lovely for one of the bigger players to host a forum of female advisers to discuss what our sector can do about the issue of diversity.
We need to embrace and sign up to the charter, and pledge to employ a certain number of women in advice by a certain date. We then need to plan how we will achieve this.
Surely if the rest of the financial sector are doing something, we can step up to the challenge.
Vivian Slattery is director of Monetary Solutions