In light of Women’s History Month, I am highlighting the experience of our own Sue Hansen. Sue started her career as a financial advisor in the 1980s, when female financial advisors were exceptionally rare. Even now, only 17% of financial advisors are women, according to a study conducted in 2018. We have much to learn from Sue’s story, and how we can encourage more women and girls to pursue careers in finance.
What led you to want to become a financial advisor?
Prior to become a financial advisor, I was a teacher. After I had been teaching for several years, I started wondering what I would do when I retired. I knew that I would want another career. I wanted this next endeavor to allow me to learn something new and be rewarded for the time I spent working on my business.
I didn’t know much about finances at the time, and being a stock broker sounded like fun. It took months of study and passing exams. I continued teaching and was able to have this business as a part time endeavor for six years. It then became difficult to do my best job at both careers, so I stopped teaching and became a full-time financial advisor. At that point I was able to join professional groups and spent two years preparing for the Certified Financial Planner Designation exam.
What was it like being a female financial advisor at the beginning of your career?
It was a bit intimidating but the male support I had was very helpful! Each time I would go to a workshop or conference, I would count the number of women in the group. It was usually about 2-3%.
Did you face any struggles?
Since I started a financial career while I was teaching, my main focus was on other teachers. Because teaching is a more female concentrated profession, I was well received by my colleagues. As I started to work beyond the school environment, there were times when being a female hurt my chances of being able to work with prospects. Since I was confident I could increase my knowledge and increase my capabilities of providing good service to clients, being in the minority was not too discouraging. I do love seeing the increase in percentages of women in this profession. Now when I do my counting of females at a conference or workshop, it is closer to 20% to 30%.
How has the industry changed over the last 30 years for women?
I think our culture has slowly become more accepting of women in roles that were traditionally held by men. This is affecting the burgeoning development of creativity, workforce appreciation, various styles of leadership and has brought hope to the possibility of positive energy in our public and private institutions.
In the financial profession, I see more inclination for women and men to work with female advisors. Our industry literature has many articles highlighting female financial advisors and women run firms, and many more articles on any subject are written by women. When I first started in this profession, it was rare for a mutual fund manager to be a woman. I would always hope that when I did find a female manager, the fund was a good fit for my clients. Now, there are many mutual funds with female managers or co-managers.
Why should more women pursue careers in financial planning?
If you like having meaningful conversations with others and find the world of finances enjoyably challenging, this is a fine place to strengthen your capabilities. You will be able to plan your own structure of accomplishing your goals, meet a diverse group of people from many occupations and backgrounds, and be part of determining your own income. The profession can have a great deal of time flexibility and self determinism.
Why would you encourage them to focus on Socially Responsible Investing in their practice?
Financial planning has many aspects from budgeting to investing with more decisions to make as you increase your net worth. There is insurance and tax issues along with varying types of securities in which you can invest. We all want to feel we have been responsible with our money and want to know the investments we have chosen will do well. There are two parts to doing well. One is determined by the amount of money your investments earn and the other is choosing companies or mutual funds that are responsible to our society’s well-being. Encouraging others to see that they can accomplish wellness for the community and financial success for themselves at the same time is a very rewarding aspect of introducing clients and prospects to SRI.
How can we encourage more women, and specifically women of color, to pursue careers in this field?
To encourage more women and women of color to look at this profession, we need to do more education on the benefits of this career and why women should consider pursuing it. We could do this by offering workshops in schools and colleges, non-profits, businesses, and in churches. Momentum is growing for another initiative that will require elementary and secondary schools to have financial planning courses, which would further encourage young women to look at this profession.