March is Women’s History Month, a month dedicated to highlighting the contributions and achievements of women in society, and discussing the issues that continue to challenge the progress towards gender parity. One industry where women have been historically underrepresented is financial services, which our female-led firm has been operating within for 50 years.
Although the proportion of women in the industry has improved steadily over the past few decades, there is still progress to be made. Specifically, in the realm of promotions and leadership roles, the gender gap gradually increases along the leadership pipeline.
According to a Deloitte report, women make up about 50% of the financial services industry’s US workforce, yet, they account for just under 22% of leadership roles. As a research report from Catalyst explains, the financial services industry had a 24% gap between the rates of first promotions (from entry-level to manager) of women and men, despite asking for promotions at comparable rates.
CSi’s owner and Managing Partner, Kristi Baker, is a great example for what a strong, capable female leader can achieve in the finance industry. For over 25 years, Kristi has applied her intelligence, ambition and vigilance to progress through the industry pecking order. Below, Kristi explains her experience as a female financial advisor, and shares her thoughts and hopes for the future of the finance industry.
1. Why did you decide to become a financial advisor?
I started my career with large company selling, and a large part of the decision was based upon price. After a number of years of being with this great company, I decided I wanted to change my focus to something I felt passionate about and wanted to be able to make a difference. In 1993, I became a financial advisor with a desire to make a meaningful positive impact on individuals, families and corporate financial success and outcomes.
2. How has your unique female perspective shaped your experience as a woman in the finance industry?
I suppose it has, but I didn’t give it much consideration. Being a woman wasn’t something I thought about as it related to my role as an advisor; I served and conducted business based upon what I thought was right for my clients. When I started in the business, a low percentage of advisors were female. In the firm I joined, there were two of us. There were not women’s groups or support networks when I started. I learned from great men, who were willing to mentor, train, and inspire me. I am very blessed by this. Learning to balance work, home, family and life was something I learned through trial and error.
3. According to The Bureau of Labor Statistics, women represent 31% of U.S. financial advisors, and only 23% of CFP® professionals. In your opinion, what is preventing women from becoming financial advisors and/or CFPs®?
I’m encouraged by these numbers; this is great progress from my perspective. I feel the financial service industry is opening up to not just women, but all individuals from a variety of backgrounds.
4. Do you have any thoughts about what can be done to improve the gender disparity within the financial planning industry?
Time, it just needs time. More and more women are considering the field. Corporations and advisory practices are actively looking for good quality candidates, and women represent well. Bringing the disparity to the front of minds has been a large part of the positive movement.
5. Do you have mentors or belong to organizations that offer support to women in the financial planning profession?
I do now. These organizations and support networks did not exist for many of the early years I was in the business. There are many great networking groups, organizations, and sub groups within corporations that support and address women’s needs. I encourage others to do their research and take the initiative to connect with networking organizations that will bring them value professionally and personally.
6. You are 100% owner and Managing Partner of a certified Women's Business Enterprise. Why did you decide to become certified through the WBENC? How have you and/or your business benefited since receiving the WBE certification?
I was introduced to WBE by a friend and client. She encouraged me to learn more about the certification and submit an application. The WBE organization provides great support, tools, networking and engagement. It’s reassuring knowing that there is a community of female business owners like me nationwide, and the WBE organization is a great way for all of us to come together.
7. What is your advice for women who are thinking of becoming a financial advisor?
Do it! If you have the desire, passion, and the right fit skills – it’s a wonderful field. In my experience, find a mentor who you can learn from. Having individuals that were willing to believe in me, encourage me and train me, is why I am where I am today.
It goes without saying that achieving gender parity in financial services leadership is a broad and ambitious goal. In fact, Deloitte suggests we may not see an equal number of women in overall leadership roles until at least 2085.
So, what can financial services organizations do to advance the growth of women in leadership positions? Deloitte recommends strategies and areas of focus including: understand and embrace the multiplier effect, improve transparency and accountability, invest in programs that support women reentering the workforce, and support and enable mentorship, sponsorship and peer networks.
At CSi, we know first-hand the successes that can be achieved when qualified, deserving women are given the opportunity to lead. Our organization is committed to furthering the position of female financial professionals, and encouraged by the steps being taken to increase the overall diversity and inclusion within our industry.
Catalyst, Quick Take: Women in Financial Services (June 29, 2020).
Patty Danielecki and Tiffany Ramsay, Within Reach? Achieving Gender Equity in Financial Services Leadership (Deloitte Insights and 100 Women in Finance, 2019)
Jessica Clempner, Michelle Daisley, and Astrid Jaekel, Women in Financial Services 2020: A Panoramic Approach (Oliver Wyman, 2019)