Over the past decade, the number of conferences geared toward the female adviser has grown. I’m proud to say that my own company, Commonwealth Financial Network®, will be holding its first Summit for Women Advisers in June. Further, broker/dealers, industry publications and industry organizations are focusing in on the female adviser to a much greater extent than ever before. So, what does this trend tell you?
For me, it means that many likely share my opinion that women will play a much greater role the industry at some point in the future. But I also believe that conferences for women advisers are on the rise in more ways than one.
Better Than Ever
It’s not just the quantity of conferences that has increased. It’s also the quality. The speakers are engaging, articulate, and, in some cases, well-known. Other presenters are delightful surprises, showcasing the inspiring new talent within the industry. And then there are the audiences! Audience members are well-spoken, asking insightful questions that everyone in the room can learn from.
The feeling of these events is also changing. Women seem to have gotten better at networking, evidenced by the constant exchange of business cards. And they’re branching out. You no longer see women sticking with the three or four people they came to the conference with. Instead, everyone is eager to put out a hand to meet new people.
Finally, those organizations creating these conferences are to be commended for taking a stand to help develop an adviser segment vital to the future of the industry. Organizers of successful events carefully include female advisers in designing events and diligently seek input from all attendees—so a round of enhancements can be made for the next conference.
Still Room for Improvement
Of course, some may say that we don’t need conferences for women advisers since there aren’t conferences just for men (that I know of). So, what’s with the focus on women? Well, the reality is that almost all conferences are dominated by men. Women advisers are still, by far, the minority at 17 percent, with the number of CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERTM practitioners a bit higher at 23 percent. The female contingent has been far from top of mind over the years at industry conferences. If you need proof of that, just look at the standard gifts that advisers receive: the XXL T-shirt or golf tees. Those do work for some—but not for the majority—of women.
Sometimes, women are surprised to see men at a women’s conference. At one conference I attended, a couple of women commented on the number of men there. I had not paid attention and assumed they were from sponsoring organizations. But then I gave it some thought. Why didn’t the sponsor organizations send their female executives? Did those sponsor organizations even have female executives to send? As an industry, we are increasingly interested in ESG (environment, social and governance) investing. How might “governance” be playing out right in front of our eyes? Now, I’m sure some of those male attendees were sincerely interested in meeting the needs of female advisers on their staff. But for me, this experience highlighted the importance of increasing not just the number of female advisers, but also the number of woman-owned advisory firms. I believe conferences focused on women will help get us there.
Worth Your Time
The key takeaway here? If you attended a women’s conference once or twice years ago and weren’t overly impressed, I encourage you to give it another try. The quality of conferences for women has been greatly enhanced. I think you will find attending one an experience that is worth your time and energy. It might even boost your career.
Joni Youngwirth is managing principal of practice management at Commonwealth Financial Network in Waltham, Mass.