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Firms can profit from female advisers

Tony Levene

Stephanie Clark, a chartered financial planner at Almary Green Investments in Cambridge, said: “It is getting better but very slowly. Women are put off by the sales-based, often aggressive image of the industry, and it will take a long time for the effect of the RDR to erode that adverse vision.

“If the industry thinks one in 10 is a good outcome, then, if it wants to be considered a profession, it should look at solicitors and accountants. The legal profession is at almost full equality while accountancy is getting there fast. Now we have become advice rather than sales based, this should no longer be an issue.”

Her comments follow publication of a report from the Women’s Business Council, called Maximising Women’s Contribution to Future Economic Growth, which suggests GDP would benefit from greater female participation.

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The council, set up by the government 12 months ago to look at ways of maximising women’s contribution to economic growth, says “women should not just try to fit into the economy, they should be shaping it”.

And while the report does not specifically focus on financial services – or any other industry – its findings are relevant to advisory and provider firms where female representation has been low.

The report recommends how firms can make the most of women’s contributions through all stages of their careers. There is untapped potential, such as the 2.4m women who are not working but who want to work and a further 1.3m who want to increase their working hours – all potential clients for financial services.

Ms Clark said: “I went to an investment seminar recently where I was the only woman among 40 men at the start. Three other women joined – so four out of 40 and that’s a really good score.

“University degrees in financial planning have helped and there is fantastic flexibility in working hours. I only rarely work evenings, while the firm is equally balanced [between] female and male.

“The good news for me is that IFA firms need qualified females because, from the public point of view, this is attractive to women clients so I have a rarity value.”

Key recommendations

There are no accurate statistics of women’s involvement in financial services. The FCA says there were 31,132 registered individuals in December 2012, but can give no information on the gender split, as “it is not something we have ever asked”. However, anecdotally, the female workforce probably represents fewer than 10 per cent of IFAs.

The council believes achieving parity between male and female workers could increase economic growth by 0.5 per cent a year. Its key recommendations include:

• Embracing the benefits of flexible working and understanding how best to support working parents in the second stage of their careers;

• That women in the third phase of working life (after child raising) offer great untapped potential;

• That there is a strong case for providing more support for women who want to set up their own businesses;

• The role of women in the world of paid work can be contentious, with arguable issues including positive discrimination and the extent of family-friendly employment.