Opinion  

Why are there so few women in the advice industry?

Tony Hazell

Tony Hazell

Half a century on from bra burning, reports and surveys continue to highlight how women are second-class citizens when it comes to money.

The latest suggests that advisers are five times more likely to analyse a pension for a man than for a woman. Technology provider Selectapension has seen more than 7000 cases analysed by advisers for male clients since the beginning of 2012 compared with just 1500 for female clients.

There are all sorts of reasons why this should happen but most would merely underline how women end up with a smaller pension.

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Other data suggests women are less likely to seek financial advice and have less money to invest.

In one blog a woman says she felt invisible while the adviser bantered with her husband and barely glanced in her direction.

Last year Scottish Widows reported that only two out of five women were preparing adequately for retirement – a 20 per cent drop on 2011 when half were saving adequately.

Yet research by Prudential in America suggests women who receive financial advice are likely to follow it.

This brings me to the crux of the issue: why are there so few female financial advisers in this country?

The best estimates I have seen suggest the figure is around 17 per cent. There appears to be no official breakdown of IFAs.

Contrast this with the traditional professions where both numbers are counted and proportions of women are healthier.

In medicine, General Medical Council figures show that almost half of GPs are women.

More than 45 per cent of solicitors are female, according to the Law Society.

And, worldwide, just more than a third of accountants are women, according to the Professional Oversight Board.

This leaves the UK advice industry looking shamefully ill-balanced in favour of men. In the US the Bureau of Labor Statistics said women account for just less than a third.

The situation here has created a niche for websites such as SavvyWoman and the wonderful Mumsnet.

Sadly high-profile women, such as Gill Cardy who writes the excellent column beneath mine, are few and far between.

Fiona Price, who once set up a women’s IFA group, now concerns herself with horse videos.

So why are there so few women in this industry?

The Association of Professional Financial Advisers said it does not have figures on the proportion of women among its membership nor is there any initiative to encourage more into the profession.

If it is not concerned, it should be. Engineering, which faces a similar gender imbalance, has a strong and active campaign to promote itself to young women.

Without getting into gender stereotyping, financial advice should lend itself to a career with intermittent short breaks that many women need if they are to have a family.

Individual firms may be seeking to redress the balance but while the industry remains dominated by men there must be a feeling that it is missing an awful lot of talented people and a huge amount of potential business.