There has been an improvement in gender diversity in financial services over the past two decades.
For example, out of 7,578 chartered financial planners at the Personal Finance Society, 1,638 of these are women – almost 22 per cent. Adviser training schools cite one in three students are women, while initiatives such as the Women in Finance Charter are promoting greater diversity.
But even though the industry has more women now than ever coming through its various training schools, the perception on the ground can be very different.
On October 5, financial adviser Victor Sacks tweeted: "I'm at a PFS event in Peterborough. I'm looking around at the audience and asking myself where are the women and our young people? I know its one event, but blimey: there's about seven or eight women among 50 to 60 people. Is that a fair percentage representation?"
Likewise, in May this year Anna Sofat, associate director of Progeny Wealth, wrote that not much has changed in 20 years. In her blog, Sofat referred to Fidelity's Unlocking the Power of Advice 2020 report, part of the investment giant's Financial Power of Women series.
She said: "[This] shows one key statistic that really hit me hard. They found that of all registered with the Financial Conduct Authority with permission to provide investment advice, only 14 per cent were female financial advisers.
"I remember sitting in a board meeting, in 2001, at what was then the first 'run-by-women-for-women' independent financial advice firm discussing how difficult it was to recruit female advisers.
"One of the reasons for this was that, as I recall, just 14 per cent of IFAs at the time were women. It would seem that almost 20 years on, we’ve made no progress at all."
Given that representation makes a big impression on people's career choices, it is disappointing that there has not been greater growth in all areas of financial planning and financial advice.
A clear problem
Julian Hince, head of the Quilter Financial Adviser School, acknowledges the problem: "Despite positive steps forward in recent years, the financial advice industry continues to see a stark difference in the number of women entering the world of financial advice in comparison to men.
"The Covid-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on gender equality – social, cultural and economic – and women have been more vulnerable to the negative effects. The progress that had been made in gender equality has arguably regressed and so must remain high on the agenda."
Similarly, Andy Payne, head of academy at St James's Place, says there is an "increased need for sound financial planning and, alongside this, greater access to highly qualified female financial advisers".
Approximately one in three graduates coming through the SJP academy are women and he expects this number to keep rising as more women explore opportunities within the sector, particularly as a second career.