Advice firms have been accused of hiring administrators in their 50s in order “to mitigate the disruption” of young women leaving their businesses to have children.
According to a report published by the Personal Finance Society (PFS) last week (April 12) which collated experiences from 15 women in the financial planning industry across the UK, the advice industry is still promoting sexist stereotypes and barriers to female career progression.
One woman, a 52-year-old with two children - one of which has Downs Syndrome - said her current firm had experienced a spate of younger women leaving the business.
As a result, her employer adopted a new hiring policy in order to, in her words, “mitigate future similar disruption within the administration team”.
“Both the administrators are in their 50s, you know, the children days are all gone,” she said. Such stereotyping, she and other women in the report, said had a negative influence on women’s career progression, investment in their development and remuneration in the financial advice industry.
“Incidents were identified, some personal and some witnessed, where these women believed promotional assessments and hiring decisions included consideration of a women’s biological capacity to have children,” the PFS said in the report.
Another 37-year-old woman, now divorced and who decided against having children at the age of 25, said she has felt discriminated against simply because it was expected for her to have children.
“I basically feel that because I was married, and I was of childbearing age, I think that held me back quite a bit from promotion and stuff like that, and nobody will say it, but we all think it,” she explained.
“We don’t want to take on somebody who’s going to go on maternity. Because what do we do? As I said, I think that’s always in the back of your mind when you hire a woman.”
The data, which was collated from women employed by firms with less than five all the way up to more than 100 employees, covered nine independent firms and six restricted firms.
Some advisers said they were disappointed the research did not include more female voices, saying the small sample barely scratches the surface of female financial planners in the UK.
Bev Stoves, a director and financial planner at Investment Sense, told FTAdviser she “switched off” once she saw the sample was interviewing “just” 15 women, adding that there is an entire community of female planners where many more would have been willing to contribute.
She pointed to Empowered, a Facebook group set up by Charlotte Wood - a director at Rosewood Financial Planning - for women in financial advice.
The group currently has 938 members. Stoves said this community could have supplied the PFS report with lots more material.
Paraplanner role ‘has given women halfway house’
As well as highlighting an ageist approach to hiring women, the report also drew attention to how some women feel they do not generally fit the prevailing mould for a financial planner.