Imagine stepping into a revolving door, it stopping midway, then continuing only to stop at the exit to the outside. This happens to many women entering the financial services profession. That’s why the mission of Women in Insurance and Financial Services (WIFS) is to attract, develop and advance women in this profession — a mission that can be achieved alongside a joint effort with educators, industry leaders and practicing professionals. Key areas that require focus include early introduction to the career during formative years and continued culture adaptation to women’s needs.
Young women need to be presented with more career options. Attraction should begin by introducing the profession to women in high school and college, similar to the STEM initiative’s approach. Current research from WIFS, Cerulli and Associates, and State Street Global Advisors shows the percentage of women in our profession is as low as 15.7 percent to 23 percent, and has not significantly increased in decades.
In WIFS’ 2012 research study of 1,000 respondents, the median annual income of women in finance was $89,000. It’s a profession with limitless earning potential built on problem-solving and relationship building — a natural fit for women, especially those who have been out of the workforce and want to return, or those looking to change careers.
Once they are in, how do we keep them? First, work-life balance, mentoring and support, and alternative compensation models are important. Next, gender neutral workplace cultures — while still providing training that supports the natural skills and abilities of women — must be explored by the industry. And finally, instituting compensation models that provide women with the income needed to be self-sufficient early in their careers creates an atmosphere for success.
WIFS believes the gender gap in financial services can be closed. Women are transforming the industry, and are opening up great opportunities for other women seeking fulfilling careers.