Shorter bathroom lines.
A couple weeks ago, I spent an invigorating, exhausting (I swear, it’s not an oxymoron) 3 days at the annual conference of the XY Planning Network. Between sessions on the first day, I saw this:
Photo and recognition of a moment worth recording courtesy of Scott Frank, CFP ® over at Stone Steps Financial
(Side note: Please do take in the fact that these attendees at a financial planning conference are wearing jeans. The guy in the khakis is tooootally bringing up the average. Have I mentioned how much I love XYPN?)
Which reminded me of this copyrighted-so-I-unfortunately-can’t-put-it-in-the-blog picture from a tech conference I’d seen just a few weeks earlier:
That bathroom line made me pay attention to other parallels between the two industries.
At the conference:
- I had to tell one (30-something) man who owned a firm that he should refer to the “girl” he hired as, in fact, a “woman,” because, well, she’s over 12 years old. He was surprisingly flustered.
- As I retold this story the next morning to a group of colleagues, one (again, 30-something) investment guy at the table said, in exasperation, “I just don’t want to feel as if I’m walking on eggshells!” My response wasn’t particularly generous. Ahem.
- There was a fintech competition among 6 new technologies aimed at the finance industry. I am happy to report that 2 of the firms were headed by women. But the moderator and all 3 judges were white men.
- A female planner next to me at breakfast recounted the time at a conference when a man asked her whose assistant she was. When in fact she’d owned her own successful firm for 7 years and had been in the industry for 15.
- A young man who hires advisors said he tries to hire women. Recently he made an offer to two women, they both said no, and so he ended up hiring men. I asked if he’d asked the women why they’d said no. He guessed that maybe it was because the salary was too low, but that they didn’t even attempt to negotiate, and he definitely had room to negotiate. I suggested that, while his heart is definitely in the right place, his hiring process might not be. Perhaps it’s better suited to men, which is a subtler problem to fix.
General industry statistics are similar:
- Representation: XYPN has somewhere between 25 and 30% women planners, which is about on par with “Financial Advisors” in general (about 31% female representation, according to this). XYPN can tout one extra bit of impressiveness: (almost?) all of those women are firm owners in addition to being advisors…double whammy. And only about 23% of Certified Financial Planners professionals are women. (Stats on ethnic diversity are dramatically worse. For example, less than 1% of CFP professionals are black, and less than 1% are hispanic.)
In the tech industry, I know you already know and feel the underrepresentation. One article from 2015 states that women make up 30% of the tech industry workforce, only 22% of the leadership roles, and only 16% of the technical roles. As of 2014, women were 18% of the founders of funded start-ups.
- Pay gap: Women make 62% of their male counterparts as a personal financial advisor (which, admittedly, is a fairly broad career title), according to this tool. The numbers aren’t “bad” for technical jobs: women earn 87% of what male counterparts do as developers of applications and systems software, 90% as technical writers, and 92% as computer programmers. But, if only 16% of your technical workforce is women, it’s not as meaningful that the paygap is small.
I found myself very conscious of being a woman at the conference, and in the profession in general. I tried really hard not to make self-deprecating comments, say “sorry” unnecessarily, let others take up all the question-asking time as I politely waited for space to ask my own questions. (Thankfully, I’ve always been a question-asking kind of person. Must be something about that all-women’s education.)
I am, in the end, thrilled to be a financial planner and a member of XYPN. It is not only trying to change the way financial guidance is provided—to make it more accessible to young people and not-rich people—but it also seems to be doing more than any other group in attracting young, female, and non-white folk into the profession. But cultural biases and industry stereotypes are simply really hard to recognize and avoid, and pipeline issues are a real thing.
Similarly, I know there is a lot of attention in the tech world to increasing diversity. There’s also a lot of uncertainty about How To Do It Effectively, and a lot of the problem is subtle (or, <cough>, not-so-subtle) cultural stuff.
One change we need is in the public face of both industries, not to reflect the reality we have, but to reflect the reality we want. Yes, most advisors/founders/developers are male, and that’s not going to change until we make that future seem like a real possibility for women. Show them women already in those powerful, respected roles. Kind of like, oh, a certain presidential candidate I know (and a certain other one we all got to know 8 years ago).
As it turns out, the real silver lining I saw at the conference was that the women planners tended to find one another and form a community of understanding and support that I expect to persist and grow. Using that network is going to help me be a better financial planning business owner. And working your professional network is going to help you have a better career in the tech industry.
Question: What kind of subtle gender bias have you experienced in your career or workplace? What have you done to try to combat a particular instance of it? You can leave a comment below.
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Disclaimer: This article is provided for general information and illustration purposes only. Nothing contained in the material constitutes tax advice, a recommendation for purchase or sale of any security, or investment advisory services. I encourage you to consult a financial planner and/or an accountant for advice specific to your situation. Reproduction of this material is prohibited without written permission from Meg Bartelt, and all rights are reserved. Read the full Disclaimer.