Financial planners aim to entice more women into a male-dominated industry



To become a registered certified financial planner requires passing a two-day, 10-hour exam and a background check for felonies, plus completing a college bachelor’s degree and a personal finance program. Nationally, less than 25 percent of all CFPs are women. Here’s a breakdown of current CFPs, as of April 2014:

Nationwide: 69,519 total

Number of women: 16,000 (23 percent)

State by state: With nearly 7,900 CFPs, California leads the country, far exceeding Florida, New York and Texas, which each has fewer than 4,750.

Source: Certified Financial Planner Board,

The Sacramento Bee

Mothers, do you want your daughters to grow up to be CFPs?

Alarmed that not enough women are entering the profession of certified financial planning, there’s a push to get more female college graduates and career-changers into the industry.

Calling it a “feminine famine,” the Certified Financial Planner Board in Washington last month released a lengthy report on why so few CFPs – less than 25 percent of the 69,500 in the country – are women.

“It’s problematic,” said Debbie Grose, a partner with Lighthouse Financial Planning in Folsom and a CFP since 2008. But it’s not surprising “in any way shape or form,” she said, noting that women are underrepresented in Congress, in corporate boardrooms and as company CEOs.

The CFP Board’s study is part of the overall concern that not enough women are reaching leadership ranks in business, an issue given renewed emphasis last year in Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In book and social movement.

It’s not hard to find numbers that back the concerns. While female students are filling up law and medical schools at greater rates than their male counterparts, only about a third of enrolling MBA school students are female.

It’s the career path chosen by those women business graduates that the CFP Board and others are trying to change.

Generally, personal financial advisers meet with clients to assess their financial goals and offer guidance on how best to manage their money. Those who earn the added CFP designation have completed professional coursework, passed national exams and a background check. They also must adhere to strict rules of professional conduct and a “fiduciary” responsibility to put clients’ financial interests first.

A career as a personal financial adviser – with or without a CFP designation – is considered a fast-growing, in-demand profession. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the rate of job growth through 2022 for personal financial advisers is 27 percent, far higher than the average 11 percent for all occupations. In salaries, the median average wage for financial advisers in 2012 was $67,520.

So why are so few women drawn to the field? According to the CFP study, it’s a combination of misperceptions of what the career entails, a lack of women role models, an aversion to professional risk-taking by some women and gender bias in the male-dominated financial-services industry.

That notion of gender inequality may sound a bit dated in 2014, but those in the field say it’s still valid.

“Among my female students, there seems to be an intimidation factor about the financial-services industry,” said Eric Lin, associate professor of finance in the College of Business Administration at California State University, Sacramento.

When those young women look for internships and jobs, Lin said, “the interviewers and recruiters are typically male. When they enter the industry, their colleagues are mostly male. They’re not seeing as many female role models.”

Women in the financial-advisory industry can be very clear about what attracted them: It’s a helping profession.

“Money and financial literacy issues affect everybody. It can be really scary and overwhelming … but to be able to help somebody make good choices about their financial life feels really gratifying,” said Grose, who splits her time between her firm’s Folsom office and her home in Arbuckle.

Grose said women are particularly well-suited to developing relationships with clients and “really listening” to their needs. For instance, she noted, if clients come in with a goal of paying off their mortgage before retirement, there are some basic calculations to be made, based on their tax bracket, investments, interest payments, etc.

But, “If they can’t sleep at night because they’re so fearful about losing their house or worrying about (debt), that needs to be part of the consideration when you’re helping them make a decision,” Grose said. “I’m not saying that men don’t do that well, but women have a particular strength in listening and really hearing what people have to say.”

For working mothers, being a financial adviser can afford some work-home flexibility.

Grose, married to a fire captain and the mother of two boys, said she’s able to “chunk” her time into blocks where she can work exclusively on client needs but also attend her son’s Little League games or help her fourth-grader on his California mission project. That wouldn’t be possible in a 9-to-5 financial-sales environment, she said.

According to the CFP Board’s survey, women financial planners report a high level of job satisfaction with the job’s “problem solving” and “building relationships” aspects. But there are varied routes to becoming a financial planner or CFP.

Read more Economy & Banking stories from the Miami Herald

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category