Research and Findings

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Research and Findings

This white paper, authored by CFP Board Consumer Advocate Eleanor Blayney, CFP® on behalf of the WIN Advisory Panel, presents the findings of a comprehensive research study on the causes of the "feminine famine" in financial planning.

Making more room for women in the financial planning profession

Recommendations to Increase the Number of Women CFP® Professionals from CFP Board’s Women’s Initiative


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Summary of Research Findings

  1. Women lack awareness of financial planning and the CFP® certification process.
  2. Women harbor misperceptions about the financial planning profession and CFP® certification.
  3. Women’s reluctance to take professional risks may be keeping them from entering the financial planning profession. For those women in the profession, this same risk aversion may be inhibiting their success and/or professional satisfaction.
  4. The financial planning profession is not a welcoming or supportive environment for women.

What Needs to be Done

To attract more women to the financial planning profession:

  • Leverage the confidence-building benefits of girls-only groups or clubs— such as the Girl Scouts and Invest in Girls—to promote the basic skills of financial planning, such as budgeting, debt management and investing.
  • Educate guidance counselors and placement officers in high schools and colleges on financial planning as a distinct specialty within financial services, and on the requirements and benefits of CFP®  certification. Get CFP®  professionals to speak at high school career days and make visits to college campuses.
  • Encourage women in MBA and other business programs to consider the financial planning profession as an attractive alternative to the more traditional careers in investment banking, investment management or product sales. Have women CFP® professionals participate in career fairs for business majors.
  • At all educational levels, present financial planning as a holistic discipline, requiring good communication and relationship skills, in addition to math and technical competence.
  • Help women and girls “see” themselves as financial planners by incorporating more photographs and stories of women financial planners in consumer marketing materials.
  • Make women leaders in the profession, including successful women practitioners, more visible to broad audiences of women and girls through speaking engagements, public appearances, media presentations and social media.
  • Bring the message about financial planning as a great career for women to national women’s professional networks, such as the National Association of Women Business Owners and 85 Broads.

To make the financial planning profession and CFP® certification more attractive to women:

  • Recognize that some firms are implementing initiatives to support and develop their women financial planning professionals. Make their examples visible to other firms that may learn from and join these initiatives.
  • Encourage top management and owners of financial firms to make a visible and vocal commitment to gender diversity by specifying measurable diversity goals for the firm and monitoring progress toward those goals. This commitment could be made by creating the role of a Chief Diversity Officer responsible for the recruitment and support of women, as well as racial and ethnic minorities.
  • Call upon financial firms to adopt transparent compensation structures and standardized job descriptions to eliminate any gender discrepancies in pay and responsibility.
  • Develop new definitions of professional success that incorporate the skills and strengths of both genders. For example, as a pathway to CFP®  certification, firms might designate a “relationship manager” position as opposed to the more generic “financial advisor.”
  • Recognize that work-life balance is not just a woman’s issue. Offering options such as working from home or flex time benefits all employees and can be important in attracting and retaining the brightest and best talent, regardless of gender.

Want to get involved with CFP Board's Women's Initiative?

WIN-to-WIN Mentor Program

Supporting prospective female CFP® professionals through the certification process.

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