Katie McDonald, Dawn Thomas and Trish Gregory

The need for more female financial planners is palpable in Australia. As Giles Wade director Katie McDonald says, the greatest wealth transfer is unfolding before our eyes, representing a huge opportunity for female advisers.

“Education is needed to show women this is a very rewarding career,” McDonald says.

“Women have the perfect qualities to become financial planner as, every day you are helping families. There are a lot of amazing client managers and business development managers who would be fantastic financial planners, and we need to unlock their potential.”

As the employer gender pay gaps are published by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency for the first time, the gap is also top of mind for many women.

Trish Gregory, financial adviser at Fox & Hare, says the financial advice profession is at a pivotal point for men. Yes, men. Dominating the majority of the profession in terms of numbers, it will be up to men to support women and minorities to enter and progress their careers in financial advice.

“How do we decisively pull apart the systemic unconscious biases which prevent women and minorities from rising through the ranks to be advisers as quickly as men, from achieving leadership roles and from achieving true gender equity,” Gregory says.

She adds there is an opportunity to use that data to focus efforts towards going from a 20-30 per cent gender pay gap to zero, noting her previous employer had a gap of 30.1 per cent.

“But with only 18 per cent employers having a pay transparency policy, we have a long way to go,” Gregory says.

“The change would benefit employers, employees and the broader Australian community.”

The Wealth Designer senior financial adviser Dawn Thomas adds that there’s a critical need to address the challenges faced by women of all life stages and roles within the profession.

While gender disparity is a known concern, there is a noticeable gap in data, particularly regarding parental leave entitlements and superannuation guarantee contributions within financial businesses.

“The current discourse lacks depth in exploring intersectionality beyond gender, neglecting issues such as menopause impact and the flexibility required by older women juggling caring duties [for their parents for example],” Thomas says.

Meanwhile, professional development days often fall short in addressing the genuine support needed for women, especially those of childbearing age. “Women’s issues” are relegated to sessions attended by a whole lot of women, when really men in positions of influence and power should be at those session, advocating boldly for women, she says.

“Overlooking non-promotable tasks that disproportionately burden women in the workplace perpetuates an imbalance,” Thomas says.

“The prevalent assumption that financial advice businesses may not fare well in gender equality adds urgency to the call for a more serious commitment to creating an inclusive and supportive environment for women in financial planning. It’s imperative to shift the narrative towards fostering an industry that truly values and supports the diverse needs of women in the profession.”

Gender disparity issues are also a concern for female financial advisers in other parts of Asia. Batya Shulman, partner for Select Investors in Singapore, admits that concerns unfortunately still persist around gender equality and opportunities for women there.

“Despite progress, women still face barriers in accessing leadership roles and equitable compensation,” she says.

“There’s a need for greater representation of women in decision-making positions within firms and industry organisations.”

Additionally, Shulman said biases and stereotypes may affect how women are perceived and served, impacting their financial outcomes.

“Addressing these concerns requires proactive measures such as mentorship programs, diversity training, and creating inclusive work environments,” Shulman said.

“Empowering women to thrive professionally not only fosters equality but also enhances the industry’s ability to cater effectively to the diverse needs of all clients, ultimately contributing to a more resilient and inclusive financial advisory landscape.”

Improving the value of advice provided is a key consideration top of mind for Wattle Partners financial adviser Fatuma Akalo.

She says the increasing cost of advice is even more prevalent when considered alongside the issues around the gender pay gap and women’s ability to access affordable advice.

“Separate to this, I see a battle for relevance for many advisers and a need to truly know who they are seeking to serve and add value to,” she says.

“The industry has historically focused on charging based on investment fees, but this tends to confuse clients as to what they are truly receiving when partnering with an adviser.”

Meanwhile, while the industry is making great strides around the quality of advisers coming through the ranks, women continue to only represent less than a quarter of the sector.

However, Akalo remains optimistic the numbers will increase overtime as more and more women continue to engage the sector.

“From an operational perspective, the ease of doing business remains challenging,” Akalo says.

“Advisers deal with the entire spectrum of service providers, from platforms, to brokers, to fund managers and Centrelink, with the ability to do so efficiently incredibly challenging. I’m a little concerned that the Quality of Advice Review hasn’t gone a little further to address the affordability challenge.”

Join the discussion