Jumping the gender divide

26 February 2016

According to BT Financial Group, 80 per cent of the financial services industry remains dominated by males, which clearly demonstrates a gender gap in financial advice and on boards.

MAP Financial Strategies principal senior financial adviser, Michelle Veitch, said the gender gap was not a hurdle for her career progression, but said she had self-confidence issues at the start of her career.

"I once went to a conference where there were 53 guys and myself. I spent most of the lunch break in the toilet on my phone because I knew it would be on me to make those initial conversations and they all had other people there," she said.

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"And you think to yourself ‘Why should I have to?' I probably shouldn't have to but then if I didn't I wouldn't be in a place I am now."

Veitch said although she did not find too many problems with peers and colleagues, there had been instances where she had to explain herself.

"I went to a leader's thing once for the top 25 practices in Australia, and it was a lot of ‘Hello, how are you? Who do you work for and what's your role in the business?' But we were at a leaders conference for principals, and yet they asked the question," she said.

"I also once had a practice manager, who was not an adviser, that came up to me saying ‘Oh how long have you been working for Peter for?' and I said ‘No, he's been working for me,' so there's a whole lot of level of assumption and a need for explanation."

The only other issue Veitch had experienced was perception with clients who had preferred male advisers.

"I had one guy come in and say ‘I was wondering if there is a bloke here I can speak to'. You can choose to be offended by it or decide that that's just his thing," she said.

"So I went and got my partner and he said ‘Right I'd really like to talk about this particularly thing' which is what I did, and my partner said ‘Great I'll get the expert' and brought me back out."

McPhail HLG Financial Planning senior financial planner, Anne Graham, said confidence was also an issue for her.

"But I think it's an advantage now as it brings in different perspectives, and some clients prefer to deal with females," she said.

"I think you need to lean in and put your hand up. Do a seminar, do a talk, say yes, take advantage of opportunities that come up, and just try and be as confident as you can be."

Veitch said many female advisers should not be concerned that gender was an obstacle to career progression because this might just be their own perception.

"It's our own thoughts. Act as if you are equal because you are. Assume everybody thinks of you equally because a lot of the time they probably do," she said.

Read part one of this feature: The road to financial advice
Read part two of this feature: Cutting the cord and owning a practice

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