Confidence Key to Advancing Female Advisers' Careers

Confidence is in short supply among women in the profession, say female advisers.

At a February conference by Edward Jones for female advisers, nearly 80% of the attendees said confidence is among the biggest factors impacting leadership, success and fulfilment in a career.

Half of those surveyed also say confidence is the single most important tool in career advancement. For women in the industry, confidence levels are a critical issue. According to data from Cerulli, just 14% of financial advisers are female.

The attendees were split on what’s most helpful for advancing a career, with having a mentor or sponsor cited as the most important tool (25%), hard work and accomplishments (15%), a professional network (9%) and an advanced degree (1%) as critical factors.

The age of the advisers played a part in their views on confidence. A majority (66%) of the advisers older than 64 believe confidence is the most empowering tool for career advancement, compared with roughly half of those ages 45 to 63 or those ages 29 to 44. All women in the youngest group, ages 18 to 28, instead choose mentorship/sponsorship.

In recent years, many studies have pointed to the disparity in confidence among men and women. For example, Edward Jones cites previous research that surveyed British managers about how confident they feel in their professions. Half the female respondents reported self-doubt about job performance, compared with fewer than one-third of male respondents. This relative lack of confidence has caused some women to decline career advancement opportunities and delay their promotions. Of those who admitted to declining a career advancement opportunity because of a lack of confidence, 44% say that it took longer for them to get promoted.

The Edward Jones survey also reveals inconsistencies in views on female representation and advancement opportunities in financial services. While 85% of individuals agree or strongly agree that strides have been made to advance women in their careers, 77% also agree or strongly agree that barriers to career advancement continue exist for women in the field, suggesting a continued industry challenge. 

“The financial services industry as a whole has been working to increase female representation,” says Katherine Mauzy, principal of Financial Advisor Talent Acquisition at Edward Jones. “However, a lot more can be done to ensure that women are backed with the tools and resources to promote and instill confidence.” At some firms, including Edward Jones, dedicated training programs and women’s networks have been established to support and encourage female financial advisers.

The survey of 100 female financial advisers was conducted on the grounds of Edward Jones’ 2016 annual Women’s Conference, February 17 to 19.