It's been called the “feminine famine.” Only 23% of CFP professionals are women, and that number has not changed in more than a decade. For nearly a year, the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc. has been on a mission to discover the reasons why.
As part of its Women's Initiative, the CFP Board has left virtually no stone unturned in its investigation of the root causes for the low number of female financial planners. Starting with a review of the existing literature and research on the issue of professional gender diversity, the CFP Board then assembled an advisory panel of industry leaders and experts on recruitment and diversity to oversee a multiphase research effort, which included:
• Reanalyzing earlier CFP Board studies on adviser demographics and prospects for CFP certification to consider the impact of gender.
• Interviewing firm executives, students in CFP Board-registered programs and female professionals, both with and without CFP certification, to elicit attitudes about financial career paths for women, and perceptions of financial planning and CFP certification.
• Surveying financial firm executives, program directors of CFP Board-registered programs, students in financial planning or finance, and male and female financial professionals to further assess issues identified during interviews and focus groups.
• Surveying clients of financial advisers to assess attitudes about advisers' gender.
As might be expected, the CFP Board found that the reasons for the low number of women in financial planning are as varied as the populations interviewed and surveyed, with distinct differences between men and women, CFP professionals and professionals without the certification, and financial planning employers and employees.
The CFP Board will be releasing these findings, as well as a white paper, “The Women's Initiative: Increasing the Number of Women CFP Professionals,” on April 22 at a Women's Initiative event in New York. The program will be introduced by certified association executive Kevin Keller, executive director of CFP Board, and led by CFP Nancy Kistner, Women's Initiative chairwoman and former chairwoman of the board of directors at the CFP Board. This event will also mark the end of the research phase for the Women's Initiative and the beginning of the CFP Board's attention to the strategies recommended by the Women's Initiative advisory panel to end the feminine famine and bring the financial planning profession into alignment with the diverse population of consumers it seeks to serve. It's likely that the Women's Initiative will continue until, as Ms. Kistner has promised, “we have reached true gender parity in a profession that is such a great one for women.”
Eleanor Blayney, a CFP, is the consumer advocate for the CFP Board