Debra Kriebel is the only woman among nine partners at Pinnacle Advisory Group Inc., but she's working to increase that number, as well as increasing the number of female advisers across the advice industry.
She's battling a daunting fact though: only about 23% of the nation's certified financial planners are women, and that's been the case for the past decade.
Inside her Maryland-based firm, where she was the first female hired, supporting the advancement of other women means backing policies and practices that recognize employees have demands outside of the office.
For instance, Pinnacle Advisory Group advisers work with clients as teams so that when someone is out, others can pick up the slack.
"You give 100% when you're at the office and you give 100% when you're outside with your kids and family, and you know that's OK," she said.
The firm also has equal maternity and paternity leave and encourages men to take it because seeing their male colleagues take time off to care for children helps women feel like they are not losing out on their own career progression when they take off to do so, Ms. Kriebel said.
Having women at every level within the firm shows that there's a career track at Pinnacle and illustrates how they can move up the ranks at the firm, she said.
"We don't have a sabbatical yet, but I'm going to be proposing that," said Ms. Kriebel, who was one of 20 women recognized by InvestmentNews as "Women to Watch" last year.
Women can also play a role in helping to promote more female advisers outside of their own firms.
Years ago Ms. Kriebel recognized that women in financial services needed a support network so in 2014 she established the Financial Planning Association of Maryland's Women in Finance networking group.
"Women are so good about coming together and forming circles to support each other and nurturing each other and building confidence," Ms. Kriebel said. "It really helps show younger women they don't have to go it alone."
She also recommends working with groups within local communities, such as the Girl Scouts, or through an adviser's church, to talk with girls about the benefits of a career in financial advice. Ms. Kriebel works with Invest in Girls, a program that teaches financial literacy and shows girls the various career paths within finance.
The Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards also has a Women's Initiative where its professionals go out and talk to middle or high school aged kids about the industry.
"Beginning that mentee relationship earlier, when girls are 16 or 18, can be really influential," she said.
• Evaluate whether a firm's human resources policies can be tweaked to offer more worker flexibility, something that can make or break a woman's success in the workplace.
• Firms should have a career path that shows employees that women can advance throughout the business.
• Encourage teamwork through policies that focus on collaborative goals and instilling a supportive culture.
• Advisers should look for opportunities within their local communities to explain the importance of financial literacy and show young women that a career in the financial advice business is about relationships with people, not just numbers.