Advisers draw inspiration from women who ran for Congress

Seeing women break through barriers in politics is encouraging to those in other male-dominated fields

Nov 17, 2018 @ 6:00 am

By Mark Schoeff Jr.

A record number of women ran for Congress in the midterm elections, a breakthrough that could inspire female financial advisers to make similar progress in their own male-dominated profession.

Although the women on the ballot were waging political campaigns rather than formulating financial plans or prospecting for new clients, they fundamentally changed perceptions about female leadership.

"Women are saying we have a voice and it needs to be heard," said Angie Ribuffo, financial adviser at First Command Financial Services. "That speaks to the financial services world. Hopefully this will encourage women to think about all career fields where men dominate and say they can have a voice and they can make a difference."

The high profile of women in politics helps project a can-do attitude that transcends professions.

"The visibility is good for everybody — and trickles down to male-dominated fields all over," said Margo Sweany, vice president and wealth adviser at RMB Capital.

(Video: The lack of women advisers is 'befuddling and frustrating')

Prevailing in a political contest also requires skills that can be adopted by female advisers.

"The successful leaders tend to be empathetic and creative and connect with people," Ms. Sweany said.

A record 256 women qualified for the ballot in House and Senate races, according to a CNN analysis in September. Following the November vote, a record 34 new House members will be women, raising the total number of women in the House to at least 100, another new record. Three women won Senate seats, while two female incumbents lost. As of Tuesday, there were four undecided House races and one undecided Senate race involving women. There could be a total of 24 women in the Senate, depending on the outcome of a run-off for a Mississippi seat.

The changing Capitol Hill makeup means the government will better reflect the U.S. population.

"It just increases the likelihood that our elected representatives look like the constituents they represent," Ms. Sweany said.

A parallel exists in the advisory world, where more clients are asking for advisers who look like them and have shared experiences, she said.

Women who ran for office in the midterm elections tended to do so from one side of the aisle, with 197 women standing as Democrats and 59 as Republicans, according to the CNN analysis. Of the 34 new House members so far, 33 are Democrats.

That partisan split does not worry female advisers.

"Having female voices, regardless of political affiliation or belief, is a huge positive," Ms. Sweany said.

The fact that women competed in so many races is what is important, Ms. Ribuffo said.

"Any time you see women engaged in a field that is predominantly male, that is inspiring for women," she said. "It's just so happens that right now it's politics."

(Special report: Women Adviser Summit)

With more women entering Congress, it will force a change in how legislating is done and improve the process, according to Deborah Fox, founder of Fox Financial Planning Network.

"I am thrilled to see that more women are running for office," she said. "It is critically important to have female voices involved in the decision-making that Congress will do."

Women are more intuitive and men depend more on logic, according to Ms. Fox — a constructive combination.

"That difference in problem-solving will have a tremendous impact on coming up with legislation that will better serve the country," she said.

It's a dynamic that can translate to the operation of an advisory firm. She makes sure female and male perspectives complement each other in financial planning conversations.

"When we work together for our clients, it's magical," she said. "They notice it."

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