As I look at our industry, I see many advisers who do excellent work in helping clients. Recently, I was fortunate to attend the Annual Forbes/Shook Investment Conference. It was an excellent program filled with many financial advisers. As I listened to speakers and spoke to advisers from many different firms, it seemed clear the domination of males in the industry is as high as ever. Although I don't have exact numbers, 80% of the attendees were male. The few women at the conference were accomplished, strong, powerful and leaders at their craft.
Why aren't there more? How is that possible?
I have seen firsthand how women interact when they are the majority at a conference — I decided to be part of the minority for a change and attend a women's conference. In fact, I have been to four in the past three years, most recently the InvestmentNews Women Adviser Summit in Huntington Beach, Calif. I did this because for me to be a better adviser I needed to see and learn firsthand what issues women may face. And I learned a lot more than how to help our female clients.
I believe the energy and excitement at a women's conference is much different than a mixed conference. Women learn by sharing and interaction, which is always in full effect at their conferences. I learned the anxiety of going into a room with nothing but women and the odd stares as I participated at the event.
I felt nervous laughter as speakers spoke dismissively of men and one-sided women's jokes and anecdotes to ease their presentations. I saw the styles and clothing of women and the compliments going back and forth, something that is implied but not said at male-dominated conferences. In other words, I was on the opposite side of the ledger and understood the uneasiness of being in the minority.
For the first time, I feel I understood what it was like to be a woman in a man's dominated world of finance.
Building a team
We are finding more women among our clients. In my opinion, this stands to reason as women exhibit concern in taking care of their families, being independent in financial decision-making and seeking advice from professionals. In my experience, many men do not believe in seeking help as they believe they have all the skills to do investment planning on their own. Given this trend, we have built a team that has strong women to help serve our clients and we intend to hire more.
As I have learned and benefited from being in this industry, I hope to continue to do my part to be a supporter of women in finance. More women are needed in financial services as studies show their effectiveness in helping clients. Women are inclusive and work best in teams, which is the direction our industry is heading.
Lastly, women are masters at conversation and bringing people together, which is in lockstep with holistic wealth management. I understand what women are facing in our industry and I will not forget the experiences I have learned as a reminder to do what must be done.
Louie A. Valdez is group managing director for investments at Valdez Wealth Management.