Outside-IN

Building dialogue with lawmakers to advance women's careers

FSI members met with legislators who are members of a new House Financial Services subcommittee on diversity and inclusion

May 3, 2019 @ 2:34 pm

By Dale Brown

As our members know, the Financial Services Institute is firmly committed to championing the cause of helping more female professionals not only enter, but achieve lasting success within the financial advice industry.

The formation of the House Financial Services subcommittee on diversity and inclusion earlier this year by Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters presented us with a unique opportunity to drive further progress toward this crucial goal by leveraging two of our key skill sets: our ability to facilitate industry-wide discussions on best practices to overcome common challenges, and our extensive expertise in forging productive dialogue with legislators.

(More: Networking plays a key role in helping women advisers advance)

Earlier this month, we welcomed over 40 women and FSI members — including advisers and home office executives — to Washington to meet with legislators on the new subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-Ohio, as part of our first-ever stand-alone Advancing Women in Leadership Forum.

In numerous face-to-face meetings with subcommittee representatives and their staff, our members shared their insights on the practices and approaches that have led to success in welcoming women and minority professionals into our industry.

They also offered to serve as expert resources as the new subcommittee begins to develop legislation to help advance representation of women and minorities throughout the financial services world.

As Amy Webber, president and CEO of Cambridge Investment Research and a past FSI board chair, said: "I've attended 20 or so Capitol Hill events throughout my career, but this was the first where there was unequivocal agreement that all sides need to work together to find the best solutions on this specific challenge — and that all sides have a lot to bring to the table."

"This event had a completely different feel to it," Ms. Webber said, "and that was inspiring."

Following the Capitol Hill meetings, attendees took part in a workshop to examine what has been effective in improving opportunities for women professionals across the industry, and where additional work can be done to continue to drive progress.

Mary Kusske, president of Kusske Financial Asset Management, related her personal journey as an adviser and shared insights on how industry members can help other women achieve success.

"We need to get back into the high schools and job fairs and get back to letting people know what we do and how we do it," Ms. Kusske said. "The younger generation is really focused on work/life balance. They just don't know how to find it, and this career can be the perfect path. We just need to let them know."

Gwen Weithaus, senior director for investment products and services risk and controls for Northwestern Mutual, shared key takeaways from her successful career, including the importance of finding committed allies, maximizing mentoring relationships and building a "personal board of directors."

Ms. Weithaus also noted that industry dynamics are shifting to create more robust opportunities for women.

"The industry is beginning to understand that they need women as much as we need them," she said. "The client mix is shifting, and firms across the industry need advisers who can relate to clients with different needs and cultural backgrounds."

(More: FSI's top advocacy priorities for 2019)

Dale Brown is president and CEO of the Financial Services Institute.

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