It might be 2019, but cringe-worthy news stories make it seem like it's 1959. At the annual Financial Planning Association conference in October, I swapped cringe-worthy, 2019, real-life stories with four esteemed women financial planning thought leaders. We're getting way too old for this.
Is today's culture better than it was? Yes. Is it where it needs to be? No, but I am feeling hopeful.
I attended the CFP Board Center for Financial Planning's second diversity summit in Washington D.C. At the summit, speakers and attendees engaged in powerful conversations on how the financial planning profession can work collectively to create a profession free of discrimination and bias.
Over 40 years ago, I gave up my plan to attend law school and joined the profession at one of the first financial planning firms in the country. It was the best decision ever. The job became a career and the career became a calling.
Now my husband and I run an independent registered investment adviser, Schaeffer Financial, that employs female CFP professionals, encourages their growth and incorporates our daughters into its succession plan.
Efforts of our firm and others like it alone cannot ensure that the profession is fully welcoming to everyone. For this reason, I support the Center for Financial Planning and its mission to create a more diverse and sustainable financial planning profession. I'm leveraging my passion for my life's work.
Biases and discrimination are main barriers to entry for women and minorities looking to join the profession.
In an InvestmentNews survey from earlier this year, nearly 80%of financial advisers said sexual harassment was a problem.
Research from the center has also found that firm culture needs to shift to make workplaces more welcoming for both women and people of color.
Headlines, research and the diversity summit not only present an opportunity to raise awareness of the issues women and people of color face in the financial planning profession, but also create an opening for us all to engage in action.
You can take action by contributing to several center initiatives:
• Join the CFP Board Mentor Program to guide prospective financial planners.
• Serve as a WIN Advocate to share your story with young girls and women.
• Support center scholarship programs.
• Make a financial contribution to support the ongoing work of the center.
Changing the face and culture of the financial planning profession will require sustained commitment, but early efforts for diversity and inclusion are paying off as a more diverse population is expressing interest in the profession.
Women and people of color comprise a larger percentage of the 85,000 CFP professionals today than they did in 2015 when the center opened.
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This year the CFP Board expects a 25% increase in the number of women taking the CFP certification exam in November and, while blacks and Latinos comprised only 3.5% of CFP professionals in 2017, the growth rate of this group doubled from 4% to 8% in 2018.
While we certainly have a long way to go, it is a start.
Karen Schaeffer was last year's winner of the Alexandra Armstrong Award for Lifetime Achievement in Financial Planning.
Our final Women Adviser Summit of 2019 will be held in New York City. Register now.