They're smart, successful and independentóbut they do want advice.

Editor's Note: This is the first of three articles based on a recent survey of 743 women with at least $3 million in investable assets that will examine 1) who they are, 2) how they find and interact with financial advisors, and 3) which financial products and services they're interested in.

Though women are busily trying to catch up, the financial services world has long been a male-oriented domain. That used to make sense because, traditionally, the person handling investment decisions in most American households was male. As a result, the majority of financial advisors are also men, who can easily relate to other men, and marketing campaigns have been skewed to appeal to this audience, using images of luxury cars and scenic golf courses to not so subtly suggest the rewards of financial well-being.

As the following statistics plainly demonstrate, however, investing and finances are far from a man's world these days:

Some statistics:

1. As of 2002, 43% of Americans with more than $500,000 in assets are female.

2. Women comprise more than half of the U.S. population and 53% of America's work force.

3. The number of wealthy women increased by 68% from 1996 to 1998, compared with an increase of 36% for men over the same time period.

4. Women now own and run 26% of America's companies.

5. About 100,000 women-owned businesses have $1 million or more in annual revenues.

6. The number of women-owned businesses continues to grow at twice the rate of all U.S. firms and, between 1997 and 2002, these companies increased sales by 40%.