A recent survey by the insurance industry trade group Limra found only 31% of financial advisors are women. Why so few?

Industry experts believe it may be tied to how women perceive the profession. Female college students, even those majoring in business, have been reluctant to consider financial advising as a career option because they view it as too math-intensive or too technical-or as a field historically dominated by men.

In response, St. Paul, Minn.-based Securian Financial Group has created the "Dream Big, Start Now" project to dispel those misconceptions by showing female college students they may have both the skill set and mind-set to be financial advisors.

First introduced in 2010 as a pilot program, it was rolled out last year to five universities (Virginia Tech, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the University of Delaware, the University of San Diego and the University of Mississippi), which partner with local Securian financial advisory firms. Securian representatives go to each campus to recruit a team of female college students to run the program, which is open to juniors and seniors.

The major goal is to spread financial advisor literacy among women on campuses and deepen the pool of female candidates interested in pursuing a financial advisory career.

Tony Vetsch, Securian's senior regional recruiting specialist, says many women feel like the financial advice field is all about the math Ph.D. and nothing about relationships. He says the Securian collaboration with universities is meant to debunk that idea.

The Securian project challenges female students to promote financial literacy among their peers by developing their own original marketing campaigns for women on campus. Last year, 14 women from the five partner colleges worked with Securian firms to create literacy projects. One team set up a display in the business school, and another created a social media project. Overall, the teams organized events attracting approximately 180 participants.

Crystal Huddleston, the director of professional development at Virginia Asset Management in Richmond, Va., became interested in the program and recruited three students at Virginia Tech to launch "Dream Big, Start Now" on that campus. She says that the program encourages students to learn about the behavioral and personal skills needed for financial advising. The students don't have to be math whizzes; the most important thing is to learn what tools and techniques can help them market themselves, to create a network and build trust and relationships in what's essentially a relationship business.

"If you can't do that," Huddleston said, "then it doesn't matter how great you are on the technical side, because you won't get to practice."  

Student marketing and recruiting activities include giving a financial advisor presentation to college classes, student groups and local organizations. One presentation called "30 by 30" shows students how to accumulate $30,000 by the age of 30, Huddleston said.