Financial firms that strive to bring women advisors into more prominent roles may be in a better position to build their businesses, according to a new Pershing study.

Women represent 51 percent of the population, women owned businesses represent $3 trillion in economic activity yearly, and women investors are significantly more likely to engage advisors than men.

The study offers advisory firms some practical steps they can take to attract and retain female advisors, including mentorship programs and flexible work hours that make it easier for employees to deal with family responsibilities.

By increasing the staff diversity, firms stand a better chance of broadening their client base and growing their business, according to the study.

"Coaching and sponsorships offer female advisors insights and networking opportunities with senior level financial planners," says Kim Dellarocca, head of practice management and segment marketing at Pershing. "Flexible work schedules allow women the ability to continue their careers as the phases of their lives progress and change. Also, companies need different ideas and perspectives to be successful, and women can offer that."

Females represent just 30 percent of financial advisors and 23% of CFP certificate holders, according to the study, entitled "The 30% Solution: Growing Your Business by Winning and Keeping Women Advisors."

There may be several reasons why women are under represented in the advisory field, according to Pershing. One may be a cultural challenge in engaging women in general. “Fewer women are proactively mentored to be advisors. They are more actively mentored to be in service positions,” says Katherine Campbell, partner and co-founder of North Berkeley Investment Partners in Berkeley, Calif. “The position of advisor requires that you take some responsibility for decisions that can have a significant impact on someone else’s life—and women tend to want to get agreement on a decision rather than make a unilateral determination. So there is a leap of faith women advisors take.”

Pay is another issue. The U.S. Department of Labor reports there is a significant pay gap between men and women— with women advisors earning just 58 cents on the dollar compared to their male peers, costing each woman an average of $1.25 million over the course of a 35-year career, according to Pershing.

"We expect that financial services firms will need to recruit hundreds of thousands of new advisors over the next decade to meet growing demand. Financial services businesses would be well-served to better recruit and retain women advisors to help fill this need," says Dellarocca. “Its good for the sustainability of our industry and it needs to happen because that’s were our future clients are.”