To attract, develop and retain women in financial services, it helps to know what works. This article details how award-winning women from The American College of Financial Services and the American College Center for Women in Financial Services’ Women Working in Wealth Award nomination process have uplifted other women in the profession. It includes specifics about how they mentored, sponsored, eliminated obstacles, made time and helped build gender parity.

Within, we reveal the most frequently used terms from each section and include specific stories that demonstrate the concepts.

• Creating Professional Opportunities: The words used most frequently by our applicants as it related to creating professional opportunities were “career,” “help,” “create” and “mentoring,” cited by the largest percentage of respondents. Think: creating opportunities for visibility; recruiting and mentoring women; and representing women by sitting on DEIB boards and committees.

• Giving Of Personal Time: One in three women specifically called out “being personal” and giving of “personal time” to meet other women where they were. The same number spent their time with other women on “practice management” and “developing businesses.” Think: coaching multiple women; being authentic with women; sitting on boards, ERGs and ARGs; speaking at conferences, events and webinars; creating content on blogs and podcasts; mentoring and having an open door; making time outside of work hours; and leading study groups.

• Obstacles Faced: The word “lack” was used most to describe obstacles. Second to “lack” was “need,” followed by “networking.” Think: lack of opportunities; lack of role models; lack of mentors; lack of advocacy; lack of representation; and the corresponding need for all the aforementioned.

• How They Removed Obstacles: Most women mentioned “leadership,” “opportunities” and “business” in their applications when describing how they removed obstacles. Think: leading by example; creating opportunities; and helping other women expand their businesses with education, training and support to drive success.

Creating Gender Parity: The most common words used in relation to gender parity included “diversity” and “inclusion,” as well as the word “board.” Think: leveraging diversity and inclusion programs to attract, hire and retain more women. Many women used their influence on boards, councils and committees to create gender parity.

• Definition Of Mentorship: The words “relationship” and “personal relationship” came up most frequently in applications, along with “guidance” and “experience,” to define what mentorship means to women. Think: sharing personal experiences in a relationship to provide guidance and support and to show what is possible.

• Definition Of Sponsorship: The most frequent word used to describe sponsorship was “advocacy/advocating.” “Support” showed up second, and “career” and “opportunities” were a close third. Think: someone who will advocate for an individual in spaces they are excluded from and who will open doors for them they cannot open themselves.

• Challenges To Mentoring: “Time,” “belief” and “balance” topped the list of words used to describe the challenges of mentoring. Think: breaking down stereotypes; building up women's confidence in themselves; and helping to create balance in life and how women see themselves.

• The number of women mentored by our nominees was staggering. The average number of current mentees was four. Absolute numbers ranged from three to 250 (over time), with most averaging more than 30 in their careers. If you multiply the number of applications by the number of women mentored by our nominees, these women have mentored between 300 and 1,800 women in all.

Applying what we’ve learned about how women working in wealth have helped other women achieve success should be enough. We should be able to employ these learnings to power our own commitment to increasing diversity in the profession. However, we know that we are still dependent upon consent, buy-in, and support from our male allies. As the incumbent majority, they are still largely the gatekeepers of the industry. The good news is that we are making progress in helping those allies recognize and value different leadership styles, different priorities, and the business and societal benefit of representation.  

If you don’t know where to start, you can use the methods described in this article to create opportunities, use your time to benefit women, remove obstacles and sponsor other women. We hope that you will commit to mentoring and sponsoring women and can work with male allies to create gender parity for women in financial services. Please share the wisdom within we gathered from our exceptional applicants.