At a certain level, the profession becomes more family-friendly, as women are able to work less, make their own hours and take off for a school play or pick up a sick child from school. Tarbox stayed home one day a week for the first five years of her daughter's life, and encourages her employees, male and female, to do the same. By the time she had her daughter, she was well established, with an average client net worth of $5 million. Still, as Miller points out with a grin, "You'll make up for your flexibility on evenings and weekends." 

    Many women who have achieved success attribute it to mastering the technical skills, working hard, having the first-adapter advantage that put them in the right place at the right time, and support from mentors, colleagues, family and friends. Above all, they say, they believed in the profession at a time when its future was uncertain.

    Asked for tips for young women entering the field, they all agreed it was important to enhance your skills, gain experience, network, join professional organizations, volunteer on projects for the FPA and other organizations, persevere and work hard. Most of all, believe in what you're doing. Lau remarks that not everyone can master financial panning and the skills it takes to run a small business. Consider working in larger firms, she says, since a sobering 85% of small businesses fail.

    "You also have to learn to just be yourself," says Tarbox, who said it took her years to realize it was OK drop the business suits, paint her office purple and put laughter in her mission statement. "Everybody has a unique style, and there are right clients out there for all of us."

    But the No. 1 recommendation of these pioneering women is at once the simplest and most challenging. "You absolutely must have the technical skills," Ruhlin says. "You can't assume that just because you're a woman you'll attract other women. You have to be a top professional and a superb communicator, whether you're a woman or a man."

    Starner agrees. "In the end," she says, "it's all about results."

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