The catchphrase “The Year of the Woman,” adopted in 1992 after many women captured seats in Congress, resurfaced in 2018 amid the success of women in the nation’s midterm elections and the growth of the #MeToo movement. The financial planning profession needs to get serious about making this “the century of the woman.”

The industry can’t afford not to attract and retain more women advisors if it’s to continue to thrive and serve its expanding client base, according to many of the women advisors who’ll be speaking at Financial Advisor’s 2019 Invest in Women conference.

“I really feel like we are pretty much at a historic crossroad,” says Lynn Ballou, a regional director with EP Wealth Advisors in Lafayette, Calif., and a co-founder of its women’s initiative. Women have done a pretty good job bringing forth the issue that the industry needs more women advisors. However, “we can’t just keep talking to each other about something we already know is true or nothing is going to change,” she says.

It’s time “to reach across the aisle [to men] and have this be a human conversation, not a gender conversation,” she says. Adding to its urgency is the mass exodus of baby boomers retiring from the profession.

It’s not enough to simply pass the torch to the next generation, says Ballou. “Companies are going to go under if they can’t figure out how to create job ladders, career paths, benefits and flexibility for women and really for both genders,” she says. “That’s how the American worker is evolving in all professions in all industries.”

Advisors should reach out to high schools and colleges because “we need a financially literate citizenry,” says Ballou, who notes most states don’t require high schoolers to learn about finances. Young women and men must be introduced to the subject and the profession—including its many non-advisor positions—so they can consider it as a career path, she says.

“If we’re waiting to capture women as they change professions later in life, we’re really blowing an opportunity,” says Ballou.

Lisa Brown, a partner and wealth advisor at Brightworth in Atlanta, is excited more people are reaching out for financial help as wealth expands and tax laws change. However, there’s “not enough new talent coming into the industry to handle the growing number of clients that need to be served and served well,” she says. As more women amass wealth and make financial decisions for their families, demand for women advisors will continue to rise, she says.

Brightworth is knocking on the doors of colleges to tell underclassmen about the planning profession and to offer internships. The firm also likes to recruit CPAs because they’re detail oriented and understand taxes. The hardest area to train advisors in is taxes, says Brown, “and it’s the No. 1 area that spans across every element of financial planning.”

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