In what’s likely to raise eyebrows for an already touchy topic, the findings of a recent study dispute the idea that female advisors are paid less for the same work as male advisors.

The question of gender pay disparities in the financial advice industry is controversial, and a new working paper, “Examining the Gender Pay Gap Among Financial Professionals: A Blinder-Oaxaca Decomposition,” is likely to add to that controversy. (The paper has not at this point been peer reviewed.)

The authors note that the financial planning industry has been identified as having one of the largest gender pay gaps. Male advisors in the study had a mean annual income of $199,619 versus $165,112 for women. Average annual revenue attributed to male planners was $542,373 compared with $550,123 for females. Male and female planners also reported similar average weekly work hours, 43.73 versus 42.08, respectively.

The pay gap between men and women advisors that the study identified is large—about 19%. But this new study indicates that 91% of that gap is explainable, leaving only 1.8% that was not. The study found the variables that explained the largest portions of the pay gap were the degree of motivation by performance pay and revenue production.

One of the authors, Derek T. Tharp of the University of Southern Maine, raised the point about peer review and said the study’s conclusions could change.

“While there is still much research in this area to be done (including both subsequent pay gap analyses and investigating the types of discrimination our study cannot address), our preliminary findings do not suggest that unequal pay for equal work is a major contributor to the gender pay gap among financial planners, and I hope that may encourage women to enter the industry who otherwise may have been hesitant,” Tharp said.

Another author named on the study, Katherine S. Mielitz of Oklahoma State University, echoed those feelings.

"I was very excited when I first read through our preliminary results—the idea that a gender pay gap does not appear to be a result of unequal pay for equal work—is very encouraging," Mielitz said in an e-mail. "Women are very important to the growth and sustainment of our field. That equal pay for equal work seems to be available should be one of many things that encourages women to seek out this profession."

The study looked at detailed data on the backgrounds and practices of 710 financial planners. The data for the study came from the June 2018 Kitces Research Survey conducted through the website of well-known advisor Michael Kitces, one of the study’s authors.

“I would also note that there are limitations to the sample used within our study,” Tharp commented. “Our sample was more CFP- and RIA-centric than the industry as a whole. As a result, our findings may not generalize to the entire industry, and particularly areas of the financial advisory industry that were underrepresented within our study.”

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