The time is right for women to seize upon opportunities to advance their careers, according to Linda Gibson, CEO of Quantitative Solutions at PGIM, the principal asset management business of Prudential Financial.

It is the time for women at all levels to advance their careers as financial advisors because of events that are creating conditions for success, Gibson said in an interview. Gibson was highlighting the current favorable circumstances for women, in part, because of the proximity of International Women’s Day March 8.

“There are a lot of factors working together to empower women in the financial industry, and women should take advantage of them,” Gibson said. Not only is adding women good for the individual women who find the career they want, “but it will make the industry better.”

Workplaces have changed dramatically, in part because of the pandemic, she said. Many companies are offering more flexible work schedules and work-at-home options, which fit better with the lives of women who also want to raise a family or pursue other interests. In addition, companies, including financial advisory firms, are eager to add diversity to their staffs at the entry level and mid-level, as well as adding at the executive level. The desire of firms to recruit a diverse workforce is at an all-time high, she said.

For years, members of the financial advisory industry have tried to increase the number of women financial advisors and minority members so that advisors look more like the communities they serve, but statistics remain mostly unchanged. According to Zippia, a jobs research and resource firm, the percentage of women financial advisors has hovered between 26% and 28% for a decade and closed out 2021 at 27.8%. U.S. Census Data sets the percentage at 31%, This is true even as more firms are adding diversity, equity and inclusion programs.

Personally, Gibson said she has been lucky in being able to advance her highly successful career, but she also acknowledges she has not been afraid to take advantage of opportunities. Educated as a lawyer as well as in finances, she has now been CEO of Quantitative Solutions for a little more than a year.

“Women have to be ready to lean into the opportunities that open up to them—they need to take control,” Gibson said. “But firms have to do their share, too. Firms have to be serious about their diversity programs. They cannot just pay lip service to them. The solutions to the adding more women to the profession are multi-faceted.”

The circumstances that are converging include the increase in slight role models for those women thinking of joining the profession, she said. Education is changing so there are now more STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) courses, and there have been increases in financial programs at the college level. In the past, there were fewer women role models for young women to emulate, but there are more today.

“It is important to have role models to look to in order to realize what is possible," she said. "Also, the softer skills that women are good at, such as the ability to communicate well and the talent to be self-aware, are more in demand. Also, in the past, women were not thought to be as good at investing as men, but numerous studies have shown that is not true, so that should not be a concerns for firms.”

Women want flexibility in hours and working conditions more than men, so the hybrid structure of workplaces that is in vogue now is ideal for them, she said.

The pipeline of women who want to enter the profession needs to increase, she said. Gibson said she is reaching out to students as young as elementary school through a PGIM program to show young students what the profession is like. At the same time, PGIM has several diversity, equity and inclusion programs and resources, many of which do not cost the firm any money, so budget constraints are not legitimate concerns.

An unprecedented amount of assets will shift into the hands of US women over the next three to five years, representing a $30 trillion opportunity for financial advisors, according to the financial services firm McKinsey & Company. Studies show, many women investors prefer to work with a woman advisor.

“If firms are not actively doing what they need to do to promote diversity, they are falling seriously behind of the industry leaders,” Gibson said. “Companies are being held accountable now. Women need to know they can have both a career and family, or other interests, at the same time. The workplace is dramatically changing. Women need to take advantage of that.”