Women dreaming of becoming the president or CEO of major financial services company know they're probably going to have a  tougher slog to the top than their male counterparts.

In fact, two men are promoted to the c-suite for every woman—and women represent just 27.9% of top officers at U.S. companies, according to Deloitte.

Now, a researcher at the American College’s Center for Women in Financial Services, is working to find out why.

“The purpose of our research is demystifying the pathway to the C Suite to see if there is a shortcut that will allow women to get to decision-making positions in financial services companies faster,” Kaylee Ranck, the center’s research director, told 200 women advisors at the group’s second annual Women Working in Wealth Summit in New York City this week.

“Pathway to the C Suite” is the working title for the research, scheduled to be released early this summer. The study seeks to identify the routes successful women take to achieve their goals, both inside companies and by trading up at new firms.

The study will also highlight best practices and the skillsets that successful director-level women develop, Ranck said in an interview after the summit.

In the second phase of the research, the center plans to use data and interviews to tease apart why women, who are hired at a 50% or higher rate into entry-level financial services jobs, often do not articulate an aspiration to make it to the C-suite. Ranck thinks this may be one impediment to women's upward career trajectory.

“We want to understand the perceptions and aspirations of entry-level individuals around C-Suite attainment and see if they understand the path, mechanisms and opportunities involved," Ranck said.

Kristin Lemkau, the CEO of J.P. Morgan Wealth Management, who told attendees at the summit about her rise up the ranks at the firm over 25 years, said J.P. Morgan is aggressively recruiting women advisors and that four of the firm's top advisors are women.

“We have to get women early on and tell them, ‘You can do this. You’re there to help people achieve their dreams. You’ll love it,’” Lemkau said. Currently 39% of the firm’s senior managers are women. That’s 6.5% above the industry average in the U.S., according to Zippia.

She credited her own success to former Co-President and Chief Operaqting Officer at JP Morgan Chase & Co. Gordon Smith.and Jamie Dimon, both who promoted her, then let her grow into leadership roles at the firm, where she was previously chief marketing officer and brought the company’s successful Chase Sapphire credit card program to market.

As a leader “your job is to go find the talent, leadership skills, grit, ability to put the right people around you and execute. And have patience when they flub. Smith would take the chance and coach you through when you flubbed a little bit,” Lemkau said. 

George Nichols III, president and CEO at the college, encouraged the 200 women advisors and industry leaders who attended the summit to focus on getting more women into the financial services career pipeline and promoting them.

“We can work with you and offer best practices…, but at the end of the day it’s your individual firms that make that decision. You can bring women in, but if you train them the way you’ve trained people over the last 100 years, you’re still not getting them [to the C-Suite],” said Nichols.

Nichols, who became CEO four years ago, said one of his first objectives was determining how the college could transform from “a stodgy 97-year old institution that was focused on life insurance only and focused on male advisors.”

Four years later, the center’s summit doubled its attendees in just its second year to 200 women advisors and industry leaders. Nichols said wants to double that again in 2024.

Under his guidance, the American College is also adding top women executives to its board of trustees including J.P. Morgan’s Cheri Lytle.. head of practice management delivery and advisor development. 

“We see our center in terms of our mission, which is to advocate, advance and promote women in the industry through awareness, education and research,” Ranck added.