Danielle White, the CEO of recruiting firm Myriad Advisor Solutions in Waukee, Iowa, has never seen as many women becoming financial advisors or opening up their own shops as she has over the past two years.

Myriad, a recruiting and full-service consulting firm for financial advisors, says that since the pandemic hit, women accounted for a full 50% of the advisors it recruited or whose firms Myriad helped launch. “That’s a huge shift historically for us,” she says. “In the past it’s been closer to 90% male and 10% female advisors we recruited to work at a firm or helped transition to independence. That alone speaks volumes about how the industry is changing demographically.”

The veteran recruiter chalks up some of the notable advance among women advisors to what she calls “the Covid mindset shift,” which fostered flexible working arrangements and day-to-day schedules for advisors. “Covid empowered many women service staff and paraplanners at wirehouses and other firms to see they have the ability to own the full client relationship and not just support the relationship,” White says. “We’re seeing a lot more females own their value and ask for more now.”

Women support staff and paraplanners are fertile recruiting ground, since women make up 47% of staff at advisor firms. The female support staff at firms have been fielding constant calls from recruiters and prospective clients, and that’s been inspiring more of them to make the leap into full-blown advisory work. The calls are a reminder that advisors are not only in demand, but can earn a lucrative income, White says.

Who doesn’t want to earn more? The industry currently manages $103 trillion in assets and another $68 trillion in wealth is on track to be inherited by younger generations over the next 20 years, according to Cerulli & Associates. Not surprisingly, demand for personal financial advisors is expected to grow 7% through 2028, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics—more than other occupations.

It’s notable that more male executives at advisor firms are also asking Myriad to recruit women advisors, aware that women can cultivate the type of environment that will help their firms hold on to generational wealth and the wealth of surviving female spouses, White says.

“We start by asking advisors what their ideal archetype of an advisor or employee is, what they feel they need and then help them hone in on critical characteristics. That often drives building out their female workforce. We focus conversations with firms on the benefits of diversity. The more perspectives and life experiences you can bring into a firm, the more successful you’ll be,” she says.

Myriad also walks the walk when it comes to hiring women themselves. The firm has 62 employees, 34 of them women. “I think we empower women through example and help illustrate a successful business model that allows advisors we work with today to have that same success … more times than not through the female workforce,” she says.

But the firm doesn’t just place women advisors and support staff at firms. Employees are also trained to ensure that there is a professional path forward for them. “We put career development in place, then help firms build out their training plan,” says White, who estimates that the actual number of female advisors will hit the 50% mark in the next few years.

So far, the industry has been unable to increase the number of female CFP licensees beyond 23%, according to the CFP Board (the total number of female CFPs is 22,345), but Kate Healy, managing director of the CFP Board Center for Financial Planning, says there are promising signs that’s changing.

For the first time, women made up nearly 30% (1,519) of the newly minted CFP professionals in 2022, up from 24.1% in 2018. The CFP Board’s diversity push and programs to educate women about an advisory career are starting to pay dividends, Healy says, crediting the CFP Board’s diversity summits, mentoring programs and push at the 200-plus colleges and universities that now offer a financial planning registered degree program.

“There is also a growing number of women who are willing to mentor younger women and make it their life’s work to make sure we’re reaching back down and pulling people up. It’s wonderful to see and really starting to have impact,” Healy says. “I don’t know if we’ll get to 50% women advisors in five years. But in 10 years I think it’s possible.”

Women advisors are also finding that as they create greater independence, they can escape some of the pay and work inequities that the financial services industry is infamous for. Advisor Bridget Grimes was told she was too ambitious by her male bosses at an RIA firm, where she discovered she earned half of what her male counterparts were paid.

In response, Grimes launched her own firm, Wealth Choice, in 2016 and within two years, founded Equita Financial Network, a full-service platform for women-led firms just like hers. Her Equita partner, Katie Burke, had also launched her own firm in 2015. Women who use Equita must be fee-only CFPs.

“There is no other platform like ours, because if one existed, we would have joined it instead of building our own,” notes Grimes, who says they set out to provide all the services a woman advisor in her shoes would need to create and grow a successful, independent firm. “Launching a firm is a huge undertaking, and you need a support network to succeed.”

Equita’s offerings include access to a trading desk, personalized portfolio building, funds from Dimensional Fund Advisors, best-in-breed IT, full-service compliance, client billing and even access to PR pros at female-led media relations firm Impact Communications, which Equita advisors can use to brand and build their businesses. For these services, Grimes says, advisors pay $1,500 monthly and 20 basis points annually on assets under management. She says some of the services are not even available at Charles Schwab or the XY Planning Network.

“When Katie and I met, we asked ourselves, ‘What if we provided all of the solutions you need to run your own business, but without the huge price tag?’” Grimes says, adding, “We offer a Bernstein-level experience,” a reference to the swanky private wealth management firm that exclusively caters to wealthy clients.

So far, six firms have joined the Equita network; there’s a seventh in the pipeline and three more female advisors in talks with the platform, Grimes says.

Among those intrigued by Equita’s proposition was Kim Spencer, who contracted with the platform to create her own advisory firm, Next Step Financial, in 2020 because working in a male-dominated firm as an employee was stifling her ability to serve women clients, she says.

“Never in a million years did I think I’d have the courage to step out on my own, but meeting Katie and Bridget—and having the time during Covid to vision what I wanted the next 10 or 15 years to look like—gave me the confidence,” Spencer says. “The fact that I could focus on my clients and delegate all the back-office stuff I handled for years, like compliance, trading and building portfolios, was very attractive to me.”

Easy access to Equita’s robust network of women advisors is also priceless. “This is a first for me, because I never had the opportunity to work with women before. Now I send an email and get feedback from women business owners across the country,” Spencer says. “This is a period where we are seeing a shift for women in this industry, and it’s great that Equita and all of us are in on the ground floor, benefiting from this.”