While women investors are closing in on more than $80 trillion in wealth, they are actually falling behind when preparing for their financial futures, say female executives. It need not be so. In fact, there are proven strategies that financial advisors and companies can use to close the pay and retirement gap.

Last week, the Next Chapter: Rockin’ Retirement conference (sponsored by Financial Advisor magazine, the Execution Project and the Money Management Institute) hosted three female executives from New York asset manager BlackRock to discuss these issues.  

Liz Koehler, the head of BlackRock’s Advisor Insights team, said it’s important to remember why the financial services industry should care so much about women—besides the fact that it’s simply the right thing to do.

“By 2023, women are expected to hold between $81 trillion and $93 trillion of the world’s wealth,” Koehler said, “with women adding $5 trillion to the wealth pool globally every year.”

Women also stand to inherit most of the trillions of dollars in intergenerational wealth transfer over the next decade, she said. Women tend to be breadwinners or co-breadwinners in the majority of their homes. And research shows that 80% to 90% of them will at some point be solely responsible for all household financial decisions.

“Unfortunately, right now, women’s retirement plan balances in the U.S. are often 30% less than [men’s] when they retire,” said Anne Ackerley, head of BlackRock’s Retirement Group. “In Japan, it can go as high as 50%.”

Given women’s growing retirement gap, “companies, industries and government are all going to need to work together to make the system work more for women,” Ackerley said.

Carrie Schroen, the divisional director and co-head of diversity, equity and inclusion for BlackRock’s U.S. wealth advisory business, said that education, access and advocacy are needed across the board. “In addition to this being a social imperative, it’s a business imperative as our industry evolves to serve more and more women. How do we create disruption?”

Ackerley said women’s access to retirement plans is the most important goal, since research shows that when people have access to a plan, they’re 15% to 20% more likely to save.

“I think one of the biggest ways for the United States to start to tackle the retirement crisis is to make sure that everyone has access,” she said. “Whether that’s the government providing more tax incentives or companies that can make it less expensive for an employer to provide a plan, I think that’s one way to disrupt. Technology can make it cheaper. But I think we also have to think about, should there be an employer mandate that everyone provide a plan?”

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