The future of financial advisory firms will be shaped by the economic imperative to attract and retain young female advisors and clients, said Dr. Julie Ragatz of the Carson Group.

Women will be the recipients of vast sums of wealth in the next two decades and, as of now, there are not enough female advisors to serve those who would rather work with a woman, Ragatz told the audience at the Invest In Women conference being hosted this week in Atlanta by Financial Advisor magazine.

Despite two decades of efforts, the needle hasn't moved on the percentage of women in the field of financial advice, said Ragatz, the vice president of next-gen and advisor development programs for the Omaha, Neb.-based Carson Group, a consulting and coaching firm for financial advisors. She was joined by Mary Kate Gulick, senior vice president of advisor marketing at the Carson Group.

The two executives cited research the firm conducted last year, called the “2022 State of Women in Wealth Management Report,” which yielded some unexpected findings. Although the number of Certified Financial Planners has increased, the percentage of women in the profession has held steady at 23% for two decades, according to the CFP Board of Standards. In a broader survey, Barron’s reported that only 15% to 25% of financial advisors are women.

At the same time, while the majority of firms say they have women in high-level positions, only a third reported having women in client-facing roles, the Carson research showed. The research was based on feedback from 330 financial professionals.

“If we want this landscape to change and mature, we have to take actual action,” Gulick said.

Ragatz noted that part of the challenge of getting more women into the business stems from the different ways men view women’s experiences and the disconnect with the way women actually feel. Such miscommunication can hamper a relationship between a female advisor and her mentor—when mentors have a major impact on women’s careers, Gulick said. Given the demographics of the industry, it’s likely women are going to have male mentors.

Another lesson to be learned from the research is that the industry is already late to the game of providing flexible and non-traditional work hours.

The rate of change needs to speed up, the two said. Support for advisors learning to prospect for new clients needs to be available, and more women need to be added to policy making and enforcement positions.

“We are changing what success in the industry looks like,” Ragatz said, which in turn is changing the face of the financial industry and its demographics.