It’s 2020 and women are in charge—of more than half of the personal wealth in the United States, but still make only a fraction of the financial advisors. That needs to change, according to Faisa Stafford, president and CEO of Life Happens, a nonprofit organization that works with advisors to promote insurance coverage for consumers.

Women control 51% of the personal wealth in the U.S., an estimated $22 trillion worth, she said, citing research by New York Life Investment Management.

That number is expected to jump by 30% to nearly $29 trillion over the next 40 years as intergenerational wealth is handed over, New York Life said. Ninety-six percent of women have a primary or shared responsibility for family financial decisions.

At the same time, women tend to want other women as their financial advisors, according to some studies, but women make up a disinct minority of advisors.

“Clients want to be able to see themselves in their advisors. It enables them to build a better relationship with the advisors,” Stafford said in an interview with Financial Advisor.

“That applies to all types of diversity, not just gender diversity. Firms that have multiple mindsets at the table will be more successful,” she said. “If firms have only one type of person at the table, they will be able to make decisions more quickly, but it may not be the right decision. Every person will come into a situation from a different starting point of view and add different things to the discussion.”

Individual firms, and the financial industry as a whole, have done very well while being male dominated, “but including women will make both much more successful,” she added. “If female consumers do not feel they are represented or understood,” they will not take action, and “that leaves them less protected financially.”

More women are being drawn to financial fields, just as they are making inroads into other male-dominated fields. “The flexibility of the financial field appeals to women, particularly as a second career,” Stafford said.  “Women need to own that. We are becoming managers and opening our own firms.

“But firms need to acknowledge that they need women at the top of the organization and they need to show women there is opportunity in finances,” Stafford added.

For young people of all backgrounds, the financial industry gives them a way to make a difference in the world, she said.

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