Driving change through diversity,
inclusion and equality

As the director of Lincoln Financial Network’s The WISE Group — Women Inspiring, Supporting and Educating, an organization dedicated to support the unique needs of women financial advisors and clients — there are two questions I am asked most often: why is diversity such a challenge in the financial services industry, and why aren’t there more women advisors?

These concerns were addressed at the Mobilizing the Power of Women Summit, hosted by Ellevate Network — a global professional women’s network, made up of women who are committed to elevating each other through education, inspiration, and opportunity. The resounding conclusion was the time is now:

—    The time is now to shift the mindset from “women are the future” to “women are the present.”
—    The time is now to invest in women — as employees, business owners and investors.
—    The time is now to make sure we apply not only diversity, but also inclusion and equality for lasting change.

Research has shown that women are making the majority of more financial planning decisions in American households.Therefore, increasing opportunities for women financial advisors and learning more about women investors can only benefit the entire industry. How can we mobilize to achieve these goals?

Here are five action items from the Ellevate summit that all of us can take to create a more balanced workforce:

1.    FORM ALLIANCES

Know the value of a network. Facing challenges is much easier when you have a team of people for help and support. Within the WISE group, we cultivate relationships for sharing best practices and technical expertise, as well as sharpening training and skills development. We also provide mentorship opportunities for those looking to break into the financial advisory industry or advance in their careers from a paraplanner or assistant role to a financial advisor.

2.    SHOOT FOR THE MOON

Women financial advisors have long-been risk takers. Ellevate Network chair Sallie Krawcheck is a prime example. As the former CEO of Smith Barney, Merrill Lynch Wealth Management, and Citi Wealth Management, she reached the top of the financial industry — but then refined her focus to build something new to inspire and empower women as advisors and investors. We can all take risks in targeting a new client or market, growing our firms, or enhancing our service and capabilities for clients.

3.    BE TRUE TO YOURSELF

Embracing your unique talents and ideas will help you stay true to your career vision and be your most authentic self. Furthermore, diversity of thought makes teams stronger. When you recognize the value of including perspectives across generations, genders, backgrounds, etc., you can help advisors find new clients and tackle challenges in innovative ways.

4.    ADVOCATE FOR OTHERS

Your actions can influence equality, diversity, inclusivity and accessibility — within your firm, the industry and for your clients. Be part of the solution, advocate for inclusion, and create an accessible community for everyone. Championing the accomplishments of our colleagues and peers helps us all succeed. When we work together to inspire the next generation of financial advisors, we help ensure that our industry is well-positioned for the future. It’s not about competing for clients or recognition — it’s about providing value for our clients.

5.    SPREAD THE WORD

Organizations like Ellevate Network and The WISE Group bring the issue of inequality to the forefront of the conversation. Consider joining them or look to them for inspiration. Take initiation and start your own mentoring programs, introduce more diverse recruiting practices, and instill inclusive workplaces and cultures that are open to the ideas and perspectives of everyone.

The future looks bright for diversity in the financial services industry. Many great role models who have succeeded in the industry despite having the odds stacked against them. The time is now to even the playing field and raise our voices to achieve true change for equality. I am grateful that The WISE Group could participate in this summit and help carry the momentum forward. Together, the power of women has been mobilized!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nicole Spinelli

Nicole Spinelli, Director, The WISE Group

Nicole Spinelli is director of The WISE Group (Women Inspiring, Supporting and Educating), a grass roots organization within Lincoln Financial Network focused on providing support for women advisors and their practices, mentorship and sharing of best practices, technical skill development, coaching and other formalized training and recruiting efforts.