Financial planning is a great career for women – it is a relationship-based profession, working hours are flexible and you can mould it to your needs if you run your own business.
Taking that first step into your own business can be daunting. This seems to be especially challenging for women in financial planning, which is a little surprising considering in other industries women seem confident starting their own businesses.
According to Australian Bureau of Statistics data, the growth rate for women starting their own small business is double that compared to men. Women also make up around one third of all small business owners.
Anecdotally there are women who have entered financial planning expecting they could work in flexible environments, only to find themselves in a business run in an old-fashioned way that hasn’t embraced the changing nature of the workplace.
Running your own business can get around that and will allow the flexibility you need.
Epona Financial Guidance planner Lisa Duggan agrees. “Something that’s lacking in financial planning is women owners of businesses,” she says. “We want more women in businesses but some of the older planners running businesses in the same way they have for a long time are entrenched in their practices.
“While they want to offer women roles, they are not necessarily the roles that women want. I’ve found that over the years there are several good women who have come into the industry but they have left because the business owners didn’t know how to change to adapt to a more diverse workforce.”
When Ms Duggan started her own business, she immediately began changing things.
“I deliberately wanted to make it like a community. We’re very non-corporate, very hands-on and that flows through everything we do. The way the office is decorated is also more comfortable and homely, we are authentic, we dress differently.
“It wouldn’t work for us if we weren’t ourselves. It’s about treating our clients as you would treat family.”
Anne-Marie Humphries, last year’s winner of the The Stella Network Kaplan Scholarship, is a great supporter of women starting their own businesses.
Her winning entry showed her willingness to identify women who would make good financial advisers and business leaders, as well as her focus on quality and sustainability and her desire to support women keen to go out on their own. “We don’t just need more women in financial planning. We need more women owning and running their own financial planning businesses,” Ms Humphries says.
In 2015, she mentored a female financial adviser who has taken the initiative to set up her own boutique financial planning business. She drew on her experience to provide guidance on practice management issues and encouragement to evolve her business model over time and acted as a sounding board for her strategic decision making.
“Women have a lot to bring to the industry, but it’s a big step to start your own business, there are big challenges,” Ms Humphries says. “We’re too aware of what we don’t know instead of focusing on what we do know.
“We need to learn not just to acknowledge weakness, but to be comfortable with it.”
It should be acknowledged that the strength of diversity is celebrating difference. Women in business and financial planning in particular need to work to their strengths and give clients the opportunity to choose the type of planner they best relate to. We just have to make sure we are giving women the practical support they need in running their own businesses.
If you are a woman who is thinking of starting your own business, what’s stopping you? Really? We’d like to know, only then can we help.
**The views expressed in this article are the author’s alone. They should not be otherwise attributed.**
Julia Newbould, Stella Network leader, BT Financial Group
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