I read a good article in The Times a couple of weeks ago called ‘Highly educated housewives: What an economic waste’ by Bridget Ohlsson. The story set out some stark stats. It said 60 per cent of graduates are female but fewer women than men work. Only 10 per cent of European quoted company board members and only 24 per cent of parliamentarians are female. The pay gap between men and women is 18 per cent, even though research from UMEA University shows that women’s participation rates (62 per cent) were similar to men’s (76 per cent). If this was addressed UMEA estimates that EU GDP would rise by 27 per cent.
The World Economic Forum’s latest gender gap report shows there is a positive correlation between sexual equality and competitiveness, per capita GDP, economic and social development.
My view is that there is a terrible waste of talent in financial advice firms due to them being predominately male (just attend a conference). Perhaps it was the historic sales culture, inflexible working hours or a bias for full time staff, but the fact is there are a lot of very capable, well educated females out there who are not getting the opportunity to build a good career in advice businesses. This is costing advice firms dearly.
For our part we have a team of 10, of which eight are female, including three advice professionals. We offer day release, part time, flexible working, some home working and our maternity leave terms are way in excess of the state minimums. The point is this: We recruit people based on attitude, ability, intelligence, diligence and then work to build their loyalty, trust and sense of value. We are not a perfect firm and we have made many mistakes along the way but we see a lot of potential to continue to build our excellent team further by casting our net wider than the usual (often male) suspects.
We are always on the lookout for high quality people regardless of their sex, but most clients want to deal with empathetic, caring, diligent and relationship-orientated people and, more often than not, women usually possess those qualities more than men. Who cares if women have babies (the main reason why firms discriminate against women in my opinion)? Instead of running away from the issue adapt to the reality that women want to have career breaks, work less hours or days and need some flexibility. There is a good chance, if you are progressive and supportive and have a nice culture, that they will stay with you for the long term.
Jason Butler is a partner at Bloomsbury Wealth Management