The Evolving Gender Gap

Deborah A Williams, CFP®

Last week, for the first time in American history, a woman was nominated by a major party for the presidential election. Regardless of personal political views, we as a society have waited a long time to reach this equality milestone since allowing women the right to vote in 1920. I think we can agree that one’s gender has an impact on one’s circumstances, either as a result of nature or, unfortunately in some situations, as a result of gender inequality. As a financial advisor and CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ practitioner, it is important that we consider the unique gender circumstances facing women, so we can adequately help them plan for the future.

Here’s a look at the different circumstances that impact the financial worlds of women:

  • Women earn less and, therefore, have fewer savings. Women earn only 83% on average of what men earn within the same occupational categories.1 As a result of reduced lifetime earnings, they have less, and less in social security benefits for retirement.
  • Women are more likely than men to pause their career plans to take care of children or aging parents.2 The results of which can be reduced lifetime earnings, less savings, less social security benefits, and increased financial reliance on a spouse or other loved one leaving them financially vulnerable in the event of a divorce or death.
  • Women live an average of 4.8 years longer than men and are more likely to be living on their own.3 A longer life means their retirement savings needs to last longer and long-term care plans should be in place to provide the health care needed if left alone.

Another obstacle facing women is finding the right financial advisor. Studies show that most clients prefer to work with someone who is similar to themselves. Women can easily find a female doctor or lawyer, since these professions are now almost evenly split4, however, in the finance industry, women advisors represent just 14% of the total advisor head count and only 23.11% of all CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ practitioners are women (CFP®’s represent only 20% of financial advisors).5

Thanks partly to superior longevity we are noticing change. Women are expected to control two-thirds of the nation’s wealth by 2030, while nine in 10 will, at some point in their lifetime, be the sole financial decision-makers for their households. Earnings discrepancies in many professional fields are closing as well. Be assured that the financial gender gap is evolving, just as it is now possible that our nation may elect a female US president for the first time in history in the near future.


1, 2. U.S. Department Of Labor, Bureau Of Labor Statistics, Women in the Labor Force: A Datebook, December 2015

3. NCHS Brief, Number 229, December 2015

4, 5 FA Magazine, “Wanted: Women Financial Advisors” March 2016

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