April 15, 2024
How advice firms can better support female advisers

A leading female adviser has shared how advice firms can better support their female staff and make the workplace a more accommodating environment, as only a small percentage of financial advisers are female.

Data from the Financial Advice Association Australia (FAAA) found 72 per cent of its membership is male with the percentage of female members increasing “very, very slowly”, chief executive Sarah Abood said. 

“We still have a way to go when it comes to diversity; our member base is 72 per cent male. The percentage of females is increasing, but it’s increasing really, really slowly. Of the women in the profession, 67 per cent of them are under 50 and 42 per cent of our student members are women,” she said.

Speaking at the FAAA International Women’s Day event in Sydney, winner of the FAAA’s Adviser of the Year at last year’s FAAA annual conference Sacha Burchgart shared her experience. 

She founded her financial planning firm Burcheart in 2014 and is its managing director.

Burchgart said: “It used to be very male-dominated and that’s changed. It’s amazing how quickly things are changing now. 

“Some of my biggest supporters are my male colleagues because they understand that women are empathetic and work well with clients. I don’t feel like an imposter; I feel like I deserve to be in the room now because my colleagues have made me feel comfortable to be there in that environment.”

Asked how firms could make the advice business more accommodating, she said many policies are based on the historic “status quo” of what has worked in the past. 

“Things are based on the status quo; for example, we still have golf days. We need to be better at creating a space where women can do something that they want to do and do it together, and that doesn’t mean having high tea. We need to be better at this or you’re segregating out a whole demographic.”

Also on the panel, Zoe McQuillan, lawyer and associate director at Cowell Clarke, gave the example of breakfast meetings which could prove difficult for women if they were the primary carers.

“If women are the primary carers, they are dropping off their kids to school at that time and that means they are being excluded from those conversations. There needs to be a rethinking around that.”

She also touched on legal changes around the “right to disconnect” and employers contacting staff outside of hours as being another factor that could impact women’s role. The new rules cover the right of an employee to ignore attempts by their employer or a third party (such as a client) to contact them outside of ordinary working hours.

This passed Parliament on 12 February 2024 and is currently waiting royal assent with implementation to commence six months after that date.

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