Conversation Starter: Group of Women Want to Share Their Success

Conversation Starter: Group of Women Want to Share Their Success

“Lonely.” That’s the word Kate Starkey uses to describe how it feels to be a woman in the financial advising industry. Though she’s taking over a business established by her father and mother and was raised with a female showing her what was possible, Kate still notices the scarcity of women in the room when she goes to conferences for the industry. For good reason. Though women make up more than half the U.S. population, their ranks stubbornly hover just under the 16% mark among financial advisors according to research published in 2017 by Cerulli & Associates.

“At 16% representation of women in the financial advisory field, it means to me we haven’t made much progress in the last 20 years,” says Judith McGee. “We’ve moved maybe one or two percent, but it’s really far too low, and that’s one of the reasons we’re so passionate about our work with the Women’s Leadership Alliance.” McGee is a Vice President of the WLA board and leads her own wealth management business which happens to have women in all three leadership roles. “I feel that I am living proof of someone who started typing her way to success, a little bit like Warren Buffet by the way, and was able to succeed in this profession. It’s a helping and a nurturing profession where we do make a difference, and for me it’s been one of the most rewarding careers I ever could have chosen for myself.”

While large, national firms have invested money trying to recruit women, the 16% continues to stagnate. “The needle just hasn’t moved,” says Margaret Starner, also a VP of the WLA board, a group she calls a grassroots movement. Starner is considered a pioneer of the industry, establishing her business when female advisors were even more scarce. “We know what it took for us to make it to the point that we are today, and we think we can add something to the conversation.”

Changing the conversation is at the core of the WLA’s mission. The women-led initiative’s objective is to talk to other women – both young women just graduating and launching out into careers and mid-life women seeking a new path. If the members can spread the word about the possibilities and rewards of a career in financial advising, they believe the needle will start to move. The WLA has also established a mentorship program to nurture advisors who have some experience but are relatively new to the business, like Kate Starkey. She was part of the WLA’s pilot program which identifies women who are well positioned to grow their business or even take over a practice, and who could benefit from the guidance of a more experienced, successful female advisor. When asked about her confidence as a female advisor, Kate says, “I feel like I have a very bright future in this industry.”


Michelle Danielson
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Michelle brings nearly 20 years of experience in the financial services industry to the role of executive director of the WLA. She began her career at Northwestern Mutual Insurance, then joined Raymond James as a branch operations manager where she spent seven years overseeing the branch’s operations and compliance activity.