Beyond statistics, dispelling common myths about women in investing
By Kimberley Walker 22 August 2019 5 min read
From female investors to females working in the financial services industry, there are countless articles written on the subject of women and investing. At ATB Wealth, we think about female investors, and all of our investors every day. How can we help every one of our clients achieve their financial and life goals?
The topic of women in investing certainly isn’t new, but we wanted to get to the heart of it and come up with a different kind of article on the subject. We asked three of our own hard-working female team members with varying backgrounds and experiences in the financial services industry to discuss their views. Going beyond the statistics, they offer a more personal reflection on working in finance and their own unique message for female investors and females wanting to get into the industry. It is our hope that this series will encourage women to not allow statistics or gender expectations to limit their personal or professional relationship with finance. Ideally, it might even convince some women to consider a career in finance.
Growing up, I was the baby of the family. I have an older brother who I absolutely adored (and still do). I watched and learned from him, and anything he did, I simply HAD to do too. That often meant playing hockey or chasing frogs with the boys (often wearing a pretty dress my mom put me in!). Most days, I came home covered in mud, sometimes wearing only one shoe, the other inevitably long lost in one of the many splash-worthy mud puddles I had encountered.
Over the years, I grew up with the boys and worked hard to keep up with them. In a way, that continued when I ventured into a career in the historically male-dominated financial industry. Throughout my career so far, I’ve been incredibly lucky to have worked with strong males (and females) who have been in my corner. When I was first getting started, I had mentors go out of their way to include me in projects outside of my normal job description as they wanted to see me learn and grow.
Like any industry or role, it wasn’t always rosy. In my early days at other firms (particularly during interviews), I heard my fair share of inappropriate comments or was talked down to because I was the only woman in the room. Thankfully, today things are much different; I’m at a firm that feels like family, and I enjoy flexibility within my role with the opportunity to advance on an amazing career path.
Find someone in your corner
My advice for all investors is to ensure you find an advisor who is in your corner. Don’t be afraid to shop around to find a trusted advisor who has your back. Someone who will listen, be empathetic, and can help create a financial plan that’s right for you. A plan that takes into account all of the things that life can throw your way and has your individual or family goals at the forefront. Ask how they are compensated and ensure their pay structure aligns with putting your needs first.
Confidence comes first
At ATB Wealth, one of our goals is to provide confidence to women (and all investors) before we start anything else. Generally speaking, I have found in my experience that women can be hard on themselves. When completing surveys, they often rate themselves lower than they should, because they’re unsure. This can cause female investors to be labelled poorly by surveys.
I have even seen this with my strong, successful mentors, who are incredibly kind when giving me advice, but then tear themselves apart over the very same things they were coaching me through. We are smarter than we tell ourselves and we need to have the courage to speak up and say “we got this”. Over time, I have learned to change the way I talk to myself and be more forgiving, looking at the situation objectively and realizing that I’m just as capable as anyone else to get something figured out or to solve an issue.
Women and risk
I’m a woman working in finance, but I tend to disagree with many of the articles directed at female investors. They often list several statistics that paint women with a negative brush, missing the context or qualitative touch that should accompany their data. For example, most articles highlight that women are risk averse, but I would argue that women are aware of risk, but not necessarily adverse to it. As women, we typically do our homework and think long term about how investments will impact our bottom line over the next 10 or 20 years. We understand that throughout our lives, we often end up taking more time away from work compared to men, so we need to make our money work for us. This time off is referred to as the “gender wealth gap” and could be due to having and raising children, caring for sick parents or spouse or a variety of other reasons.
While many women wouldn’t change a thing when it comes to taking time away from work to care for their families, from a financial perspective this means less income and less extra cash to be invested. It’s important for women to understand risk and to also ensure they’re taking enough risk to make their money work for them.
Being labeled as “risk averse” can cause female investors to be much more conservative than they need to be. They may have been talked down to from a previous advisor, leading to a belief that investing in things like the stock market is just too risky. This simply isn’t true - women have the opportunity to excel at investing and again, having the right advisor will help to dispel myths and give you the confidence to navigate the world of risk with ease.
I encourage more thought leadership regarding women’s perspectives towards investing - both from a qualitative and quantitative perspective. Focusing on the data often only tells one half of the story. I’ve experienced many strong, confident women get labelled poorly, and I hope that changes. Our goal is to support anyone to go after their financial and life goals with confidence, not worrying about what everyone else is saying, thinking or doing. We are all stronger, smarter and more capable than the negative voice inside that often tells us otherwise.
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