There are statements that most reasonable people will agree on in regards to female centric issues.
More women should become financial advisers, more women should seek financial advice, there should be better support of working parents, women should be paid fairly, women should be secure in their retirement.
We collectively abhor abuse against women, whether it's domestic, sexual, verbal or financial.
Devastatingly, 1 woman dies every 9 days from domestic abuse. Abuse is more likely to occur in households with attitudes of gender inequality. We are all horrified by that reality. These war cries come out in full force around International Women's Day (IWD). Amongst purple macaroons and pink peonies, you get caught up in the wave of promised change.
As IWD passes, the chants for change quieten and the plan for transformation is neatly boxed away like the last year's Christmas decorations.
When it comes to prioritising action, female centric issues, take a back seat to 'essentials' such as profitability.
Some statistics to consider: 22% of financial advisers are women, the wage gap in the financial services industry is 27%, women over 55 are the fastest growing demographic of people who are homeless, up to 70% of women leave their financial advisers when their husbands pass away.
Unsurprisingly, an Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) survey revealed that 40% of Australians feel that gender inequality is exaggerated.
What does gender inequality feel like to a working mother in financial advice?
It feels like you are invited to play a game, promised that it will be governed fairly, and then you find out that you have an additional set of penalising rules that the other players don't have to adhere to.
Meritocracy or the best person for the job based on merit is an inaccessible notion because merit is being assessed on unequal standards.
I started a family, post graduate studies and my financial planning career at the same time.
At that stage, I was the only woman in my department who intended to have a family and return to work.
There was no scope to adjust my targets, resulting in the same measurement of outcomes as my peers within a shorter time frame.
I chose to be a working mother and, as so many women find out, this does ultimately affect remuneration.
It is demoralising seeing your figures flashed up next to everyone else's.
The figures don't tell the whole story and it can make you feel that you are awful at your job.
For women in my position, our obstacles are largely invisible to peers. We stay silent because we are used to getting the job done regardless of circumstance.
At times I was blind to my obstacles and it is only upon reflection that I understand the hurdles I have overcome.
I went into labour five weeks early and had an emergency c-section.
At the time, I was completing a master's degree. The education provider wanted proof that I was in hospital and that the c-section was not planned.
Then, the extension was only by the amount of time I'd been in hospital.
There was no understanding that when I got home to my 17-month-old and three-year-old, I would be nursing a baby and on very little sleep.
I relied on right handed typing as I held my baby in my left arm, while he fed.
The new education standards introduced have become an unintended barrier for working mothers.
My question is, for all the rhetoric around getting more women into financial advice - has anyone really considered the support they'd need to meet those requirements?
I also experienced other ugly dimensions of gender inequality when I left the safe confines of a large financial institution.
Disheartening client situations such as an older man deciding that I am not a financial professional, but instead someone they can act inappropriately to.
Then there were the off-putting interactions at alcohol fuelled networking events where a small cohort begin to feel they can treat women without professional respect.
When someone disregards your worth as a professional in favour of looking at your physicality, it is soul-crushing.
Why express this in such a public forum when it risks having me labelled as weak or exaggerating the situation?
For the 'you' reading this, who is similar to 'me', we are in this together and we play a crucial part in this industry flourishing.
For the 'you' who has not walked in these shoes, I hope sharing my journey is a reminder to continue to cherish, celebrate and lift up the women around you.
More women in our industry will make financial advice more inclusive to more Australians. But how can women even the playing field?
My tips to survive, thrive and bridge the inequality gap
- Ensure you are getting support at home. My husband is my life partner and our teamwork allows us both to live our best life #teamworkmakesthedreamwork
- Find leaders who will invest in you.
- Ask for the flexibility you need to be successful at work.
- Unapologetically own your value.
- If remuneration can't be changed, ask for other benefits. My previous employers supported me in other ways such as sponsoring my studies and sending me on leadership courses.
- Flood your world with the amazing women and male advocates in this industry. Find your community of like-minded people in the industry - whether it's online or in the office break room.
- Grow and self-reflect by reading development books. Start with Lean in by Sheryl Sandberg & See Jane Lead by Lois P Frankel and go from there
- Get the hang of coffee catch ups with people in the industry.
- Don't ever hide your light.
The RC revealed that the financial planning industry has to work on gaining the trust of the public. Maybe it is time we start changing the game altogether.