Erica McGinnis, senior vice president of compliance and supervision at Advisor Group, kicked off the group’s Women’s Conference in Los Angeles Monday morning talking about being a working mother. Although married, McGinnis said the responsibilities in raising the children are often more like 70/30, with the greater percentage of the work falling to her. She told a story about leaving her newborn baby with her husband for a few days as she went on a business trip. She came back to find the baby sticky, and when she asked him about it, he told her he had used baby wipes in lieu of a bath! Attendees burst out laughing.
I could tell this conference was going to be different than others in financial services. And it wasn’t just because of the Joan Rivers impersonator that greeted attendees on Sunday night, or even the super crowded bathroom. The women of Royal Alliance, FSC Securities and SagePoint Financial were buzzing about the event’s open, supportive and more personal environment.
One female advisor I spoke to said she liked the fact that she could connect to other female advisors in a deeper way than male colleagues. She felt more open to sharing details about her personal life, especially about the challenges of being a working mother in this industry. She felt like she and others at the conference could let their guards down, so to speak. In contrast, when interacting with men at such events, she felt like the conversation was more of a competition, centering on how big their practices are.
McGinnis said women tend to check their egos at the door, although not all of them do. They communicate differently with each other than with their male colleagues, in that they’re more open, supportive and generous, she said. It’s not about comparing their businesses or being afraid to give away their secrets of success.
From my own experience attending industry conferences, it’s simply hard to find women at these events. Advisor Group President and CEO Larry Roth said women account for about 20 percent of their advisor count, and this hasn’t grown as dramatically as he would’ve liked over the last two to three years.
It’s true—this industry is still dominated by men, as we’ve written in these pages many times. But b/ds are trying to change this. Some are launching training programs or holding conferences such as this one targeted towards women.
Journalist Lisa Ling closed out the conference Tuesday by sharing her experiences reporting on global issues, from sex trafficking and incarceration in the U.S. to life in North Korea. By the end of her address, women in the audience were turning to each other with tears in their eyes. I can’t think of a better way to bring women together, and that solidified the tone of the conference for me.