There is a lot in the world that needs to change for women to have the same access to professional success as men. While advocating for these alterations is critical, women can still act as their own advocates in their careers today.
One of the biggest challenges for many women in the workforce, the finance industry not excluded, is balancing the responsibilities of work and motherhood all while fighting harmful cultural narratives about what a woman’s life should look like once she becomes a mother.
It can be scary to advocate for yourself. Fear of rejection is a real thing, and though it shouldn’t matter, people’s perception of you does. There is also the fear that people might perceive you as not committed to your job; or not a valuable member of the team if you don’t work full time. Advocating for myself has been something I have prioritized at every juncture of my career. Throughout my life I have been a firm believer that if you don’t ask, you’ll never get what you want. For women in our industry who either are mothers, or want to be, here are a few things I’ve learned along the way.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Flexible Scheduling
Throughout my career, from working at Goldman Sachs, to being a Certified Financial Planner (CFP), to now being chief of staff at Elements, I have lobbied for flexible working hours. In each case, my needs were different. After having my first child, I wanted to continue working at Goldman Sachs but spend more time with my baby. Goldman was excited about keeping me on, regardless of my lessened availability, and I ended up being the first woman in our department in Salt Lake City to have a baby and stay on at the firm.
Because I was willing to ask for a schedule with reduced hours, I was able to have the best of both worlds—something I never thought would happen at a company like Goldman. I once again negotiated a flexible schedule when I was a CFP for Dentist Advisors after having my second child, but with a different structure. If you are flexible with what you are asking for, often your team can be too.
If I had never asked, I never would have been able to be the mom I wanted to be while continuing to develop my career. Having the courage to ask for what you need and what will make you successful in the long run is worth the fear you might have along the way. Though I can’t say it will always go the way you want, I’ve personally found that there’s no reason to be afraid of simply asking.
Mental Health Matters
Your kids benefit from seeing you happy. We obviously benefit from being happy, and we need more of that in our society today—people championing their own needs to live the life that is best for them. For me, that meant continuing to work even after becoming a mom. After having my second child, I left Goldman Sachs and took two years off. I loved being a mother; however, my days at home full time were darkened by depression and lacking a sense of purpose. I knew I needed to get back to work, but not just any job—a career that I would be passionate about and would be worth the hours missed with my boys. For me that was financial planning. By listening to what I knew I needed to be mentally healthy and happy, I was able to find balance between being a mom and having a meaningful career through diving into my work as a CFP.
For Mom Career Changers, a CFP Certificate Can Be a Game Changer
There are many reasons why women and mothers make great financial planners. Women are often naturally more gifted in the “soft skills” needed to be a great advisor. Skills such as listening, empathy and relationship building. Aside from the fact that we tend to be inherently more gifted in these areas, there are some practical benefits to the profession for moms, too. For example, especially nowadays, the ability to take client meetings virtually from the comfort of your home. Or, that there is the possibility for you to decide how many clients you can serve, capping yourself when you feel you are at your max to avoid burnout. Furthermore, if your employer is OK with it, this profession seems easier to choose the hours you want to work. Flexibility is what these advantages add up to in my day-to-day, which is what allows for moms like me to continue to do it all.
Being a woman in finance isn’t always easy; nor is being a mom who is passionate about her career. But the more we learn to follow what is most true for us as individuals, the better. In turn, the industry must welcome the brave woman who has the courage to advocate for the unique life she wants to create for herself and for her family, just as I have at every step in my career.
Abby Morton, CFP, is head of Community and Culture at Elements.