Finance Fairy Godmothers – Women in Finance
Fairy tales aside, it is often assumed that “Prince Charming is born knowing how to manage finances. Women, of course, are not,” stated AP-affiliated financial advisor Judith Beckman, CFP®, (Financial Solutions; Northport, N.Y.). It is a glaring fact that the number of women in finance versus that of their male counterparts is a shockingly low number; but what does this say about society’s double standard?
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Finance Fairy Godmothers – Women in Finance
Back in 2014, as part of American Portfolios’ (AP) commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), the firm entered into a relationship with Virtual Enterprises International, Inc. (VEI)—a renowned, educational non-profit offering in-school experiential learning programs in which high school students form entrepreneurial, start-up businesses within a live, global, simulated setting. The firm has worked closely with VEI since that time and has nurtured a relationship that has proven to be mutually beneficial on many levels, namely through hosting the finals for VEI Long Island’s annual Business Plan Competition and establishing the AP-VEI Internship Fellows Program, which creates pathways for students who have completed VEI’s business and entrepreneurship program to go on to summer internships with AP and other companies.
During the 2021 summer internship, the marketing and corporate communications department worked with VEI student and Bethpage High School graduate Anastasija Petrovska, who aptly lent her journalistic skills to the firm’s various digital communications channels. Through conversations with her managers and her innate inquisitiveness, Ana asked if she could pen an article addressing the disparity of female to male investment professionals within the financial services industry. With introductions made to three of the firm’s female financial advisors and a host of published material to wade through, Ana put together the nuts and bolts of the article focusing on women in finance that follows this introduction.
At AP, we advocate mentorship, we promote education and we preach the tenets of social responsibility. What we enjoy most is when all of these things come together organically to create new opportunities for advancing our mission to help people fulfill their American Dreams. What we learned from this exercise is that it’s clear we need to change the narrative of how financial services is viewed by younger generations of women, many of whom may not realize what great candidates they make for this line of business. As thought leaders, it’s our duty to try to change the stereotypical, preconceived notions that persist. By virtue of Ana’s curiosity, we’re going to dedicate some space in the FREE blog to talk more about women in finance, from financial literacy to client conversations and everything in between. This article begins a new chapter—one in which women take the lead. I hope you enjoy the journey.
Senior Vice President of Marketing and Corporate Communications
American Portfolios Financial Services, Inc.
Finance Fairy Godmothers: Empowering Future Generations of Women
Article by AP-VEI Internship Fellows Pro
Edited by Marketing Communications Manager Shauna Faulkner and Senior Marketing Communications Specialist Nicole Dauenhauer
Once upon a time, a knight in shining armor rode through the land on his trusty steed, saving the kingdom along the way. Little did anyone in the kingdom expect, beneath the knight’s gleaming silver helmet, there was a secret … this knight was once a damsel in distress.
Fairy tales aside, it is often assumed that “Prince Charming is born knowing how to manage finances. Women, of course, are not,” stated AP-affiliated financial advisor Judith Beckman, CFP®, (Financial Solutions; Northport, N.Y.) when interviewed a few years back in FREE magazine’s 7.4/8.1 issue. It is a glaring fact the number of women in finance versus that of their male counterparts is a shockingly low number; but what does this say about society’s double standard?
What Beckman knows is that women are capable of dictating the direction of their financial future. In fact, she built her business on that precept. Having served on a number of boards—including The Long Island Center for Business and Professional Women; The National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO); and The Long Island Small Business Assistance Corporation, which provides funding for female business owners—Beckman personifies the feminist spirit. With a mission to empower the female investor, she is changing the lives of generations of women to become informed and enlightened one client at a time.
Beckman’s stereotype of “Prince Charming” associates with what’s been more commonly referred to as the “Cinderella Syndrome,” a term coined by Colette Dowling in her book, “The Cinderella Complex: Women’s Hidden Fear of Independence” (1981). Dowling’s work theorized that women have an unconscious desire to be taken care of by others; essentially, the effect of traditional, internal and external conditioning that women consistently endure throughout their lifetimes.
Disney’s adaptation of Cinderella came out in the 1950s. Uncommon to popular belief, it wasn’t Prince Charming who saved her. It never was. Instead, it was her “financial fairy godmother” who assisted her with the resources she needed to save herself. Modern adaptations, such as Amazon’s new twist on the storyline, are picking up on this concept and attempting to shift the message to one of personal empowerment and self-sufficiency rather than “damsel in distress.”
As with Cinderella’s plight in a world constantly walking on broken glass, notwithstanding such cruel injustice, this beloved Disney heroine might be pleased to know how society has gotten closer to breaking the glass ceiling—albeit, one in which people are ever so carefully tiptoeing upon.
Moving forward with such careful footing, it stands to reason that women need to be more involved in their finances and investment planning. Much like society in general, a parallel can be drawn to females in the financial industry. According to an American Portfolios white paper, “Women in Finance: A Roadmap for Progress,” AP-affiliated financial advisor Donna LaScala, RFC, CDFA, CLTC, (Comprehensive Divorce Solutions, LLC; Port Washington, N.Y.) cited women now comprise 20% of executive committees and 23% of boards, as well as holding less than one-quarter of obtained and issued CFP licenses.
In her FREE 14.2 feature article interview, LaScala spoke to how her personal experience shapes the way she works with female clients. She states, “a lot of my clients were women who had always left the financial decisions up to their spouse. I come from a very large Italian family; my mother was one of 10. There were nine girls, one boy. I had 23 first cousins, 17 of them were women. I’ve been around women all my life and it became a mission. I started seeing the disparity of financial know-how between men and women and said, ‘Okay, I can’t allow this to happen. I need to find a way to help these women move on.’”
LaScala’s mission to build her clients’ financial literacy extends into the associations with which she is involved. She is a member of the FPA-LI board of directors, where she heads up Women and Minorities in Finance, and a member of the Moxxie Network, a group for women in business with built-in mentoring. In addition to the broad networking opportunities the organization affords, she is paired with girls enrolled in college-level business studies. As their mentor, she hones the skillsets they need to develop, giving them an advantage when they enter the workforce.
LaScala also serves as one of the five affiliated investment professionals who mentor the creative entrepreneurs associated with The AP for LIFE Creative Residency—a two-year funding agreement made possible through the American Portfolios Foundation, Inc. to help build back an urban community through fostering financial literacy, creative expression and local business opportunities. In her role, LaScala provides financial guidance and manages a small investment account for three of the residents.
Speaking from her experience and wisdom of over 40 years in the financial services industry, Beckman hasn’t seen very much encouragement or courses designed to promote careers in the financial world in high school or college that were aimed at women. “Even today, women, in most instances, are encouraged to learn about engineering, computer design and programming, but I haven’t seen evidence of promoting financial careers.” She adds that many men are trained to be risk takers and to come out of their comfort zones, but women are not—and they should be.
Much like LaScala, Beckman advocates that everyone should have some form of financial literacy education—and, more importantly, potentially starting as early as elementary school. Unfortunately, that is not widely practiced. “Not every Prince is born instantly knowing how to manage money, but it is assumed so. Women, on the other hand, are encouraged to depend on a man’s knowledge, rather than their own.” Clearly this isn’t a battle of skill, but it does revisit the idea of the systematic conditioning Dowling had discussed in her book.
The numbers of women in finance have been growing and, although the percentage of men and women entering the field is roughly equal, men typically rise to the top faster than women. According to an article in Forbes, 46% of financial services employees are women, but that number shrinks to only 15% at the executive level. Furthermore, according to the Deloitte Center for Financial Services, only six of the 107 largest financial institutions in the United States had female CEOs in 2019.
Beckman claims that “many CEOs still have built in prejudices about women’s skill sets and find it difficult envisioning them as competent [members of the C-suite] or [potential] successors. The larger financial institutions have so many years of such prejudice to overcome, which is why the number of women executives is still so low.”
AP-affiliated financial advisor Diana Curran, CFP®, (American Portfolios; New York, N.Y.) is among a group of women representing just 14% of the total investment professional population. She is also among 25% of women holding their CFP designation. Curran serves on the AP Advisor Council (APAC) as a member of the Product Review, Risk Management and Young Advisor subcommittees, working alongside fellow APAC members to help AP-affiliated colleagues better manage their practices. She is part of a new generation of investment professionals setting the standard for how to serve an increasingly diverse and wealthy investing public, thus shaping the future of financial services.
During her FREE 13.2 interview, Curran was asked to comment on a Federal Bureau of Labor statistic stating only 32% of financial advisors are women and was asked what advice she might give a young woman considering finance as a profession. “If we look back to our parents’ or our grandparents’ generation, not too long ago the only women that worked on Wall Street were secretaries. That began to change as women were entering the business world and workforce. They weren’t going into finance; they were doing things like becoming a teacher. The only professional women I really saw were teachers. If we want to attract more women [in financial services], we need to start getting in front of young women as they’re thinking about what careers they want and let them know they can do this. And for young women considering the profession, if you like working with people, I say go for it. For me, there’s been nothing more rewarding than that,” Curran stated.
It may be that women perceive finance-related careers as too salesy or too numbers-focused. Curran corrects this common misconception. “The profession is relationship focused. I view myself as a financial planner, not a money manager, and I’m not selling shoes or pocketbooks—I am helping people reach their goals. When I talk to clients for the first time, most of them are happy to hear from me. It’s a good feeling knowing that.”
The solution to balancing out a systemically male-dominated financial industry isn’t as easy as waving a wand. This isn’t a battle between the sexes; instead, it’s a mutual fight against previous generational and societal prejudices that needs to be won with both genders in lock step.
Beckman expands, “besides adding financial education in elementary and high school, and even in college, perhaps women need to be encouraged to become risk takers and to jump out of their comfort zones—the ability to work collaboratively, enhance and validate employee efforts should be praised and promoted within all corporate training programs [for all genders].”
Furthermore, Beckman notes that “public companies with women on the board of directors are more profitable than those [without]. We, as females, sometimes are our own worst enemies and perpetuate those strongly-held prejudices. I have tried to encourage women to enter and succeed in this field as long as I have been in the business. I think it is important for successful females to help others to succeed and help them climb the ladder. Perhaps there aren’t enough of us doing that.”
In life, all anyone can ever hope for is a happily ever after. Although progress hasn’t come as far as Beckman or her fellow female financial advisors had wished for, this is most certainly not “The End.”
About Judith K. Beckman, CFP®
Judith K. Beckman (Financial Solutions; Northport, N.Y.) is affiliated with American Portfolios Financial Services, Inc. (APFS), a full-service, independent broker/dealer and member firm of FINRA and SIPC, offering a complete range of financial services. Beckman is also registered with sister subsidiary, American Portfolios Advisors, Inc., (APA), an SEC Registered Investment Advisor, which offers fee-based asset management. As an Investment Advisor Representative (IAR), she provides financial planning services, as well as portfolio management for individuals, small businesses and institutional clients. Beckman is a Certified Financial Planner™ (CFP®) with more than 35 years of financial services industry experience and holds a FINRA Series 63 license, certifying her as a securities agent. Beckman has served on a number of boards, including The Long Island Center for Business and Professional Women; The National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO); and The Long Island Small Business Assistance Corporation, which provides funding for female business owners. Beckman currently serves as president of Literacy Nassau, a Long Island-based, not-for-profit organization that makes literacy services accessible to disadvantaged populations of all ages by providing donation-based language-building programs.
Judy K. Beckman, CFP®
Investment Advisor Representative
Financial Solutions | Northport, N.Y.
About Donna E. LaScala, RFC, CDFA, CLTC
Donna LaScala is an affiliated financial advisor with American Portfolios Financial Services, Inc. (APFS), a full-service, independent broker/dealer and member firm of FINRA and SIPC, offering a complete range of financial services. LaScala has been in the financial services profession for over 25 years working for such firms as E. F. Hutton, Shearson Lehman, American General Financial Services and AXA Advisors. In addition to her FINRA Series 6 license, she also holds the professional designations of Registered Financial Consultant (RFC) with IARFC Ethics Approved Status, Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA) and Certified in Long-Term Care (CLTC). Along with her CDFA designation, LaScala has extensive training as a mediator, is a member of the New York State Council on Divorce Mediation, is trained as a Collaborative Financial Neutral and is a member of Long Island Collaborative Divorce Professionals (LICDP). In this capacity, she assists in the valuation of assets during separation and divorce proceedings, including retirement accounts, personal accounts and closely-held small businesses. Over the course of her career, LaScala has achieved a number of distinctions and received various awards. She is a member of the Financial Planning Association of Long Island (FPA-LI) board of directors, where she heads up Women and Minorities in Finance, and a member of the Moxxie Network, a group for women in business with built-in mentoring.
About Diana M. Curran, CFP®
Diana Curran is affiliated with American Portfolios Financial Services, Inc. (APFS), a full-service, independent broker/dealer and member firm of FINRA and SIPC, offering a complete range of financial services. She is also registered with sister subsidiary, American Portfolios Advisors, Inc., (APA), an SEC Registered Investment Advisor, which offers fee-based asset management. As a financial services practitioner, she provides services regarding tax management, investment management, retirement strategies and estate conservation, as well as insurance and annuity products. Curran is a Certified Financial Planner™ (CFP®) with more than 15 years of financial services industry experience, specializing in the New York City Teachers Retirement System Pension. She received her Bachelor of Business Administration in finance and investments from Baruch College and holds FINRA Series 6 and Series 7 licenses. Curran serves on the American Portfolios Advisor Council (APAC) as a member of the Product Review, Risk Management and Young Advisor subcommittees, working alongside fellow APAC members to help AP-affiliated colleagues better manage their practices.
Please reference disclosures: https://blog-dev.americanportfolios.com/disclosures/