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Published
  • April 09 2018, 1:00am EDT
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Female financial advisors have the widest wage gap of all occupations tracked by the U.S. Department of Labor.

Here are 10 things to know about the gap.

1) The pay gap is huge for advisors. Overall in the U.S. economy, women earned about 82 cents for every dollar male workers earned in 2017. Critics of that statistic will often point out that the wage gap can partly be explained away by the different industries in which women and men tend to work.

Drilling down to specific occupations, though, paints a particularly bleak picture for female advisors: They earned just 59 cents for every dollar their male peers earned last year.

To be clear, that statistic only includes full-time advisors who work 35 hours a week or more, so it’s not dramatically distorted by women who may work part time. The pay measure also includes salaries and commissions, but not one-time payments such as annual bonuses.

2) The gap is persistent. The 59-cent gap for advisors is the widest of all occupations the Department of Labor tracks on that statistic — a distinction that has been true for two years in a row.

These aren’t statistics to be proud of, and the CFP Board wants the disparity to change. Earlier this year, the industry group appointed Kathleen McQuiggan, a wealth manager for Artemis Financial Advisors and longtime women’s advocate, to serve as a special advisor on gender diversity. She describes a “myth of the meritocracy” at financial firms.

“Every firm is claiming to be a meritocracy,” she says, but once firms drill down into their own internal data, they often find a pay gap. She recommends firms adopt more-transparent compensation structures and standardized job descriptions to eventually get the industry to pay equity.

3) It’s better in other areas of finance. While finance, in general, has historically not been known as an egalitarian place for women, other financial professions offer a far narrower pay gap than the advisory route.

Female accountants, for example, earn 77 cents on the dollar, and female financial analysts earn 86 cents to a man’s dollar.

7) Fewer women at the top. Women are less likely than men to be in top leadership roles. About 39% of women owned all or part of their practice in 2013, versus 63% of men, the Aité Group study shows.

And at RIAs, only 20% of firm equity goes to women, the Schwab study shows.

8) Unfair treatment is part of the problem. When advisors engage in misconduct, women are not judged on equal footing with men.

In fact, a 2017 academic study shows female advisors are punished at substantially higher rates relative to male advisors, even when they commit errors that are far less costly. That study, called “When Harry Fired Sally,” also wasn’t shy about naming specific firms. Wells Fargo was the worst offender. There, women were 27% more likely than men to experience a “job separation” after engaging in misconduct.

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