How I Broke the Mold as a Female Certified Financial Planner

Here are one woman's takeaways from the male world of finance.

I think we all shared in a collective exhale the moment that the #MeToo movement took shape. It’s not that discrimination and abuse have gone away, or suddenly I’ll wake up tomorrow with a 100 percent raise — of course not. However, for me, being a young, female certified financial planner, the #MeToo movement shines a light on a broken system. The world of finance was built upon the advice of older men and it’s a place where women rarely have found a way to shine — until now.

When I first got into the financial industry over 12 years ago, I was all too aware that I stood out like a sore thumb. Whether at an industry event, where I was clearly the youngest by many years and often the only female representation, or in meetings run by wealthy clients who assumed I had to be the assistant or secretary, I was remarkably different.

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What I’ve learned from being a trailblazer in a field where women aren’t the norm are three essential mind shifts that have enabled me to forge my path and rise above any discrimination that has come my way.

Mind Shift No. 1: Find Your Own Lane

I spent many of my early years as a financial planner fixated on being just like everyone else — aka men. I thought that I needed to have a firm handshake so men would respect me, and had to present myself in a certain way that felt very different from who I was just to avoid any discrimination. It left me feeling empty and fake. The epiphany I had took many years, but it was a game-changer: find my own lane. By not forcing myself to be “one of the guys,” I was able to understand my own strengths and talents, and in turn, I could market to the clients who would respect who I was and the value I offered — ones that wouldn’t make disparaging remarks or outward displays of discrimination.

Mind Shift No. 2: Own Who You Are

These first two mind shifts are very similar but critically important to success in any career as a female. You see, I’m not the type of financial professional who you’ll ever see wearing a suit, and I have short, bleached-blonde hair — not your typical financial expert by any means. I don’t fit the mold. However, when I decided to own who I was, it permitted me to let the opinions of others fall away like they never existed to begin with. Suddenly being called “honey” by the male clients no longer had an impact on my self-worth.

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Mind Shift No. 3: Never Apologize

There are a lot of people out there who want to make you feel bad about what you know and are dismissive of your skillset. There’s no room for that in your life, and it can be destructive to your success. I never apologize for who I am, what skills I have developed over the years or the financial expertise that I possess. I’ll also never let anyone refer to me as a secretary or an assistant because I’m a female and too afraid to correct them. If you’ve worked hard to get where you are in your career, you should be able to own that position without a single apology.

Now the truth is: the numbers don’t lie. According to the CFP Certificate Profile, of the more than 79,900 CFP professionals, a meager 23 percent are female, and that number isn’t on the rise. It’s always mind-boggling to me because women turn out to be some of the best financial planners because we can be not only approachable and empathetic but also smart.

That being said, I’m hopeful that one day when a female financial professional walks into a room, she won’t have to worry about being belittled, dismissed or discounted. She can be respected for her knowledge and the vital role she will play in so many lives helping others achieve their financial goals. Until then, I say #MeToo and continue to help other female financial planners have a voice and a platform to change the old norms.

Click here to read more about women who have broken the glass ceiling.