Chuckling, culture and a question of gender.

I know perhaps I should be worried about this but I’ve often found that some of the most insightful and thought provoking conversations I’ve ever had have started over a alcoholic beverage or three.

I’m not talking about the ones which you think are insightful at the time and then looking back without the beer goggles realise it’s been a bit like MC’ing with the chuckle brothers. You know, Great Fun but not particular intellectually stimulating.

I’m talking about a conversation where your perceptions are challenged, a conversation where you start to question whether you’re mistaken in how you see a particular issue…

Recently, in a pub under the strangely shaped shadow of the Gherkin in London town, I recently had one of these experiences.

I’d met a lady who worked in one of a large professional practice (although not a financial planning one). She was telling me about what she did and how much she enjoyed it but how often it could be pretty frustrating…

“Why do you think that is?” I asked

“Isn’t it obvious” She Said….

“I’m a woman…and in finance a woman needs to work a lot harder than a man to succeed.”

This was a challenging concept to me.

You see…I believe in working hard, continue to learn develop and grow and making the most of the opportunities in life.

I believe that whilst your gender (or race or background) plays a massively important part in informing your world view, it doesn’t necessarily restrict your opportunities in life and that where you’re going is more important than where you’re from.

I believe in self determination.

However this particular lady didn’t agree…

“You see Chris, what you wouldn’t see if how woman are treated differently in the environment I work in. There’s a network of men who are all relatively similar and the opportunities to progress always seem to be passed within this network….it’s really frustrating!”

The conversation continued to go back and forth with each of us expressing our particular points of view and eventually we moved on to talk about something less contentious…

I then thought nothing more about it until last week Cassie highlighted a BBC breakfast segment talking about one particular incentive encouraging females into finance and this got me thinking….

Why don’t you see more women in finance, and in particular financial planning?

It’s interesting…

Many of the professionals I learn from, admire and respect are women.

I get to work with fantastic women both within my business, within my profession and as clients…and in an house where the only males are me and the dog (if you’re wondering he gets the lions share of attention – he’s way cuter!) I want to ensure Charlotte and Sophie, my two daughters, can choose whatever they want to with their lives without having to worry about whether they’ll ‘fit in’.

Also, Most of the women I know are highly skilled in many of the areas I believe it takes to be a good financial planner.

However when I attend industry events most of the other financial planners or advisers in the room are blokes….

Why is this?

So, I’m confused and want your help to explore this particular issue and therefore have a few questions for you to consider, cogitate and comment back…

Do you think that professional services, and in particular financial planning, has a culture which encourages women to enter the profession? if not, why not?

Many of the women I admire in financial services have really come into their own when building their own businesses (as opposed to rising to senior roles in larger organisations). Do you reckon that there’s a culture in bigger businesses which discourages women in the corporate world and do you think this is the same in smaller SME businesses or different?

Do you think there’s a natural bias to other occupations for women which has nothing to do with culture?

I’m looking forward to your thoughts?