My father was a life insurance underwriter for thirty years with a well-known company. As a little girl, I looked forward to occasionally visiting him at work, where I spent a morning “helping him” organize his desk, observing him conduct business on the phone and do paperwork and later going to lunch. My impression of his job was that he did something very important and glamorous, getting dressed up each day in a suit to talk to the men he helped with cases. Men who were much like him. At that time, many of the agents who sold policies were of a very similar demographic culturally, ethnically and gender-wise: middle-aged white men. These men helped build the success of many companies, my father’s included.
Later, upon graduating college, I entered the industry, following in my father’s footsteps as a life insurance underwriter. In the early 1990s, companies were under greater pressure than ever to ensure profitability and growth in a challenging and changing marketplace. My experience as an underwriter began in a career system, developing relationships with many agents, managers and support staff. I learned about the needs and challenges of the field and saw a tremendous emphasis on recruiting and growing the business. Part of that included a greater and growing role for women. While not large in number, these women forged an important path for those who came later.
For the last 15 years, my role has been in the field, helping train financial professionals and build business. I have worked with National Life Group for the last eight years and during that time, I have had the pleasure of working with some of our largest and most successful independent organizations. Organizations composed of a diverse and growing agent base. Today, my groups are largely comprised of culturally diverse men and women –and women represent my largest growing segment of financial professionals and leaders. My experience is not unique, for many of my colleagues, the trend is similar. The role of women in financial services is expanding like never before and the future is bright ahead.
What is the reason for this trend?
What’s changed since my early exposure to this industry? It seems to me to be a natural progression based on changes in the marketplace and the workplace, as well as some special circumstances that create a perfect opportunity for women.
From a sheer numbers perspective, women make up approximately 51% of the country’s population and 47% of the workforce.* Many have professional work experience, with 51% of professional and technical jobs being filled by women. Perhaps more importantly, women have influence over a large amount of the financial decision-making in this country, helping to control $11.2 trillion – or 39% – of investable assets. Our marketplace is changing and women represent a tremendous opportunity for our industry that cannot be ignored.
In spite of the population and workforce presence, there still exists an earnings disparity. Studies show that women earn $0.77 for every dollar earned by men. Women also tend to spend less time in the workforce, for a variety of reasons, including family and care-giving obligations. Today, the needs of family and community create a desire for more flexibility and control over everyone’s professional lives. Women see the benefit of having this flexibility and control, and can get it by making different career choices now available to them.
Statistics show that women are living longer than ever before, requiring greater savings and protection to allow them to navigate their longer financial journeys. Because of career interruptions and lower overall earnings rates, their ability to save for retirement can be a greater challenge. This is a challenge that many women and families need help with.
The needs of a growing female market and the interests of a changing female workforce create a great fit for women entering the financial services field. We’re seeing women succeed and become leaders in our industry, because of the talent and hard work of those looking for a different kind of professional life. The satisfaction of consulting with clients and helping people prepare for their futures is a terrific motivator. Doing good for others creates good opportunity for everyone.
I think back to my early exposure to the financial services industry and marvel at all the ways it’s evolved, and yet stayed true to its original values. Maybe not so “glamorous” but just as important as ever. And I now enjoy putting on a suit to visit my colleagues or go to a meeting. The “old fashioned” ideas of providing a sound financial strategy and protecting what’s important to people will always stay in vogue. But who’s helping you along the way, and how we’re doing it, is adapting to a modern world. Fathers and daughters, mothers and sons, men and women everywhere need us. And that’s not going to change.
Jennifer Warfield, CFP® serves as the director of product marketing and sales for National Life Group. Prior to joining National Life, Jen worked in a variety of roles throughout the industry, beginning her career as a life insurance underwriter in 1991. From there, she moved into marketing practices, insurance and annuities sales and marketing, business development and agent training. The overall commonality throughout her career has been agent service and sales development.
Jen is Pennsylvania insurance licensed and Series 7 registered with FINRA. She also has successfully completed her Certified Financial Planner™ designation and believes in ongoing personal and professional development. She is a member of the local and national Women in Insurance and Financial Services (WIFS) organizations and resides in the Philadelphia area with her husband, Jonathan, and two cats, where they all root on whatever Philadelphia sports team is playing.
*”Women in the Professional Workforce”; Department for Professional Employees, AFL-CIO, Feb. 2015
**”The Financial Services Industry’s Untapped Market”; Harvard Business Review, Dec. 2014
CFP® and Certified Financial Planner™ are certification marks owned by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. These marks are awarded to individuals who successfully complete the CFP Board’s initial and ongoing certification requirements.