Partners discussing new plans

Across financial services, we’re seeing a significant shift. Gone are the days when men overwhelmingly controlled the family finances — and the accumulated wealth in Canada. Women today are taking a much more active role in shaping their financial futures. The question is, Are financial planning professionals providing Canadian women with the support they need to feel financially empowered?

According to one estimate, over the course of a 10-year period ending in 2026, Canadian women are projected to inherit financial assets of about $710 billion. This change is partially explained by the fact that many baby boomer women are outliving their husbands. Younger generations are also playing a significant role in the global uptick in women’s wealth accumulation. Record numbers of gen-X, millennial and gen-Z women are climbing the corporate ladder. They’re also embracing entrepreneurship, which is part of the reason 37% of self-employed individuals in Canada are now women.

However, as women’s access to wealth increases, research demonstrates that women have unique experiences and circumstances to consider when planning for their financial futures. Not only do women statistically tend to outlive men but they’re also impacted by the ongoing gender wage gap. Women are also subject to what’s known as the “pink tax,” which sees them pay more for many day-to-day essentials than do men. Additionally, they’re more likely to be caregivers — for both children and parents — and are often less accepting of risk.

All these factors, among others, can have significant impacts on women’s finances and how they manage money. These impacts can even lead to elevated levels of financial stress. We know from the FP Canada 2023 Financial Stress Index that women are more likely than men to say:

  • their biggest stressor in life is finances (43% of women versus 37% of men)
  • they have lost sleep due to financial worries (52% versus 45%)
  • saving for major expenses causes them stress (36% versus 27%)

These statistics represent a significant opportunity for financial planning professionals. By working to understand the unique financial needs of women, the financial planning profession can continue to make a meaningful difference in the lives of Canadian women and their families. That’s worth reflecting on, especially as International Women’s Day approaches.

Women helping women: Why it matters

The financial planning profession must continue to address the imbalance in the number of men and women working in the sector. FP Canada data show there are more female financial planner professionals earning CFP certification and QAFP certification now than there were 10 years ago. While the numbers vary from year to year, they generally highlight a trend toward more women entering the profession. That said, imbalances continue to persist.

According to recent FP Canada data, 68% of CFP professionals are male, while 31% are female. Though the numbers look better when it comes to QAFP professionals (44% and 55%, respectively), there are still fewer women earning the certification than men.

It’s important for Canadians to see themselves reflected in the professionals with whom they engage. This can be particularly true for women who want to work with female financial planners, a group of professionals who may better understand women’s unique financial challenges and experiences. Female planners may also offer a different communication style — one that fosters a sense of trust with women clients. Finally, female planners can be role models who inspire women to take control of their finances and pursue their long-term goals.

Next steps for financial services

According to one estimate, 70% of women opt to work with a new financial planner or advisor after their loved one passes. This statistic clearly illustrates the extent to which some women may not feel heard when working with a financial professional.

While we’re seeing a shift in partnership dynamics between women and men, planners and advisors must remain sensitive to any potential power imbalances they may observe — or contribute to. That means encouraging both spouses to be involved and engaged in the wealth management and financial planning processes. Planners and advisors have an opportunity to foster an environment of trust and open communication, where women feel empowered to discuss their financial goals, concerns and priorities.

At a higher level, organizations must foster a culture of learning that inspires all client-facing professionals to build relationships with their female clients. That means understanding the financial challenges women face, and asking questions to ensure that their unique circumstances are considered.

We must also take steps to increase the number of female financial professionals. To make that happen, financial services organizations and executives must encourage women to pursue client-facing roles, including as financial planners. Additionally, we must address the barriers that prevent women from taking on these roles. For example, the profession can be demanding, requiring long hours and offering commission-based compensation arrangements in a highly competitive environment. These factors can pose challenges for women balancing work and family responsibilities. Addressing these systemic barriers is critical to making entry into the profession more accessible.

Another crucial step is increasing the visibility and input of female financial professionals at the highest levels. By creating new leadership and mentorship opportunities for women, the financial services sector can help ensure that women have equal opportunities for advancement and recognition.

By fostering inclusivity, providing advice that addresses the unique needs of female clients, and promoting equal career opportunities for women, we can build an approach to wealth management and financial planning that empowers women to achieve long-term financial security and resilience. With International Women’s Day right around the corner, now is the ideal time to take meaningful action to make this vision a reality.

Tashia Batstone is president and CEO of FP Canada.