RBC women’s group marks 30 years

The night of my first meeting with the Women’s Association of Financial Advisors three years ago, the women present didn’t shy away from peppering me with questions about my new role at RBC and how it could improve their professional and personal lives. What will the company do about calculating pay for advisers on maternity leave? How will it support fertility treatment? What about adoption assistance?

At the time, I wasn’t yet fully in my role as senior director of human resources, but I was blown away by the women’s drive and motivation to make RBC Wealth Management–U.S. a better place for women from all backgrounds.

This year, WAFA celebrates its 30-year anniversary, which is remarkable. Not many financial services firms have groups like this, and if they do, they’re still in their infancy. Yet from my first meeting with these women, I knew WAFA was a special group of leaders who were not only fun to connect with, but who knew how to get things done.

WAFA was launched in 1991 — an interesting time for women in financial services. It all started when five women at the Midwest brokerage firm Dain Bosworth got together to create the first financial adviser group in the country for women. They stayed up until past midnight talking and sharing stories.

FORMING A SISTERHOOD

Back then, women made up just 6% of the 650 brokers at the firm, which had offices in 16 states. They talked about how they were expected to put their jobs ahead of their families and how isolating it felt to be the only woman in the office in a male-dominated industry. WAFA provided a way for them to connect.

But what started out as a networking group became a driver for changes that advocated for women in the industry, allowing them to have both fulfilling careers and growing families.

While Dain Bosworth was acquired and eventually became part of RBC, WAFA’s mission stayed the same. In fact, it grew and evolved. Its membership went from those five relentless women to now more than 300, including early-career advisers, branch directors and senior executives like myself.

Despite the progress WAFA has helped our firm make, we know we still have more to do as a company and an industry.

Women still represent only about 17% of advisers industrywide. As we look at the next 30 years, WAFA aims to amp up recruiting to attract more women to the industry. A big part of that involves helping remove barriers that keep women of color from entering the field. While the paltry percentage of women advisers today clearly doesn’t reflect our population, the percentage of those who come from marginalized communities is even worse.

To attract a diverse group of employees, we have to have a business model that supports and celebrates those employees once they’re here. For example, we’re currently working on updating our bylaws to make them more inclusive of pronouns for gender nonconforming and nonbinary folks.

The work of WAFA today embraces the need to support women advisers not only in the office, but in all aspects of life. That’s why in response to feedback from WAFA and other women at the firm, we’ve expanded our backup child care and layered in elder care as many of our employees are caring for children and aging parents simultaneously.

WAFA is also advocating for more flexibility in how advisers work. As the pandemic showed, flexibility is key. Prior to 2020, few people in our branches worked in a hybrid setting. During the pandemic, we learned that advisers and support staff can work remotely efficiently while continuing to maintain and even enhance relationships with clients from all over the country via video calls.

As I think about all that WAFA has accomplished, I often wonder if the women who started the group had any idea at the time just how impactful it would be.

It’s because of their work that women advisers today can be top producers, run successful practices and bring their whole, authentic selves to work every day. It’s because of them and the foundation they built that 30 years later, WAFA is still thriving, growing and advocating.

Shareen Luze is head of culture and field experience at RBC Wealth Management–U.S.

The post RBC women’s group marks 30 years appeared first on InvestmentNews.

Andrew is half-human, half-gamer. He’s also a science fiction author writing for BleeBot.

Andrew Vincent
Andrew is half-human, half-gamer. He's also a science fiction author writing for BleeBot.
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