Women and Changing Dynamics

Stephen Parnell   |  Wed Dec 07 14:00:00 EST 2016


The antiquated standard when it comes to gender roles is that men are the breadwinners, while women are the caretakers. Men are the earners, and women are the spenders. But that paradigm has evolved, and is continuing to evolve, in a manner that has financial ramifications. It is no longer the norm for women to rely on their husbands for monetary support or for men to control the family’s financial decisions. Before you make any archetypal, clichéd quips to clients about a wife’s shopping habits or a husband bringing home the bacon, take a moment to consider how the gender dynamics have changed and what that means from a financial planning standpoint.

There may have been a time when most colleges and universities were male-dominated—either the school wasn’t co-ed or women were simply outnumbered—but those days are long gone. Today, the female-to-male ratio in colleges is much higher, and that upward trend is expected to continue. By 2022, it is estimated that women will earn 138 bachelor’s degrees for every 100 earned by men, and 162 women for every 100 men will earn master’s degrees.1 Higher and continued education can result in better job prospects and increased income, and since women are on track to outpace men in this arena, more women than men may be landing good-paying, high-level jobs over time.


Women aren’t just landing better jobs these days—they are increasingly assuming leadership roles in successful business. They are CEOs, COOs, CFOs, VPs; you may have heard of Marissa Mayer (Yahoo!), Sheryl Sandberg (Facebook), Indra Nooyi (PepsiCo), Meg Whitman (Hewlitt-Packard), just to name a few. Between 1997 and 2014, the number of women-owned firms increased by 68%, which is twice the rate of male-owned business.2 And this evolution is just beginning—it is also estimated that by 2018, one-third of new jobs in the United States will be generated by woman-owned companies.3 Who’s bringing home the bacon now?

Research has suggested that women might actually make better clients because they are easier for financial advisors to work with than their male counterparts.4 Though they may have been historically underserved in the financial world, women possess certain characteristics that translate well in the investment world. Women focus on longer-term and non-monetary goals, are more likely to ask for guidance, and tend to be more thorough and take more time making decision.5 What this means is that not only are women surpassing men in degrees earned and quickly gaining ground in the business world, but they may also be positioning themselves to be more financially prepared for their future.

All of this data shows us that women today are not taking a back seat when it comes to earning and investing. For financial advisors, it’s no longer about bringing the wife into the loop or appealing to their women clients with “female” topics. Instead, financial advisors need to recognize how times have changed and why women are crucially important to their practice, and to approach and treat women for what they are: scholars, businesspeople, leaders, entrepreneurs, earners, savers, decision-makers, and investors.

1 No commencement speaker will mention the huge gender college degree gap for the class of 2013 favoring women, www.aei-ideas.org, May 2013, most recent data available used.

2 Women Launching 1,200 New Businesses a Day, New Research Shows, www.americanexpress.com, most recent data available used.

3 Fast-Growing Small Businesses Led by Women, www.kiplinger.com, May 2011, most recent data available used.

4 U.S. News & World Report, “Are Women Better Investors Than Men?”, 09/15/15.

5 Women are mostly better investors than men, www.usatoday.com, March 9, 2014, most recent data available used.


Stephen Parnell

Stephen Parnell  

Director, Strategic Markets

Stephen Parnell is a director of strategic markets for Hartford Funds. In this role, he presents timely and relevant content for the benefit of financial firms, advisors, and their clients, and works with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology AgeLab to build awareness and knowledge of aging and retirement challenges and life planning strategies.

Stephen originally joined the company in 2005, and rejoined the company in 2016. Prior to rejoining, he acted as retirement plan specialist and managing director for Parnell Retirement Plan Consulting. In his former position, Stephen worked with plan sponsors to help them better understand trends in qualified and non-qualified plans. With more than 30 years of experience in the industry, his expertise and focus included retirement plan design, IRS/DOL compliance solutions, participant/employee education, and distribution strategies.

Stephen has been a speaker and panelist at numerous regional and national events and conferences. He has conducted several hundred continuing professional education courses, as well as nationally televised education through National Registry of CPE Sponsors offered by National Association of State Boards of Accountancy.

View all articles by Stephen Parnell »