Barbara Walters and Women Financial Advisors: Industry Trailblazers

Recently, the world lost Barbara Walters, a journalism pioneer in a male-dominated industry. Like you, she took many risks in her profession, and they paid off immensely. Walters became the first female co-anchor of a network evening news program, a talk show household name, and recipient of many awards, including an Emmy.

As I considered Walters' life, I could not help but think of all the female trailblazers I have worked with over the years who are taking a cue from Barbara Walters and smashing their industries’ glass ceilings.

Barbara Walters (like you) challenged existing gender stereotypes.
Barbara Walters entered journalism in 1961 as a reporter and writer for NBC's Today. At the time, there were almost no other prominent women in the industry. Though she frequently faced discrimination and sexism on her uphill climb to the top, she continued to persevere, believing that women should have a seat at the media table.

Similarly, the world of finance has always been male-dominated. By the time Walters’ was starting her career, banks still required a man to cosign a loan for a woman, and women had just received the right to open their own bank accounts.

Esther Morales, Executive Director of the National Women’s Business Council, noted, “It’s hard to imagine that less than three decades ago, women were required to have a male relative sign their business loan, which makes the strides that women business owners have made particularly impressive.”

Specifically, women only represent 28 percent of all advisors in the financial advising industry. Statistics such as these make it clear that we need to continue helping the female advisors in our circle overcome obstacles and gain confidence.

Barbara's success (like yours) paved the way for other women.
It wasn't lost on Walters that her success opened the door for other women in the journalism industry, and she used many of her talents to help propel women everywhere to new heights. Not only did she grill men, like Sean Connery, on their violent attitudes toward women, but she showed big-time networks that a woman could score major interviews and bring in the necessary ratings.

Walters became the first woman anchor of Today. After leaving the position in 1976, she opened the door for other women to take her place, including Jane Pauley, Deborah Norville, Katie Couric, Meredith Vieira, Ann Curry, and current co-anchors Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb.

Walters also created, produced, and co-hosted The View to give visibility to other women in media. She recorded an Oprah Master Class in 2019, which contains valuable insight for emerging women leaders -- something I am sure Walters would have loved at the beginning of her journey.

Women in financial services are also paving the way for women in the industry, whether they realize it or not. Just by becoming financial advisors in this male-saturated field, women are staking their claim to the industry and encouraging others to do the same. The success of women in financial advising will make it that much easier for others to follow their path in the future.

Those who create advising businesses are pushing the envelope even further. As of 2021, women-owned firms made up 42 percent of companies in America, and women-owned businesses have increased by 21 percent in the past five years, more than the increase of business as a whole.

Walters (like you) provided a needed and diverse skill set.
Barbara Walters became famous for her pointed interview style. While speaking in a calm, friendly manner, she would surprise guests with hard-hitting questions. Often, they honestly answered, captivated by her trust and respect.

Walters showed emotion during her interviews, which humanized her to her guests. Though male journalists criticized her for this, it allowed her access to celebrities who would not speak to other correspondents. Most notably, she conducted interviews with Christopher Reeve, the Dalai Lama, Margaret Thatcher, Monica Lewinsky and the brother of Osama Bin Laden.

Some would argue that Walters was more talented than her male counterparts, but I would say she did it differently -- her way -- and, in turn, it helped her relate to a different audience.

We often see similar behaviors in female financial advisors. Women are natural empaths and guides. They take the time to build relationships with others and understand what makes them tick. In financial advising, this translates to women advisors replacing traditional one-size-fits-all advising practices, standard with today's large firms, with customized solutions tailored to each client's needs.

WIFS is preparing the next generation of women advisors.
The incredible women of WIFS understand firsthand how difficult and intimidating it can be to break into a male-dominated industry. That’s why this organization has made it their mission to empower and advance the careers of women in finance and insurance services. May we all have the drive and determination of Walters to uplift women in our organizations and pave the way for the next generation.

Jaclyn (Jackie) Bradley, a member of WIFS’ Philadelphia Tri-County Pennsylvania Chapter, is a co-founder of Mindshift Financial Coaching, a company built to help financial advisors break the vicious cycle of anxiety and make more money in the process. She has played a version of every role in an advisory practice, which means that she fully understands the complex range of problems that financial advisors inevitably encounter as their businesses expand.

Originally posted on WIFS website on February 2, 2023

Share this post: