Female investors are heavily researched yet still misunderstood. The problem is not that the advisory community doesn’t see the gap—it’s that we’ve made little progress in closing it.

By 2020, women will control $22 trillion of wealth in the United States.1 Yet, the significant and growing influence that women have over investments is undermined by misperceptions around how women invest and what motivates them. The result?

  • 61% of women feel misunderstood by financial services professionals2
  • 62% walk away from their financial advisor upon the death of their spouse2
  • 59% do not see the need for an advisor because they don’t see the value2

Under-served, not under-marketed

The financial services industry has identified female investors as a valuable demographic, but gender stereotypes and fundamental service misalignments continue to stand in the way of the industry being truly able to meet the needs of female investors. If we fail to change the conversation and don’t move away from deeply entrenched stereotypes, we are likely increasing opportunity risk and making it harder for female clients to meet their financial goals.

A deeper understanding of what she really wants—and needs—to achieve better financial outcomes starts with letting go of deep-rooted beliefs about who she is as an investor. We can start by tearing down the most prevalent myths about women and investing.

Myth: Female investors lack confidence.
Truth: This broad generalization simply doesn’t apply
. Female investors tend to be more risk aware3 and realistic in their self-assessment,4 but this should not be mistaken for a lack of confidence. The danger of this myth is that it may actually be self-perpetuating; women often underestimate their own abilities while overestimating what is required to be financially capable.

Myth: Female investors are indecisive.
Truth: When a female investor says “I need more time,” this is exactly what she means.
Motivated to make well-informed decisions for the long-term financial well-being of herself and her family, the female investor seeks sufficient information and takes time to process the decision. A more holistic approach to a complex, multifaceted decision should not be mistaken for indecision.

Myth: Emotion should remain separate from investing.
Truth: No decision is entirely detached from emotion.
An investor’s experiences, current situation and expectations for the future influence each investment decision. That is not a bad thing; there is a role for intuition and emotion in the decision-making process. Instead of trying to separate emotion and logic, we would all be better served by blending our IQ and our EQ, applying emotional governance to be aware of and to manage potential bias.

Breaking old habits: From misjudged and underserved to empowered and thriving

Real progress in understanding and meeting the needs of female investors will start with defusing these myths. We need to break old thought patterns that perpetuate myths, disrupt biases that stand in the way, and be the change we wish to see by creating a new narrative.

Genuinely understanding how the female investor’s financial life journey differs could lead to a tipping point, a real leap forward in gender intelligence that focuses on these investors as individuals with distinct needs.

In many ways, the typical female investor may be an ideal client: she has realistic yet unmet goals, she seeks an advisor who will help guide decisions, and her investable assets are projected to grow significantly. It’s time that our industry stops looking for a new marketing angle to unlock the potential she represents and instead focus on the basics of relationship management—achieving those unmet needs with a client-centric approach.

To learn more about how we can help female investors achieve their investing potential, read “Mythbusters: Revealing the Truth about Women and Investing ,” or the related research brief “Closing the Gender Gap of Advice .”

1BMO Wealth Institute, The Financial Concerns of Women, 2015.
2State Street Global Advisors’ survey, “Assessing the Landscape: Female Investors and Financial Advice,” 2015.
3State Street Center for Applied Research, “The Folklore of Finance,” 2014.
4FINRA Investor Foundation. 2012 Report: “Financial Fraud and Fraud Susceptibility In the U.S.”