Mon. Jun 6th, 2022

A new survey of women in the retirement industry finds some expected gaps—and some surprising strengths to build upon. 

Conducted in October 2020 by research partner Escalent, with the support from sponsors T. Rowe Price and OneDigital Retirement + Wealth, the “The Story of Us: 2021 Evolution” study by WE Inspire. Promote. Network. (WIPN) looks at a range of topics including the value of networking and mentoring, how to create a better work-life balance, a deep dive into compensation, and a discussion of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. 

According to the survey, understanding career progression was seen as critical to satisfaction and retention—and only about half of the women surveyed feel their career path looks promising, and comparable numbers say their career path looks promising at their current company. However, three in five of the respondents are not highly satisfied with their work-life balance—and while half of the women in the survey report being their family’s primary wage earner, a majority of those surveyed also report being more responsible than their spouse for family-related household tasks and caregiving.

More than half thought their compensation had not kept pace with their responsibilities. However, 59% said they had a “clear idea of what I am worth and should be paid, and more than half (54%) were willing to negotiate their compensation. Just 37% said they were paid equally to the men at their company in similar roles—but just that many thought that the best way to grow their pay was to change companies.

Networking Connections

Networking helped one in three respondents get jobs via work connections—connections from work colleagues (33%) were most cited, outpacing friends (23%), family (16%), and education/college (15%)—and well ahead of social media and recruiters.

Mentorships and sponsorships were both seen as valuable, but the white paper says that women feel that a sponsor is more likely to help with advancement than a mentor (64% and 47%, respectively). Indeed, not having a mentor or sponsor was listed among the top five barriers to success, and a particular concern among women of color where 24% cite it as a barrier to career growth. However, but only 17% of respondents have a sponsor (27% of Millennials), though 42% said they have a mentor (53% of Millennials do, the 29% of Boomers pulling down that total).

The survey’s authors say the data suggest there is a need for a more concerted effort on the part of employers to create more access to these networks and mentorship programs for women of color and to encourage all female employees to seek out mentors or sponsors.

Achievable Aspirations

In fact, the white paper cites as “encouraging” the finding that half of all women, regardless of race or ethnicity, believe their goals/aspirations seem achievable, their career paths look promising and they have the education/training needed to advance in their career. Similarly, according to the report, more than half also agree that they have a clear idea of what they are worth and should be paid. Gen X women were the least likely to have high satisfaction in their career job performance, citing the inability to navigate workplace politics and low visibility of their work as areas where a mentor could help them.

That said, only 40% indicated they had reached the highest position possible at their company (and only 30% of Millennials), and even fewer (30%) felt that advancing at their company was harder because they were a woman. However, that sentiment was slightly larger among Millennials (34%) than Boomers (24%) or Gen Xers (29%).

Career Concerns 

Two in five women have considered leaving their employer over the past year due to a lack of opportunities for advancement—and one in five consider this often, according to the report.

One in five women of color surveyed have considered leaving their employer due to company culture. In fact, women of color were significantly more likely to be “Reluctant to bring up issues that concern me in fear it will affect chances of promotion” (27% versus 15% of white/Caucasian women), to “Feel excluded from formal networks within organization” (9% versus 22%) and to say that “Colleagues expect me to represent the point of view of my gender” (14% versus 20%).

In contrast, Millennial women identify areas they can control as some of their biggest barriers: being uncertain of what their goals are and caring too much about what others think.

One in three don’t believe they have the education and training needed to advance, a statistic that holds across all age demographics. On the other hand, that stat suggests that two-thirds do feel that have the training they need.

Escalent, partnering with WIPN—formerly Women in Pensions Network, now rebranded as WE Inspire. Promote. Network.—conducted an online survey of 806 U.S. women in the retirement industry from Sept. 24, 2020, through Nov. 6, 2020. Survey participants were required to be 18 years or older, not be or have a household member who is employed by the marketing research or advertising industries, and must be working for pay in a qualifying financial services category at least part-time. The data have a margin of error of ±3.45% at the 95% confidence level. 

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