by Angelia Z. Shay
Having worked in the male-dominated financial services industry for more than twenty-five years, there have been times when I didn’t feel heard. Even as loud as my voice can be, when it came to questioning the way things are done or bringing a new idea to the discussion, I didn’t feel like I was taken seriously. But I didn’t give up, and I have created a successful practice for myself, helping families financially prepare for the future, and learned a lot of lessons along the way. Women’s History Month reminds me how much things have changed because women have been heard – and that we need to keep speaking up.
So what does heard mean? Being heard does not mean simply being listened to. Being heard means being accepted into an open dialogue where all parties are receptive to new information. Even today there are workplaces where this isn’t easy. It requires everyone to bring more of an open mind to the table and less of their ego. But if you’re persistent and true to yourself, being heard can result in better outcomes and a workplace where everyone’s unique perspectives and experiences are valued and respected.
In my practice, the persistence to be heard has been one of my most powerful tools. It’s helped me build productive and valuable relationships with my male colleagues that have significantly added to the success of my business. The men who helped me along the way were open to hearing me – to doing things differently and cross-pollinating ideas.
The success of these relationships began with mutual respect. Our differences became our united strength that gave life to ideas and initiatives that one could not conjure up alone. combining our different perspectives, we developed deeper, more thoughtful ways for me to strengthen client relationships and run my practice. Without these relationships I am uncertain whether I would be where I am today with my business: happy, successful, and at peace.
While the financial services industry has traditionally had a small percentage of women, our influence is being felt in how companies now work with their clients and attract new business. When I started out, the business was transaction-focused – we wanted to make the sale – and I felt like we could do so much more than that. As a woman, I brought an ability to feel empathy for the client, and an aptitude for trying to understand the big picture, both personal and financial, so I could deliver the right guidance. Staying true to these principles has brought me great success, and my office was cited nationally as an example of how to build a successful practice based on referrals.
Years later, what was radical has become broadly accepted: The industry is filled with conferences, training, and books that talk about being a financial counselor to your clients, not just closing sales, and major insurance companies are investing millions of dollars to adapt to the new expectations clients have when it comes to service.
The powerful impact women have had on the financial services industry comes from women persistently being heard – and focusing on being our true selves. On a daily basis we can reflect on our core strengths and how we can influence the people around us. Women who make a difference don’t isolate themselves from men; they embrace who they are and how they can affect change by being their real selves.
As women continue to grow our presence in leadership roles throughout the business world, we must be good stewards of the roads we are paving for the young girls who will one day be in our shoes. We can be the voice for our daughters’ future. That, to me, is the real meaning of Women’s History Month. It’s when I pause to appreciate the efforts of women before me who stood up and spoke up, and remember that while we don’t own the future, we certainly do influence it.
Angie Z. Shay has worked in the financial services industry for more than twenty-five years. She is president of THE PATH Financial Strategies, LLC and national past president of Women in Insurance and Financial Services. Shay is also a financial adviser with Eagle Strategies LLC, a Registered Investment Adviser and an indirect wholly owned subsidiary of New York Life Insurance Company. THE PATH Financial Strategies, LLC is not owned or operated by Eagle Strategies or its affiliates. THE PATH Financial Strategies, LLC is not affiliated with Women in Insurance and Financial Services.