Expensive childcare that can make women feel they have to choose between a family and their career is a factor in why they are not found in senior positions in financial advice firms, Women in Financial Advice Awards (WIFA) finalist Susie Foottit says.

The veteran financial adviser, who has been working in the sector since 1978, has watched the profession become more female-friendly over the years.

She began her career at a brokerage before setting up her own business, Lambourne Buckingham, with a female partner back in 1981. Two decades later the business was sold to Helm Godfrey where Foottit still works as a financial adviser and partner.

Foottit is one of 10 finalists in her category, Financial Adviser of the Year – London, at this year’s WIFA awards. The awards, now in their third year, are designed to celebrate the achievements of women working within the financial advice community and also the broader financial services sector in the UK.

The partner and IFA describes financial advice as “an unbelievably excellent career for women”. She says not only does it allow those working in the sector to help people, but it can be lucrative, too.

To budding young female advisers, she says work to your strengths and do not be intimidated by the perceived science that comes with the job.

“Some women are intimidated by the fact it’s perceived as being a scientific area when it’s not, it’s more of an artistic subject,” she claims.

“Women can be put off going into financial services because they think it’s just about numbers, and I say it’s not about numbers, it’s about being creative and being a good communicator, and I think that’s a natural skill that a lot of women have.”

Though financial advice has come a long way in terms of gender equality during the years Foottit has been active, there is still some way to go before women are equally represented in the profession. Data from industry body the Personal Finance Society, for example, lists three-quarters (76%) of its 39,725 members as men.

Foottit believes a major issue keeping more women out of top-tier positions is the cost of childcare, leading them to give up their careers to raise children to avoid the cost. With that said, Foottit believes having children should not be a barrier to success.

“I had to beg, steal and borrow favours from other mothers who weren’t working to look after my children because my husband and I both had City jobs – and that was incredibly difficult,” she continues.

“But I think also women need to be able to embrace the fact that if they do want to have children, it’s not going to be a barrier to success.”

The IFA says there should be an open dialogue about working women having children, and she would like to see the subject broached by employers at an early stage of a woman’s employment so that it can be made clear the company can accommodate any desire to have a family and ensure and women do not have to choose between a career and a family.

Though home working has increased in recent months due to the coronavirus pandemic, Foottit is sceptical of any perceived benefit it could bring to women juggling a family and a career, or that more working from home will help to promote equal opportunities in the sector.

“My son and his wife are both in financial services and live in a flat, and they have a three year-old. It was incredibly difficult for both of them working from home so they’ve had to get their daughter into nursery,” she says.

“You can’t do everything all the time. You can’t be half a parent and half a financial adviser, though the fact you can save time from not commuting will make a difference, but it’s still a challenge.”

Looking to her future after more than four decades in the industry, the partner and IFA plans to continue to improve her skills to deliver the best advice possible to her clients, believing education and learning never ends.

“I’d be really upset if I thought I knew everything, so I’m very open to changing and I appreciate that to be successful in this industry, you have to be able to change regularly,” she says.

“I never want to think I’ve learned everything and I’m the best I can be. I continually want to increase my knowledge. So my aspiration is to carry on as long as I feel I’m giving sensible advice.”

Article provided by Professional Adviser