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How to avoid mansplaining

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After watching the presidential debates, Ross Gerber took note of teaching moments for his male trainees. No matter the outcome of the election, the divisive rhetoric and poor communications between the two candidates has demonstrated how problematic “mansplaining” can be.
Mansplaining isn't limited to political discourse. And that practice — where a man explains something to someone, typically a woman, in a condescending or patronizing manner — is one financial planners would do well to avoid, says Gerber, president and CEO of Gerber Kawasaki Wealth and Investment Management in Santa Monica, California.

“For advisers, it will be a wonderful thing if we have a woman president because one of the first things you have to learn as an adviser is to listen to women clients,” Gerber adds.

Women tend to have similar priorities to men, but an array of different challenges. A recent Pershing study outlines six key differences that advisors should consider when working with female clients.
March 23

Mansplaining can also manifest itself in men failing to recognize their domineering attitudes and gestures are backfiring — rather than persuading women.

Gerber trains advisers on his team to avoid mansplaining. “When you are a financial adviser, it’s one of the first things you have to learn to be successful,” he says. “I am a big talker. I had to learn to shut up to be successful.”

He ensures newcomers avoid the pitfalls that would cause some of their female clients to drop them by teaching respectful behavior. He encourages them to avoid domineering behavior. The trainees role play. “We know this issue exists, so we try and address it from day one,” Gerber says.

“Many advisers use big terms. They try and make the clients feel insecure about their knowledge so they won’t think they can make their own decisions,” Gerber says. But that, he says, is not a good tactic. Times have changed.

“Younger women nowadays won’t suffer through that as much as older women used to,” Gerber says. Women’s intolerance for pandering and domination has come with their economic independence, and the likelihood is that they have as much economic power as most men their age.

Marlo Stil of The Wealth Consulting Group in Rancho Mirage, California says she has “been training guys about this for years. … Often times, some male advisers think their female clients are not smart enough.”

She urges advisers to think of their roles as being collaborative and inclusive. Choosing one’s language with care is perhaps the most significant step one can take, Stil says.

All firms should try to ensure that mansplaining does not take place, says Sarah Crowe, an adviser at Talis Advisors in Plano, Texas.

“We like to start our relationship with financial planning. That levels the playing field for all involved because women are collaborative and help with the planning process. That gets us off on the right foot,” she says.

Her firm has three women among its seven advisers. “We have a team approach, so we make sure we have gender diversity when each team meets with clients,” Crowe says.

This helps assure everyone feels included and understood. If a client seems to hold back, as if a man has discouraged her from participating, a female Talis adviser makes a point to seek her participation.

“We may ask her questions, but we don’t do so abruptly,” Crowe says. Conversations may start by asking if the client needs help understanding any of the financial concepts mentioned that she may not know, she adds.

Most recently, her firm has begun holding women-only workshops for clients and prospects. With men out of the room, the women often feel more comfortable and gain confidence so they don’t get mansplained in later meetings, she says.

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