According to a survey conducted by financial services firm Edward Jones, nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of Americans believe women in the workforce today face a barrier to career advancement with one in five (22 percent) citing the financial industry as the hardest glass ceiling for women to break through.  The firm has been working to increase the percentage of female financial advisors in its branch offices and erase that perception.

“The lack of women in leadership positions, particularly on Wall Street, has been well documented in the news media, but at Edward Jones, a female financial advisor enjoys the same opportunity as her male counterparts,” said Elizabeth Schehl, Director of Financial Advisor Diversity and Female Performance at Edward Jones. “There is no glass ceiling and the benefits of running your own branch office makes the Edward Jones model particularly attractive to women.”

The survey of 1,010 Americans underscored that women represent an attractive applicant pool with 67 percent of respondents – men and women alike – citing that women are the more ambitious of the two sexes when it comes to acquiring leadership positions in the workplace.  When asked the top factor impeding these ambitious women from advancing, a male-dominated environment was cited by 83 percent of respondents. Other factors contributing to the glass ceiling include:

* The juggle of family and corporate responsibilities (73 percent)
* Inadequate policies for women in the workplace, such as stringent maternity leave policies (62 percent)
* Lack of adequate mentoring or a defined career path in reaching the executive board level (56 percent)

When asked which part of a career is most important to them beyond compensation, nearly half (49 percent) of women cited an entrepreneurial work environment. “One of the main things that attracted me to Edward Jones when I first began as a financial advisor was the entrepreneurial environment where I was given the freedom to thrive as if I was my own boss.  I quickly learned that the only barriers I had were those that I put in place for myself,” Schehl added.

Edward Jones’ unique branch office system provides financial advisors with the autonomy to run their own business with the infrastructure and support of a resource-rich organization.  Currently, Edward Jones has more than 12,500 entrepreneurs operating branches across the country.

Among its programs promoting diversity, Edward Jones’ Women’s Initiative for New Growth Strategies (WINGS), is a network of female advisors that volunteers their time to recruit, mentor and support other female advisors. Since WINGS was introduced five years ago, the firm has seen a steady uptick in women joining the company, who now make up one-quarter of all financial advisor recruits.

Along with financial services (67 percent), additional industries that are perceived as being more challenging for women to succeed in include professional services (69 percent) and technology (64 percent).  Media and publishing was less restrictive to women at 41 percent, and healthcare (23 percent) and education (14 percent) were perceived as the least challenging.  Survey results also showed that older respondents were more likely to agree that a glass ceiling exists than younger respondents indicating a positive change in perception among younger generations. Of respondents between the ages of 55-64, 71 percent cited that a glass ceiling exists as well as 70 percent of respondents over 65, compared to 60 percent of those surveyed between the ages of 18 and 34.