What women told us about the advisor-client experience

Three articles, originally featured in The New Yorker, explore research analyzing how advisors interact with women clients and suggesting ways to make the experience more empowering.


WOMEN HAVE MADE HUGE FINANCIAL GAINS in recent years: They control about a third of the world’s wealth, and their total assets could rise to between $81 trillion and $93 trillion by 2023.1 Today, 44 women are CEOs of Fortune 500 companies2, up from 41 a year ago.3

Kristin hill headshot
“Women investors of all generations are coming to the financial decision-making table confident and with high expectations.”

— Kirstin Hill, Chief Operating Officer, Merrill Lynch Wealth Management

But has the wealth management industry kept pace with the great strides women have made? Are there any lingering gender biases that could undercut the experiences women have when they meet with their financial advisors? To help address these questions, Merrill commissioned an in-depth study, “Seeing the Unseen: The Role Gender Plays in Wealth Management.” “At Merrill, we believe that in order to effectively serve women today, we need to understand their experiences,” says Kirstin Hill, Chief Operating Officer, Merrill Lynch Wealth Management.

In the course of this award-winning research, thousands of women investors were surveyed. Body language was studied and lexical analysis conducted to examine how advisors talk to and interact with their women clients. Heat maps were used to track eye movement when couples met with their advisors. The end results tell a largely positive story. Only 8% of the women polled recalled encountering gender bias, and 70% said they were happy with their financial advisors, compared with 65% of men who felt the same way.

And yet the research found that areas for improvement still exist. For instance, when meeting with heterosexual couples, financial advisors, regardless of gender, tend to focus nearly 60% of the time on the man in the couple. And overall women are more likely than men to expect to encounter gender stereotypes — making them feel they have to prepare more for meetings and speak up proactively to be heard.

Clearly, the industry can do better. “Women investors of all generations are expecting more from the wealth-management industry. They’re coming to the financial decision-making table confident and with high expectations,” says Hill. “Ultimately, we hope the insights from our research will help move the needle for the entire industry.”

The following articles, originally published as sponsored content in The New Yorker, explore the findings of the research. Read them to hear from women investors about their experiences working with financial advisors and what they expect from them. Hear, too, from advisors what they’ve learned from their women clients — and find out how Merrill is changing its processes and policies to better serve women.


Woman standing in the doorway of her office

The Rising Tide of Gender Equality in Wealth Management
As bias of all kinds and in all spheres is being examined, potential gender bias in financial planning is getting a serious look. The results are encouraging.



Two women co- workers sharing thoughts at a meeting

Get Ready for the Next Generation of Women Investors
They’re building on lessons learned from previous generations of pioneering women—and shaking up the financial-services industry.



A woman advisor helping a couple with their finances

Are Financial Advisors Walking the Talk on Gender Bias?
A Merrill study uncovers insights that can help advisors communicate better and form stronger relationships with their women clients.


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Boston Consulting Group, “Managing the Next Decade of Women’s Wealth,” April 9, 2020.

Fortune, “The number of women running Fortune 500 companies reaches a record high,” May 23, 2022. 

Fortune, “The female CEOs on this year’s Fortune 500 just broke three all-time records,” June 2, 2021.